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London to Bath

I am headed to London in September and plan to spend a few days in Bath. I was looking at the National Railway site to get an idea about trains/tickets/times. It is too far out to book (13 weeks, right?) but I have a question to start. The cheapest fare for the last week of August is 12L (and my apologies, I don't know how to do the pound sign) on a train leaving Waterloo at 9:20 on South West trains calling at Clapham Jct/Woking/Basingstoke/Andover/Salisbury/Warminster/Westbury/Trowbridge/Bradford on Avon. It takes 2:26 minutes and the website notes it is overtaken by a train leaving later. The later trains are 40.50L or 30.50L, leaving from Paddington on First Great Western, calling at Reading, Didcot Parkway, Swindon, and Chippingham. These trains take an hour and a half or so. The money is not huge deal, the time is not a big deal, so I guess my big questions are is one of the train companies better (yep, that's a judgement) or is the scenery more interesting on one line over the other. I've looked at the map and see the South West train is a more southerly route and the First Great Western is possibly on the edge of the Cotswolds. Any comments regarding my questions, or what questions I should be asking, lol would be appreciated. Thanks!

Posted by
14247 posts

Sorry it wasn't clear! Yes, I want to go from London to Bath. Both trains that I listed in the original post go to Bath, via the stops listed above. The one that leaves from Waterloo does list the destination as Bath Spa and is on South West Trains. The one from Paddington is on First Great Western. I got this information from the National Rail Enquiries site when I did a search on trains from London to Bath Spa. Editing to add: Oops, posted this as a response to a post that has disappeared, but leaving it as my question didn't seem clear to others.

Posted by
922 posts

Pam, I deleted my reply because I realized I had said something incorrect. Sorry for any confusion. Where are you planning to stay in London? If closer to Paddington Station that would be your best train option for getting to Bath Spa (that's the station name). If staying closer to Waterloo Station, then that but the journey is longer because it makes more stops. Or the coach (bus) option, which can be cheaper but also takes quite a bit longer.

Posted by
14247 posts

Thanks Rose, and I likely needed to clarify anyway! I am not sure where I will stay. I am meeting up with a Road Scholar tour when I come back from Bath that is staying at the Radisson Blu Edwardian Vanderbilt on Cromwell Rd near the V&A. The nearest tube stop is Gloucester Rd on the Picadilly, Circle and District Lines. I will stay somewhere else for the couple of days I am in London before I travel to Bath, but have not decided on that yet.

Posted by
5685 posts

Pam, Hopefully one of the train experts (Nigel or Tim) will come along and be able to confirm this and perhaps advise more. Take a look at this site: Advance Tickets Are you traveling on the August 29th, 30th, or 31st? I'm guessing that the reason the First Great Western tickets are so much more expensive is because they haven't yet released their advance tickets for your travel date. Notice on this site, South West has tickets through Sept 1, but First Great Western only through Aug 28. I'd take the faster train from Paddington, but I'd wait until the advance fare is released.

Posted by
922 posts

I know the Cromwell Road area fairly well. In that case, coming BACK from Bath, best choice would be a train into Paddington because you could easily pick up either the District or Circle Tube lines and only have to go 4 stops to Gloucester Road to get to your Radisson hotel. If you don't mind the longer journey TO Bath, you might like to take a coach from near Victoria station, as mentioned above, and the train back to London. Some people may howl at that because why sit on a coach for a longer journey, even if it is cheaper? But sometimes it's nice to try 2 different experiences and see which you like better. I'll always choose a train over a bus, but that's me.

Posted by
922 posts

I'm guessing that the reason the First Great Western tickets are so much more expensive is because they haven't yet released their advance tickets for your travel date. I agree with that assessment. In fact, when I query First Great Western on my mobile, the dates beyond August 28 are grayed out, indicating tickets are not yet available for purchase beyond the 28th.

Posted by
2785 posts

Hi Pam, you could get a train at London Paddington Station, leaving 9:30am ~~~~arriving Bath at 10:59am, total time 1hr 29 minutes, with no changes.

Posted by
922 posts

Pam, let me please add - if you haven't booked accommodations in Bath yet, you need to get cracking on that immediately.

Posted by
14247 posts

Accommodations are next on the list! Thanks for the nudge. Is either train route to Bath Spa more scenic? Pam

Posted by
922 posts

They would both pass through some lovely English countryside. Check the details carefully. Many of the trains out of Waterloo require one or 2 changes.

Posted by
472 posts

Pam For accommodations, check out Marlborough House. It is a little out of town but still within walking distance of everything. Peter, the host, is wonderful to work with and the breakfast is very special. When you first get there, he will sit down with you and answer any questions you have about what to see and where to eat. Had great recommendations for dinner, especially an Indian restaurant that was close by.

Posted by
521 posts

Actually South West Trains do now have twice hourly runs with no changes from London Paddington to Bath. Takes about 90 minutes. I'm a little confused. The journey planner on the South West Trains website will show you direct trains from Paddington and will sell you tickets, but they are First Great Western services. For South West's own services, the timetable is here: http://www.southwesttrains.co.uk/uploads/ptt20%5B1%5D.pdf Scroll down to page 12 to see the 3 departures per day from Waterloo. I commute into Waterloo and as far as I can remember those services are little 3 carriage Class 158 or 159 diesel trains (outer suburb commuter trains really, OK for all the stops on that route), whereas the FGW services are bigger trains, more the kind of thing you would expect for an express, possibly locomotive hauled, but I really can't recall.

Posted by
922 posts

You'll laugh at me, but I actually read the Didcot Station Road Conservation Area Character Study. There are towns like Didcot (or I should perhaps say sections of towns) in upstate New York that were purpose built at one time, went to more-or-less ruin, or were at least allowed to deteriorate, but in recent decades have been 'gentrified' and somewhat preserved/restored. They now command a fine price. I know people who passed over opportunities to buy such housing way back when. Had they done, it would now be worth considerably more and the neighborhood would be viewed as quite respectable, even desirable.

Posted by
922 posts

Kevin, I too am confused by this. Using the Journey Planner, I found trains leaving Waterloo but they all required either a change at Paddington, or a change at Basingstoke and another change at Reading - to the FGW train that in fact left later from Paddington! I think that must be what 'overtaken by another train' means, as mentioned in Pam's original post. So it seems to make no sense to do this journey out of Waterloo unless one has some other reason to do so.

Posted by
5382 posts

FGW show the latest date that advance tickets are available on the front page of their website in the scrolling news section. Currently: "ADVANCE PURCHASE: Tickets are now on sale until Wednesday 28 August 2013" If the journey is part of the experience for you why not do it one way going and the other coming back?

Posted by
619 posts

There's a lot of confusion here. There are two main routes between London and Bath. The principal one is from Paddington; the journey is shorter, the trains are more comfortable, and the frequency is generally every 30 minutes. The company running the route from Paddington is called First Great Western. The other route is run by South-West trains from Waterloo, with a longer journey on less comfortable and less frequent trains. There are only three through trains each day, and at other times you would have to change trains at Salisbury. To confuse matters, both train companies will show the other company's trains on its website and will sell you tickets. Neither route has especially stunning scenery, although I think the route by South-West trains is probably marginally better. Both routes spend a lot of time travelling through outer London suburbs. The fare you pay will depend on the day you travel, and the time of day. The trains used by the daily commuters between Bath and London are the most expensive, while the mid-day trains are the cheapest. Tickets are cheapest if bought in advance and restricted to a particular train, but there is no need to buy tickets as soon as they go on sale. There are still single tickets at £20.50 available for next week, and you have to judge if you want to tie yourself in to a particular train too long in advance. The cheapest journey is by National Express long-distance bus (called "coach" in the U.K.)

Posted by
5382 posts

"Don't look out the window whilst passing Didcot, the whole town is an eyesore." Never been down Lydalls Road then, or the other two conservation areas (Northbourne & Station Road)? True that the oldest parts of the town are not visible from the railway though.

Posted by
521 posts

or a change at Basingstoke and another change at Reading - to the FGW train that in fact left later from Paddington! Yes, that's because there is a handy 15 miles of track that branch off the line used by South West Trains at Basingstoke and head north to Reading, thus providing useful connections to routes operated by First Great Western. The online journey planners will suggest routes via those changes if you specify Waterloo (the SWT terminal) as your starting point and Bath Spa as your destination, but unless you have a railway map (on paper or in your head) it may not be obvious why. Those 3 direct SWT services from Waterloo to Bath each day actually start their journey attached to the back of the Exeter service, but they are detached at Salisbury and carry on to Bath via Warminster, Westbury and Trowbridge (a lovely little town built with the same golden yellow stone as Bath). For me that is much the better route, avoiding the Thames Valley completely. Slower of course, much slower.

Posted by
14247 posts

Thank you all so much! I was looking for information on the level of comfort in the carriages as well, so much appreciated. I have to admit I hadn't thought about going out one way and back the other so will put some thought in to that. I am also glad to know I don't have to be online the first day I can buy advance purchases as I will be without internet access that week. I also appreciate the back story on some of the routes as well. The last time I traveled by train in the UK was when it was still all BritRail! Also thanks for the recommendations on lodging in Bath.

Posted by
922 posts

Yes, that's because there is a handy 15 miles of track that branch off the line used by South West Trains at Basingstoke and head north to Reading, thus providing useful connections to routes operated by First Great Western. This isn't my thread, but I want to thank everyone for the good replies. It sounds peculiar, I know, but I have a keen personal interest in the section of the SWT route that passes through Weybridge, Byfleet and New Haw, and West Byfleet, etc. on to Basingstoke. I even have a ledger-sized print version of the entire SWT network pinned on my wall. LOL! My ears perked up when StevieD mentioned it, and I was motivated to dig deeper. Despite my network print-out I hadn't previously thought of trying to get to Bath via the SWT route.

Posted by
14247 posts

Rose, I am happy to share thread ownership with you. I did go ahead and book a hotel. I booked at The Kennard which has good reviews on TA. My first choice was a RS recommendation, but was not available for one of the nights I will be there. Now on to booking MadMax!

Posted by
922 posts

Pam, you were lucky to find available accommodations easily for your dates. The Kennard is across the river, but easily walkable to everything in Bath.

Posted by
5382 posts

There are plenty of bulldozers around Didcot - because it is the fastest growing town in South Oxfordshire. It will have more than doubled its size in 20 years. The centre too is part of the way to being transformed, yet many aren't that keen on modern shopping centres etc. There are also plans for the 'island' opposite the station, which itself is being redeveloped at the moment. The power station cooling towers will be gone in a couple of years, although this despite the name was never actually in Didcot but Sutton Courtney parish.

Posted by
5382 posts

Rose - glad you found the conservation document interesting; it is a shame that the other areas don't seem to have them. Northbourne is a Victorian new town built as a speculation by a local farmer in his fields, and the old area is a cluster of 15th/16th century buildings in the original village core.

Posted by
4684 posts

Didcot has one of the best railway museums in Britain, if you're interested.