Advance purchase train tickets in the UK: how late can you leave it before travelling?
When I was coming back from Chicago I was in a position where I had to go home (because 1) BA couldn’t find a stand for the plane I was on and 2) I had missed the coach that I wanted to take home).
Now there are many ways to travel, but one of the ways to cut costs is Advance train tickets – the idea is very similar to that of plane tickets (you choose a train in which you travel and your ticket is only valid for this train).
Corn How? ‘Or’ What later can you buy them?
Avanti West Coast Pendolino arriving at Birmingham International – Image, Economy Class and Beyond.
First, not all routes will offer advance tickets
As a rule, suburban routes and short distance routes do not offer advance tickets on their routes. Advance tickets also come with many additional restrictions compared to an ‘open’ or ‘economy’ ticket, with the trade-off being that you lock in to a particular train and seat.
Besides, c2c, Mersey Rail, Great Northern, Thameslink, Transport for London are not on this list because they deal with a lot of “of the day” traffic.
As for Heathrow Express, you have a seven days deadline to get a reduced fare…so good luck getting a discount on the day (it’s called taking the TfL service to London Paddington and paying £10.80 instead of £25).
National Railway Inquiries slightly covers the subject. I’ve broken it down a bit more. If in doubt, check with your carrier first.
Some companies will ask you to buy tickets the day before the trip
Let’s start with the companies that require you to purchase an advance purchase ticket the day before the trip (and normally at a specific time). It is either 6:00 p.m. or 11:59 p.m.
- Chiltern Railways – Purchase before 6:00 p.m., the day before the trip
- East Midlands Railway – Purchase before 11:59 p.m., the day before the trip
- Great Western Railway – Purchase before 6:00 p.m., the day before the trip
- Hull Undercarriages – Purchase before 11:59 p.m., the day before the trip
- London North West Railway – Purchase before 11:59 p.m., the day before the trip
- South East – Purchase before 11:59 p.m., the day before the trip
- South West Railway – Purchase before 11:59 p.m., the day before the trip
- From South – Purchase before 6:00 p.m., the day before the trip
- Transport for Wales – Purchase before 6:00 p.m., the day before the trip
- West Midlands Railway – Purchase before 11:59 p.m., the day before the trip
If you plan to travel early in the morning, book the day before – but later trains can be booked at shorter notice
Some companies offer discounts on the day, however for their early morning departures, you will need to book your train the day before.
- London North East Railway – Until 11:59 p.m. the day before the trip for some early morning trains. Up to 2 hours before the train’s point of origin for the rest of the day’s services.
- Scot Rail – Until 11:59 p.m. the day before the trip for some early morning trains. Up to 2 hours before the train’s point of origin for the rest of the day’s services.
- Trans Pennine Express – The majority of Advance tickets must be purchased by 6:00 p.m. the day before travel. However, a limited number of Advance purchase of the day tickets on some itineraries are available up to 15 minutes before departure.
Do you want to roll the dice on the day?
here are the official reservation deadlines.
- Avanti west coast – 60 minutes before train departure (via app)
- Cross country – Allows advance purchases up to 15 minutes before departure.
- Large central – Up to 4 hours before the departure of your train from its first station
- Greater England – Where advance tickets are available (except Southend services), you can now buy advance tickets for the day up to 10 minutes before your chosen train departs.
- North – “Save on the Day” advance tickets are available up to 15 minutes prior to departure on the day of travel on select routes. Advance tickets on all of their available routes can be purchased until 11:59 p.m. the day before travel.
Are these deadlines “absolute?”
In most cases they are. In some cases… well… we’re heading into gray territory. But that might mean paying a booking fee or using apps to help you out.
Most of you are familiar with The Train Line (with its fees) – but I stick to other apps – namely:
In my experience I have been able to book CrossCountry train tickets 30 minutes before departure and recently an Avanti West Coast ticket – with less than 20 minutes before departure.
Fees can vary by route and ticket, so it’s worth comparing with train operators if you have the time
Here is an example I used myself
We can see that the cheapest train to Birmingham is the slightly slower 12:49 operated by London NorthWestern (although this is a ‘Super Saver’ ticket, with a selection of trains. The Avanti service, which is which I’m aiming for £20.90, while the Chiltern service is £33.30.
Plus, TrainPal also handles split tickets within the app – something quite handy (and it saved me a lot of money).
The fare I chose was the 12.59pm ticket – which had been booked in a taxi leaving Paddington at around 12.30pm!
These tickets aren’t unusual – here’s an example from a few nights ago for a day trip:
Be careful when rolling the dice – but for the last minute traveler – invaluable
If your travel plans have been thrown in the trash thanks to an airport and an airline thinking that your plane sitting on the tarmac is more important than funneling passengers to the terminal and out of the place quickly, then tickets to last minute advance can provide a good way to continue your travels, without breaking the bank.
You may be able to use an app like TrainPalor you may be digging through train operator websites (like the joy of the Cross country to place).
However, for the last minute traveler, it’s a good way to get a discount
Just make sure you don’t miss your train, otherwise you might find yourself paying for your ticket again, wiping out all the savings you tried to make.
Notes: Based on https://www.nationalrail.co.uk/times_fares/ticket_types/advance-tickets.aspx and https://www.nationalrail.co.uk/times_fares/ticket_types/166857.aspx. Additional research and field testing has been done by your editor and writer.
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