Expert insights

Advance train tickets now available on day of departure

3 August 2017

Cut-price advance train tickets can now be bought as close as 10 minutes. Here’s what you should know about the changes to advance rail tickets – and how much you could save.

Cut-price advance train tickets can now be bought as close as 10 minutes before departure on many routes, rather than the day before.

With our recent analysis showing that frequent business travellers continue to buy train tickets at the last minute, the news will be music to the ears of budget holders. Advance train tickets can offer significant savings of up to 70% for those prepared to commit to a particular train.

Previously, advance train tickets were only available until midnight the day before departure. Now, advance tickets are being offered on the day of travel on Grand Central, Greater Anglia, Northern, TransPennine Express, Virgin Trains East Coast and Virgin Trains West Coast, and to those using the Caledonian Sleeper from London to Scotland.

How much could you save?

Last year, only 27% of all long-distance rail fares were bought as advance tickets. But those who do manage to book in advance can snag substantial savings.

For example, a single fare on the 10:03am from London to Birmingham for 5 July 2017 would have cost £52 if bought online on the day of travel. The same fare bought eight weeks in advance would have cost just £11.

“Not everyone can plan journeys in advance, and now more people can buy cheaper train tickets on the day, even on their way to the station,” says Jacqueline Starr, managing director of customer experience at the Rail Delivery Group. “We want customers to get the best possible deal whenever they travel.”

Will you be able to get an advance?

So that’s the good news – but what else should you know?

Firstly, not every train operator will be making advance tickets available on the day. Advance fares on the day of departure are not yet being offered on Arriva Trains Wales, South West Trains, Southern, Southeastern, ScotRail or GWR.

Secondly, it’s important to note that there are still only a limited number of advance seats available on any given train. And as our research has shown, these often sell out well before the day of departure on certain services – making it very hard to get your hands on an advance train ticket.

So, if you can, it still pays to book your ticket well in advance, rather than risking leaving it to the last minute.

Simplifying rail fares

As we have previously reported, the cost of rail travel in the UK is a very mixed picture. This new increased flexibility is the result of the action plan set up last year by the Government to try to simplify the UK’s confusing rail fares and ticketing system.

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