Pay no booking fee at

If you buy your train tickets from or any other train operator you pay the official price with no booking fee.

Buy Eurail pass in the USA Buy Eurail pass in Australia   International payment cards accepted. 

Bookings open 8-12 weeks ahead.

Understanding Advance, Off-Peak, Anytime fares:  Read this quick guide.

Can't find cheap fares?  See advice here

Mobile Tickets:  You can usually select Mobile Ticket and just show the ticket on your smartphone, tablet or laptop.

Or collect your tickets at any main station from machines like these (the colour & design varies).  Touch collect tickets on the screen, insert your credit card, enter the reference & your tickets will print.  Should work fine with non-chip-&-PIN overseas cards.  You need the original credit card to collect tickets.

Train ticket machines at a Virgin Trains station


20+ operators, one network...

Click here for the best map of the UK rail network

Here is a quick guide to train travel in Britain Since 1995, Britain's rail network has been run by over 20 private train companies.  But they work together as National Rail, with co-ordinated fares, ticketing & information.  You can find train times & fares for all train operators all on one website, you can buy a train ticket between any two stations, tickets are normally valid on any operator's trains.

COVID-19 update:  British trains are running with some service reductions, some catering reductions and reservations required on some long-distance operators.  You are now free to use trains for any purpose.  Masks must be worn on all public transport.

About UK train travel...


On other pages...

  How to check train times & fares

  How to buy tickets

  60-second guide to train fares   

  How to find the cheapest tickets

  Which operators & routes can I use?

  Buy a railcard & get 34% off

  Are the trains running on time?

  Maps of the UK train network

  London bus & Underground info

  Nationwide bus & taxi information

  Ferry information

  BritRail passes & Rail Rovers

  Taking bikes on trains in the UK


  London to Edinburgh by train

  London to Scotland by sleeper

  London to Cornwall by sleeper

  To Jersey & Guernsey by train & ferry

  To the Isle of Man by train & ferry

  London to Belfast for 56

  London to Dublin & Ireland for 44.50

  London to Paris & Brussels from 44

  London to Amsterdam from 35

  Train travel to anywhere in Europe

  Britain's scenic West Highland Line

  The Deerstalker, Best Train in Britain

  The Royal Scotsman cruise train

A typical British inter-city train...

Standard class seats on a Virgin Trains Pendolino from London to Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, the Lake District and Glasgow    A 125mph Virgin Trains 'Pendolino'

This is a 125 mph Pendolino train linking London Euston with Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Lake District, Carlisle & Glasgow, with air-conditioning, WiFi (free in 1st class, charged in 2nd class), and a shop selling newspapers, drinks & snacks.  First class fares on this route include drinks & food.

How to check train times & fares...

How to buy train tickets online...

Beware of booking too far ahead...

Tips for finding the cheapest tickets...

 Cheap train fares...

  Cheapest available one-way Advance fares:





  London - Edinburgh


  London - Sheffield


  London - Glasgow


  London - Manchester


  London - Newcastle


  London - Liverpool


  London - Leeds


  London - Oxenholme (Lake District)


  London - York


  London - Cardiff


Cheaper routes, railcards, split-ticketing...

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RailcardsSave money if you're under 26, over 60, a family, or disabled...


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General train travel information:

As well as online train times and fares, has:

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Are the trains running on time?  Are there any delays or engineering works?

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Maps of the UK rail network...

Train company websites...

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First or Standard class?

Most leisure travellers go standard class, with first class used by businessmen.  But if you pre-book you can find some great first class deals.  First class fares on inter-city trains run by Avanti West Coast, LNER and East Midlands Trains now include meals and drinks, at least on Mondays-Fridays.  GWR & Cross-Country first class includes complimentary tea & coffee on their inter-city routes.  However, your default assumption on other routes should be that first class simple means nicer seats and more room.

First class seats on a Virgin Trains 'pendolino'   Standard class seats on a Virgin Trains 'pendolino'

This is 1st class (above left) and standard class (above right) on a Pendolino from London to Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, the Lake District, Carlisle and Glasgow.  As you can see, in standard class there 2+2 seats across the width of the car, in first class it's 2+1, so there's more elbow room, more legroom, and there's tables for two (below left).  Below right, a full English breakfast with cereal, toast, tea or coffee and juice is served on a Virgin Trains (now Avanti West Coast) inter-city services leaving before 10:00 on weekdays. LNER & East Midlands Trains offer a similar service.  Another good reason for taking a morning train not plane from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester, Newcastle to London!

First class table for two on a Virgin Trains 'pendolino'   First class full english breakfast on a Virgin Trains 'pendolino'

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London Underground & Bus information...

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Need a taxi at the other end?

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Need a bus at the other end?

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Need a ferry at the other end?

For ferries to France, Spain, Belgium, Denmark, Norway & Sweden, see the relevant country page.

To Orkney & the Shetland Isles...

Northlink Ferries ( sail from Scrabster near Thurso to Stromness at Scapa Flow on the Orkneys, and from Aberdeen to Lerwick on the Shetland Islands.  Aberdeen-Shetland has a daily overnight service, the ships are little gems, with cosy cabins, lounges, bar, restaurant, and an excellent premium lounge called the Magnus Lounge which is well worth the small extra charge.  All cabins have en suite toilet & shower, premium cabins include access to the Magnus Lounge.  Northlink's terminal in Aberdeen is in central Aberdeen, an easy 5-10 minute walk from Aberdeen station.


The premium Magnus Lounge on the Hrossey.


The Hrossey ready to sail from Aberdeen...


Northlink's distinctive Viking logo...


A premium cabin on the Hrossey...

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Taking your bike?

Most trains carry bicycles, sometimes for free, sometimes for a small fee with advance reservation required.  

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BritRail train passes for overseas visitorsBritRail passes - unlimited train travel for overseas visitors...

If you  live overseas and plan to visit the UK, you can buy a 'BritRail' pass which gives unlimited train travel on all 20+ British train operators for various periods.

Is it worth buying a BritRail pass?  A pass is only worth it if you're going to make a number of long-distance train trips around Britain, so don't bother with a BritRail pass if all you're going to do is make one long-distance trip, or a number of relatively short trips.  For longer distances, a BritRail pass typically works out about the same as a normal 'Off-Peak' flexible ticket bought on the day of travel, it's more expensive than the cheaper 'Advance' tickets, but is far cheaper than the 'Anytime' tickets needed to travel in the Monday-Friday business peaks, see the 30-second guide to UK rail fares.  So if you want to make early starts on Monday-Fridays and have complete all-day flexibility, a BritRail pass is a great idea, but if you're prepared to avoid the Monday-Friday morning & afternoon business peaks, and especially if you book cheap tickets in advance at or (no booking fee!) on a no-refunds, no-changes-to-travel-plans basis, ordinary point-to-point tickets will be the same or cheaper than a pass.  Before investing in a BritRail pass, check that normal tickets wouldn't be cheaper for what you plan to do, using or

If you need hotel accommodation, click here.  For budget backpacker hostels across the UK, see  BritRail passes are not available to UK residents.

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Rail Rovers - unlimited train travel for anyone...

Rail Rovers give unlimited travel over all or selected parts of the British rail network and can be bought by anyone, including UK residents, see  There are rail rovers covering the whole network or just certain areas.  The All-Line Rail Rover gives unlimited travel over the whole British national rail network, cost as follows:

How to buy a rail rover:  You can check current prices & buy online at  Alternatively, you can buy Rail Rovers from any railway station or train operator telesales line.  You can only buy one from stations within 3 days of the date you want them to start.  If you have any trouble buying a rail rover, ask them to look in section G of their fares manual.

Travel restrictions:  The All-Line rover used to be valid on all national rail trains without time restrictions but some restrictions were introduced in 2011 to stop business travellers using it on certain key business routes.  No restrictions apply on Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays, but on Mondays to Fridays the All-Line Rail Rover is not valid for boarding or alighting train services operated by Avanti West Coast, LNER, East Midlands Trains or Arriva CrossCountry at the following stations before 10:00:

There are no restrictions on these companies' trains at other stations or on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, or on other companies' trains at any station on any day.  So it's no problem using a Great Western train getting in to London before 10:00, or a ScotRail sleeper arriving at London Euston before 10:00.

How to get around these new restrictions from Edinburgh, Newcastle, York, Leeds etc:  You cannot use your Rail Rover on a weekday from (say) Edinburgh or Newcastle to London if it arrives in London before 10:00, but you can use it on the same train as far as Peterborough where no alighting restrictions apply, then use a suburban train run by First Capital Connect for the rest of the journey to London, even if this arrives in London before 10:00.

All-Line Rail Rovers are also valid on the Ffestiniog Railway, and on Caledonian sleepers (seated cars free, sleepers if you pay the berth supplement).  They are not valid on Eurostar, Heathrow Express, Heathrow Connect, London Underground or Docklands, heritage railways (except Ffestiniog Railways) or shipping services.  For information on rail rovers covering other areas call National Rail Enquiries on 03457 48 49 50.

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To Europe by train...

See the Europe page for information on how to travel from the UK to destinations all over Europe by train.

Taking a UK train to connect with Eurostar?

See the Buying train tickets to Europe page for advice on Eurostar through tickets from many UK towns and cities, or the special connecting train tickets from most British stations to 'London International'.

The Man in Seat Sixty-One book...

An essential handbook for train or ferry travel from the UK into Europe, based on this website and written by yours truly.  Published in paperback by Transworld, click to buy at

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London to Scotland by sleeper...

For times, fares & information see the Caledonian Sleeper page.

It's the most civilised, romantic and time-effective way from central London to the heart of Scotland. Every night except Saturday night, two Caledonian Sleeper trains leave London's Euston station, one around 21:15 for Dundee, Stirling, Perth, Gleneagles, Aviemore, Aberdeen, Inverness and Fort William, the other around 23:50 for Edinburgh and Glasgow.  These sleeper trains are miniature hotels on rails, with 1- & 2-berth sleeping compartments with proper beds and washbasin, fully-air-conditioned, plus a lounge car with steward service of wine, beer, spirits, soft drinks and snacks.  There are also economy reclining seats.  The Caledonian Sleepers are run by ScotRail, the Scottish train company, and are crewed by Scottish staff - a little bit of Scotland that visits London six nights a week.  To book sleepers, see the advice on the Caledonian Sleeper page.

Club room, set up as a twin berth   Club room en suite

Club class en suite room, set up for single occupancy.  Larger photo  360 photo


En suite toilet & shower.

The Best Train in Britain?  The train they call The Deerstalker...

Easily the best train ride in Britain is the overnight Caledonian Sleeper from London to Fort William, they train they call the Deerstalker...

Why?  Imagine the convenience of a train that leaves rainy central London after work at 21:00 and arrives at Fort William in the glorious Scottish West Highlands at the foot of Ben Nevis (the highest mountain in Britain) at 09:43 next morning.  Imagine a trip where you go to bed as the train speeds through familiar London suburbs at 80mph, then wake up in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by mountains, streams and woods, sunlight streaming through the window, deer bounding away from the train, a diesel locomotive struggling to haul the two sleeping-cars and lounge car up the gradients and around the sharp curves of the scenic West Highland Line at 40 mph.  Imagine a train that has almost 'cruise train' facilities - private sleeping compartments and a plush lounge - yet on which you can travel for as little as 85.

Fares start at around 85 each way including a light breakfast sharing a 2-berth room or 130 with a room to yourself.  Passengers travelling alone can book a berth in a 2-berth room and share with another passenger of the same sex, if they don't want to pay the 1st class single berth fare.

Anyone who lives in the South of England but who loves the Scottish Highlands should know about this train.  If you fancy a weekend away in the heart of the Highlands, this train makes it possible!  Book online on the Caledonian Sleeper page.

To complete the experience, take the connecting train from Fort William to the end of the line at Mallaig, a small fishing port and ferry terminal for Skye.  This is one of the most scenic sections of line anywhere in the UK.  Or you could climb Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Britain - the main track up 'the Ben' starts just 15 minutes walk from Fort William station.

See the Deerstalker page & West Highland Line page for more information...

Crossing desolate Rannoch Moor on a summer's evening on the Fort William to London Caledonian Sleeper, the Deerstalker.  And yes, big deer with huge mossy antlers were spotted from the train on this trip, more than once...

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London to the Channel Islands

See the Channel Islands page...

Condor Ferries operate fast catamarans from Weymouth & Poole to Jersey & Guernsey, and a conventional ship from Portsmouth to Jersey & Guernsey.  Special combined train & ferry fares are available from any station in the UK to Guernsey or Jersey.  See the Channel Islands page for more information, or visit

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London to the Isle of Man

See the Isle of Man page.

There are special train & ferry fares from any station in Britain to Douglas, see the Isle of Man page for prices & how to buy tickets.

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60-second guide to train fares

Anytime, Off-Peak & Advance...

Longer-distance train fares...

1. Anytime. 


Any train,

any time.

Anytime fares are a simple concept:  Valid any time, any day, any train, any operator.

Anytime fares are expensive fully-flexible fares primarily aimed at business travellers.  For example London-Manchester around 169 one-way or 338 return. 

Anytime fares have unlimited availability and can be bought at the station on the day at the price you see online.  They cannot sell out.  You can turn up, buy a ticket and get on any train you like.  Seat reservation is optional.

One-way tickets are valid for 2 days.  Return tickets valid for the outward leg for 5 days, return any time within 1 month.  Valid by any permitted route unless a specific route is shown on the ticket.  You can break your journey in either direction.  Refundable less an admin fee if unused.  One-way fares normally half the cost of a return. 

They were called Open fares until 2008.

2. Off-Peak. 


any train with

time restrictions.

Off-Peak fares are valid on any train, any time except in the Monday-Friday business peaks

They are much more affordable, for example London-Manchester 86 one-way, 87 return. 

The exact time restriction varies by route and destination, so you'll just have to ask what it is - or run a journey planner enquiry and see which trains it is available on. 

As a minimum, Off-Peak tickets are valid on any train you like at weekends, and (it's fairly safe to assume) any train after 10:30 on Monday-Fridays. 

But they are usually not valid on trains leaving London (or Reading, Watford, Luton or Stevenage) between 15:00-19:00 Mondays-Fridays.

However, many Off-Peak tickets have more generous restrictions than this.

No advance booking is necessary, Off-Peak fares have unlimited availability and can be bought at the station on the day at the same price you see online.  You can turn up, buy a ticket and get on any train you like, as long as it's not one of the restricted Monday-Friday peak-time ones.  They cannot sell out.  Seat reservation is optional.

Off-Peak returns are usually only 1 more than the equivalent Off-Peak one-way, so if you need the flexibility of an Off-Peak ticket on the way back (rather than a train-specific Advance ticket), you may as well pay the extra pound and buy an Off-Peak return to use on the outward leg as well.

You must travel outward on the date shown on the ticket, but can return any day within 1 month. 

You can take any train operator's train, and travel via any permitted route, unless a specific operator or route is shown on the ticket. 

You can break your journey on the return leg, but generally not the outward leg or one a one-way, but this varies so you'll have to ask.

Refundable less an admin fee (usually 20) if unused.

A few train companies also have less expensive but more restrictive versions called Super Off Peak.

Off-Peak fares were called Saver fares before September 2008.

3. Advance. 

Cheap, inflexible,

specified train only.

Advance fares are also a simple concept to grasp.  They're airline-style cheap advance-purchase tickets, only valid on the specific train you've booked, no refunds, limited or no change of travel plans.

Advance tickets are usually the cheapest option, for example London-Manchester from 15 each way.

They have limited availability at each price level, and like budget airline fares the price rises as departure date approaches and the cheaper tickets sell out.  Book early and hunt around the different departures to find the cheapest fare.  In any case, Advance tickets must be booked by 18:00 the day before travel (although in reality they're often still available until 23:59).

Advance tickets come with a seat reservation automatically included, you can only travel on that specific train which has been reserved for you.

No break of journey is allowed, so you cannot join the train at a station en route, or get off at a station before the one you're booked to.

Use or a train operator website such as to check availability.  

Advance tickets are priced as one-way fares, so you can combine the cheapest fare for your outward journey with the cheapest fare for your return leg. 

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Shorter distance & London & South East fares...

The same three types apply to short distances too, though you don't usually find Advance tickets for shorter journeys.  And for short journeys and journeys within the London & Southeast area, Anytime & Off-Peak tickets tend to be valid for just a day, not a month.

1. Anytime. 

For travel

in the


Fully-flexible fares, but for shorter journeys valid only for 1 day, not more.  Valid at any time, on any train, by any train operator, by any permitted route (unless a specific route is shown on the ticket).  You can break your journey in either direction.  Refundable less an admin fee (usually 20).  Priced for commuters.

2. Off-Peak. 

For travel

in the


Off-Peak Day returns:  Short-distance Off-Peak fares are valid 1 day only, on any train at weekends, and after the morning rush hour (about 09:30) on Mondays-Fridays*.  After the Monday-Friday morning peak*, they are valid on any train, by any train operator, by any permitted route (unless a specific route is shown on the ticket).

Unlimited availability, so they cannot sell out.

You can break your journey in either direction. 

Refundable less an admin fee (usually 20) if unused. 

Priced for a day out!

* on routes from London Euston, London Paddington, London Liverpool Street, London Kings Cross, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, etc. there is also an evening peak hour restriction out of the city.

Super Off-Peak day returns:  A few train companies offer a second, cheaper type of off-peak ticket with tighter time restrictions, for example leaving after 1pm.  Restrictions vary by route, so you'll have to ask.

Off-Peak 1 month returns:  On medium distances, there may also be a one month Off-Peak Return, valid on any train at weekends, after the morning peak hour on Mondays-Fridays), outward travel on the date on the ticket, back within 1 month.  Confusingly, the official name is just Off-Peak Return so if you see both an Off-Peak Day Return and an Off-Peak Return with different prices, the latter is probably the one-month version!

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Which train operators & routes can I use with my ticket?

People get hung up on there being 20+ different train operators, but it's actually pretty simple.  The government requires train operators to work together as a network, so:

Why are there several 'Anytime' & 'Off-Peak' tickets for my journey, all with different prices?  Unfortunately, online ticket systems don't usually show the ticket routing.  So you might see two 'Anytime' fares from (say) London to Hull, one apparently valid on all the trains, the other only valid on a handful of trains and cheaper than the first one.  The reason is simple, in this case the first one is the 'route any permitted' anytime fare, the other is a cheaper 'route Hull Trains only' anytime fare only valid on Hull Trains' own services.  Similarly, you may find two Anytime or Off-Peak tickets between London & (say) Birmingham, one valid on all trains, the other only on some of the trains.  In this case it's because there are two sets of fares to Birmingham, one set being the 'route any permitted' fares valid on all routes & operators, the second being cheaper 'route High Wycombe' fares valid on all operators but only on the slower route via High Wycombe.  This would be obvious, rather than confusing, if the online systems stated the ticket routing for each fare they showed, but they don't.  The choice between (on the one hand) slower but cheaper and (on the other hand) faster, more frequent but more expensive, is up to you.

Breaking your journey ('stopovers'):  With an Off-Peak ticket you can take an interesting or scenic route and change trains as much as you like without leaving the station, as long as you stay within the time restrictions which apply to your ticket and stick to one of the permitted routes (see below).  However, you can only break your journey (i.e. stop off and leave the station) on the return leg of an Off-Peak return, not on the outward leg of an Off-Peak return, and not at all on an Off-Peak one-way ticket.  With an Anytime one-way or return ticket, there are no time restrictions and you can break your journey anywhere you like along any of the permitted routes.

How are fares set?  Here comes the science bit...  Behind the scenes, fare setting works like this:  Every origin-destination pair (known as a 'flow') is allocated to a particular train operator who has the right and the obligation to set the fares.  This operator is known as the 'Lead Operator' for that flow.  Once the Lead Operator has set the fares, every other operator serving any part of that flow (known as the 'Secondary Operators') are legally obliged to accept those fares for travel on their trains.  As I've said, Advance fares are by definition only valid on one train operator's trains, and both Lead Operators and Secondary Operators are allowed to set Advance fares for their own trains.  In addition Secondary Operators are allowed to set other (more flexible) fare types for their own trains, although only a few choose to do so.  For example, you'll see 'anytime' & 'off-peak' fares from London to Hull routed 'Hull Trains only' set by Secondary Operator Hull Trains, in addition to the main London to Hull 'route any permitted' anytime & off-peak fares set by Lead Operator LNER.  However, Lead Operators are not permitted to set fares which are only valid on their own trains, other than Advance fares, temporary fares & first class fares.  Revenue from the fares set by Lead Operators is shared between all operators serving that route, based on a computer system called ORCATS which models the proportion of passenger miles travelled on each operator.

What are the permitted routes?

The 'permitted routes' for a given origin & destination are set out in a document called the National Routeing Guide.  Don't worry about getting hold of a copy, even ticket clerks can't understand it half the time, just accept that it exists, and its contents have been incorporated into the various journey planning systems such as those used on, &  To give you a flavour of how flexible the permitted routes are:

London Terminals, London R1256, London zone U1...?

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Hotels & accommodation

My favourite hotel search site: is my favourite hotel booking site and I generally prefer booking my hotels all in one place here.  You can usually book with free cancellation - this allows you to confirm your accommodation at no risk before train booking opens.  It also means you can hold accommodation while you finalise your itinerary, and alter your plans as they evolve - a feature I use all the time when putting a trip together.  I never book hotels non-refundably.  I have also come to trust their review scores - you won't be disappointed with anything over 8.0.

Tip:  It can pay to compare prices across multiple hotel sites: is a price comparison site which compares hotel prices on,, Expedia, Accor, Agoda and many others.  Though if there's not much in it, I prefer keeping all my bookings together in one place at

Other hotel sites worth trying... is a good place to find independent travellers' reviews of the main hotels, and it has the low-down on destination sights & attractions, too.

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