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Buy tickets for any National Rail train from train operator with no booking fee.

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Train ticket booking opens 8-12 weeks ahead.

To understand Advance, Off-Peak, Anytime fares, read this quick guide.

To find cheap fares, see advice here

Mobile Tickets:  You can often select Mobile Ticket to show on your phone or laptop.

Or collect tickets at any main station from the self-service ticket machines.  You need the original credit card to collect tickets.

20+ operators, one network

Click here for the best map of the UK train 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.  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.

About train travel


On other pages

small bullet point  How to check train times & fares

small bullet point  Maps of the rail network

small bullet point  How to buy tickets

small bullet point  Tips for finding the cheapest tickets

small bullet point  Buy a railcard & get 34% off fares

small bullet point  Simple guide to train fares   

small bullet point  Which operators & routes can you use?

small bullet point  Are the trains running on time?

small bullet point  London bus & Underground info

small bullet point  Nationwide bus & taxi information

small bullet point  Ferry information

small bullet point  BritRail passes & Rail Rovers

small bullet point  Taking bikes on trains in the UK


small bullet point  The scenic Settle & Carlisle line

small bullet point  The scenic West Highland line

small bullet point  London to Bath by train

small bullet point  London to York by train

small bullet point  London to Edinburgh by train

small bullet point  London to Scotland by sleeper

small bullet point  London to Cornwall by sleeper

small bullet point  To Jersey & Guernsey by train & ferry

small bullet point  To the Isle of Man by train & ferry

small bullet point  London to Belfast for 58

small bullet point  London to Dublin & Ireland for 51.10

small bullet point  London to Paris & Brussels from 52

small bullet point  UK to any country in Europe by train

A typical inter-city train

Trains come in many different types & company colours, but they all work together as National Rail.  This is an LNER Azuma train, used on the East Coast Main Line linking London-York-Newcastle-Edinburgh.  You'll find seating plans for key British trains on the seat numbering plans page.

LNER Azuma train   2nd class seats on Azuma train

An LNER Azuma train.


Standard class seats.  Larger photo.

1st class seats on Azuma train   Buffet counter on Azuma train

First class seats.  Larger photo.


Buffet counter.  Larger photo.

How to check train times & fares

Maps of the rail network

How to buy tickets


Tips for finding the cheapest tickets

 Cheap train fares

  Cheapest one-way Advance fares, approximate:





  London - Edinburgh


  London - Sheffield


  London - Glasgow


  London - Manchester


  London - Newcastle


  London - Liverpool


  London - Leeds


  London - Oxenholme (Lake District)


  London - York


  London - Cardiff


Beware of booking too far ahead

Cheaper fares on slower routes


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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 engineering works?

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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 include light meals & 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.

1st class seats on an Avanti West Coast pendolino   Standard class seats on an Avanti West Coast 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, run by Avanti West Coast.  As you can see, in standard class there are 2+2 seats across the car width, in first class it's 1+2, so there's more elbow room, more legroom, and there are tables for two and solo seats (below left).  Avanti West Coast is unique in offering a middle class between standard and first called Standard Premium, which uses exactly the same seating as 1st class but without any food or drink included.

Food included in 1st class on LNER, Avanti West Coast & East Midlands Trains:  Below right, a light meal and wine served on an LNER Azuma train from London to Edinburgh, included in the fare.  Avanti West Coast & East Midlands Trains offer a similar 1st class food & drink service.  Another good reason for taking train not plane between London and Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester or Newcastle!

First class table for two on an LNER Azuma   Complimentary light meal on an LNER train from London to Edinburgh

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London Underground & Bus information

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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.

Lounge on ferry   Northlink ferry

The premium Magnus Lounge on the Hrossey.


The Hrossey ready to sail from Aberdeen.

Northlink ferry   Cabin on Northlink ferry

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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Rail RoversUnlimited 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.

2024 All Line Rail Rover prices:

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:

London Euston

London Kings Cross

London St Pancras International

Birmingham New Street



Luton Airport Parkway

Milton Keynes Central


Watford Junction

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.

If you buy a rover using a 2-Together railcard, you also can't use the pass before 09:30 Monday-Fridays.

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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.  It's now available as a mobile pass that you can buy & download to your phone.

BritRail pass or point-to-point tickets?

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 (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

How to make BritRail seat reservations online

Seat reservation are optional on all British trains (except overnight sleeper trains).  So you don't have to have one, and indeed can't make one anyway on many local/rural/urban/suburban routes.  But they are a good idea on long-distance routes, especially at busy times.

Do not pay (or $$$) to make seat reservations through an agency.  There's a well-hidden way to make stand-alone seat reservations for free to go with a pass.

Go to and register for an account.  Sign in & click My account.  Then click Bookings.  Then click the Make a seat/bike reservation box. 

Run an enquiry and select a train.  It will look as if you need to select a fare, select any fare in the right class, it doesn't matter which, continue and make the reservation.  It says you won't be charged and indeed you'll get the free stand-alone seat reservation without needing to enter any payment details.

Even though it's GWR, this works for any train/route/operator where seat reservations are available including LNER, Avanti, Cross-Country, TransPennine & GWR.  Please let me know if this process changes, or ceases to work.

Tip for seat reservations on LNER trains:  If you want a seat reservation on an LNER train (for example, between London & York, Leeds, Newcastle, Edinburgh) you can also use, up to 5 minutes before the train leaves its starting station.  The advantage over using is that you can choose an exact seat from a seating plan on LNER trains if you make a reservation this way.  You'll need to register for an LNER account during the process, but no payment is necessary, it's free just like  However, can reserve seats on any operator, this LNER system can only make reservations on LNER trains.

Or make reservations in person

Simply ask at any staffed station any time up to about 2h before departure, or ideally the day before.  There are always places available, even on the day.

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A simple guide to train fares

Anytime, Off-Peak & Advance...  They say train fares are complicated.  But for all practical purposes, there are now just 3 types of fare making it as simple as 1, 2 3.  All the train companies now use the same 3 names for the same 3 types of ticket.  Always confirm the exact restrictions and conditions when you buy your ticket. 

Longer-distance 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 184 one-way or 369 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 68 one-way, 98 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 often only a little 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 few pounds 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 5) 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 20 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 5).  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 5) 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 you use?

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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