Buy train tickets in Britain

Buy tickets for any National Rail train journey in Britain from train operator www.tfwrail.wales and pay no booking fee.

US flag Canadian flag Australian flag Indian flag EU flag  International payment cards accepted. 

Bookings open 8-12 weeks ahead.

Understanding 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 smartphone or laptop.

Or collect tickets at any main station from machines like these (colour & design varies).  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...

small bullet point  How to check train times & fares

small bullet point  How to buy tickets

small bullet point  Simple guide to train fares   

small bullet point  How to find the cheapest tickets

small bullet point  Which operators & routes can you use?

small bullet point  Buy a railcard & get 34% off

small bullet point  Are the trains running on time?

small bullet point  Maps of the UK train network

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  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 56

small bullet point  London to Dublin & Ireland for 44.50

small bullet point  London to Paris & Brussels from 44

small bullet point  London to Amsterdam from 40

small bullet point  Train travel to anywhere in Europe

small bullet point  Britain's scenic West Highland Line

small bullet point  The Deerstalker, Best Train in Britain

small bullet point  The Royal Scotsman cruise train

A typical British 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.

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...

How to check train times & fares...

How to buy tickets...

Beware of booking too far ahead...

Tips for finding the cheapest tickets...

 Cheap train fares...

  Cheapest available one-way Advance fares:

  Journey:

From:

 Journey:

From

  London - Edinburgh

25

  London - Sheffield

15

  London - Glasgow

30

  London - Manchester

23

  London - Newcastle

20

  London - Liverpool

17

  London - Leeds

16

  London - Oxenholme (Lake District)

22

  London - York

13.10

  London - Cardiff

18.50

Cheaper routes, railcards, split-ticketing...

Back to top


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

  Railcard banner

Back to top


General train travel information:  www.nationalrail.co.uk

As well as online train times and fares, www.nationalrail.co.uk has:

Back to top


Are the trains running on time?  Are there engineering works?

Back to top


Maps of the UK rail network...

Train company websites...

Back to top


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.

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 Virgin Trains when taken, now run by Avanti West Coast.  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 an Avanti West Coast pendolino   First class full english breakfast on an Avanti West Coast  pendolino

Back to top


London Underground & Bus information...

Back to top


Need a taxi at the other end?

Back to top


Need a bus at the other end?

Back to top


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 (www.northlinkferries.co.uk) 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...

Back to top


Taking you bike?

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

Back to top


Rail Rovers - unlimited train travel...

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 www.nationalrail.co.uk/.../rangers_and_rovers.  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 tickets.gwr.com/..../roversandrangers.  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.

Back to top


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 smartphone.

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 Raileurope.com or www.avantiwestcoast.co.uk (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 www.avantiwestcoast.co.uk or www.nationalrail.co.uk.

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

Back to top


A simple guide to train fares...

Longer-distance train fares...

1. Anytime 

Fully-flexible. 

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 

Semi-flexible,

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 www.nationalrail.co.uk or a train operator website such as www.avantiwestcoast.co.uk 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. 

Back to top

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

peak.

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.

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!

Back to top

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 nationalrail.co.uk, thetrainline.com & raileasy.com.  To give you a flavour of how flexible the permitted routes are:

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


Back to top