Travel tickets on the National Rail network
Where can I buy tickets?
- Online - National Rail Enquiries do not currently sell tickets but you can purchase them from one of the Ticket Retailers shown after you have selected your ticket in our Journey Planner.
- Over the phone, using one of the numbers shown in our pages
- At a station Ticket Office - check our Station Information pages to find which stations have one, and what the opening hours are. Various forms of payment are accepted.
- Using a 'self-service' ticket machine available at many stations.
- Rail appointed travel agents are complementary to ticket office at stations and Train Company telesales service, and the majority provide a comprehensive travel service. Appointed travel agents can make reservations and issue tickets.
If there are no ticket purchasing facilities at the station (such as a booking office or a ticket machine, or they are closed/out of service), you may be able to buy your ticket on board the train.
You should always make sure that you hold a valid ticket before you board the train.
- Anytime and Off-Peak can be bought in advance or on the day of travel.
- Advance tickets are sold in limited numbers and so subject to availability, and are made available for sale as soon as timetables have been confirmed - this is usually about twelve weeks beforehand. See our Buying advance tickets and Reserving seats page.
- Special conditions apply to buying Season Tickets in advance - these are shown on the Season Ticket page.
Which ticket suits you best?
The names of tickets describe when you can buy or use your ticket, making it easy for you to buy the best value ticket for your journey. Click on the ticket types below for more information.
- Advance - Buy in advance, sold in limited numbers and subject to availability. These tickets are only valid on the date/train specified.
- Off-Peak - Buy any time, travel off-peak.
- Anytime - Buy any time, travel any time.
- Season - Unlimited travel between two stations for a specified period.
- Rovers and Rangers - Unlimited travel within a specified area. There may be a few time restrictions on when you can travel.
ATOC have produced a new edition of the National Rail Guide to Tickets leaflet which provides an overview of the rail tickets available across the National Rail network and is designed to help customers choose the best value ticket for their journey with confidence. It also includes a summary of train companies’ commitments to customers.
Finding ticket prices
Our Journey Planner will show the cheapest point to point ticket currently available on each service displayed. If this is an Advance ticket please remember that these are sold in limited numbers and so subject to availability. If you have searched for a return journey the cheapest price for both a return and two singles (one out, one back) will be displayed.
If you wish to see all ticket types and not just the cheapest (perhaps you are unable to book in advance so would not be able to buy an Advance ticket, for example) there is an option to click on "more fares".
Depending on the type of ticket held you may be able to make changes to travel plans, or obtain a refund if you do not travel. For more details please look at our Changing and Cancelling tickets page. Please note that Advance tickets are not refundable.
Railcards and other discounts
Railcards offer value for money if you travel by train, saving you at least 1/3 on rail fares. A selection of national Railcards as well as a number of local Railcards serving specific geographical areas.
In addition, a number of other discounts are available - take a look at our discounts page to find out more.
Rail and bus tickets
Add unlimited bus travel around your origin and/or destination town or city with PLUSBUS. It can be added to single or return train tickets, and, in many towns and cities, to season tickets as well. Take a look at our PLUSBUS pages to see which towns/cities are covered.
Many towns without railway stations can be reached using public transport from the nearest railhead station. Combined rail and bus tickets may be available on some of these links. Take a look at our pages for more information.
Ticket validity information
The ticket that you have selected may require you to travel at specific times of the day, days of the week or on a specific route. Our Journey Planner will have already taken this into account with the selection that you have made and will only have shown tickets that are valid for the selected trains.Your ticket is associated with a ‘Restriction Code' applied by the train companies and this can be viewed by clicking the link from the Journey Planner ticket terms and conditions page once you have made your selection.
Your ticket may indicate a route or train company that you must use to complete your journey. In all other cases you are allowed to use any permitted route for the journey you are making – this is also the case where no route is shown. Permitted routes cover all the reasonable routes available for making the journey indicated, including all direct services and suitable connecting services. When you book your journey online, any ticket offered in connection with the timetable or itinerary produced by the journey planner will be accepted as a permitted route.
The full Routeing Guide can be found on the Association of Train Operating Companies website. This includes a list of maps of permitted routes and is intended as guidance, however, the full range of routes and options (especially for longer distance journeys) can be very complex and we would therefore encourage you to check any intended route using our Journey Planner to validate that it can be used with your ticket.
The Routeing Guide is currently being updated. Please note that tickets and Travelcards from Watford Junction, Watford High Street, Watford North, Carpenders Park, Garston, Bricket Wood, How Wood and Park Street to London are not valid for travel via St Albans.
If your journey involves travelling through London to connect with another National Rail service, your ticket will usually include the cost of transfer on London Underground, Docklands Light Railway or Thameslink services between the relevant stations. To check if the cost of travel across London is included in your ticket, look for the ‘†' symbol which will be shown in the tickets ‘Route' information, e.g. [‘†' ANY PERMITTED]. Full information can be found on our Travelling to, from and via London page.
National Rail Conditions of Carriage
When you buy a ticket to travel on the National Rail network you enter into an agreement with the train companies whose trains you will be travelling on. This agreement is detailed in the National Rail Conditions of Carriage.
Refund / compensation rights and Passenger's Charter
Information about your rights to refund or compensation in the event of delays is available here.
Each franchised train company has a Passenger's Charter which is a guide to the level of service you can expect to receive when using their stations and their train services.
Ticket Irregularities Code of Practice
Train companies carry out regular inspections, both on train and at stations, to make sure that customers are buying and using the correct tickets for the trains they are using. If you do not have the right ticket for your journey when you had the opportunity to purchase one, you may be issued with a Penalty Fare or an Unpaid Fare Notice, or further action may be taken to examine the circumstances of the case. This can in some cases lead to prosecution.
When dealing with such ticket irregularities, Train Companies abide by the Ticket Irregularities Code of Practice.
Visitors to Britain
If you live abroad and plan to visit Britain, the BritRail Pass gives the freedom to travel on all National Rail services. Ask for details from your travel agent before leaving for Britain, or visit the BritRail website.
For timetable enquiries from overseas, you can contact National Rail Enquiries International on +44 (0)20 7278 5240. Please note that this service is for information only purposes and international rates apply.
How can I travel for less?
Finding a good value train ticket is easier than ever, with online tools and a great range of discounts available.
Take a look through our five point plan to find out how to get the best deal for your journey.
1. Book in advance
Train companies have almost doubled the number of cheap Advance fares available in the last few years, and now sell around a million every week. They are available to buy as far as 12 weeks before your date of travel and can be usually be bought up until 6pm the day before you travel (subject to availability).
Advance fares are single tickets that are valid only on the date and train shown on the ticket. Changes can be made before departure but are subject to a £10 admin fee and other terms and conditions.
2. Travel during less busy times
Off-Peak fares are cheaper tickets for travelling on trains that are less busy. You can buy Off-Peak tickets from many stations any time before you travel. Restrictions will depend on the journey you are making and you will be advised when you buy.
On longer distance journeys, if you travel in a peak period one way but return when it is less busy, look at a combination of Advance, Off-Peak and Anytime fares to get the best deal.
3. Use a Railcard
Record numbers of journeys are being made using Railcards, up by almost 80% since 2005.There are now over 3.5 million Railcards in use today.
1 in 14 journeys are now made with a Railcard every year, with Railcard holders saving on average £148 a year.
Use www.nationalrail.co.uk to check out all the options.
4. Buy a Season ticket
If you are making the same journey just three days a week or more, getting a Season ticket can mean considerable savings.
An annual ticket offers 52 weeks' travel for the price of 40, and weekly and month Season tickets are also available.
Use National Rail Enquiries' Season Ticket Calculator to check prices and to find out what your journey to work on an annual Season ticket costs.
Some employers offer Season ticket loans to help spread the cost of travel over the year.
5. Use money-saving tools
Check National Rail Enquiries' Cheapest Fare Finder tool.
Days Out Guide offers 2for1 entry with rail tickets to hundreds of attractions across Britain.
If you're a small group travelling together, you can also use GroupSave on a variety of Off-Peak tickets across the network. Find out more at daysoutguide.co.uk/groupsave.