Buying Tickets

 

Generally, the earlier you buy, the better the deal – specially priced Advance Tickets are usually available to buy up to 6 weeks or more in advance, and until the day you travel on many routes (or even up to 10 minutes before departure in some cases) on a first come, first served basis. Anytime and Off-Peak tickets offer more flexibility, without limiting you to a particular service. Find the right ticket for your journey with our online Journey Planner.

Where Can I Buy Tickets?

 
  • Online - National Rail Enquiries do not sell train tickets but you can purchase them from one of the Ticket Retailers shown after you have selected your ticket in our Journey Planner.
  • By phone - using one of the numbers shown in our Train Company page
  • At a 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.
  • At a 'self-service' ticket machine - available at many stations.
  • Rail appointed travel agents - 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. Look for the 'tick' logo National Rail Accredited 'tick' logo

If there are no ticket purchasing facilities at the station (such as a Ticket Office or a self-service ticket machine, or they are closed/out of service), you may be able to buy your ticket on board the train.

When Can I Buy Tickets?

 

You should always make sure that you hold a valid ticket before you board the train.

  • Anytime and Off-Peak can be bought up to 12 months* in advance or on the day of travel.
  • Advance tickets are sold in limited numbers for a specific service so are subject to availability. Advance tickets are usually made available for sale as soon as timetables have been confirmed - this is usually about 12 weeks beforehand. Advance tickets are available up to 10 minutes before departure on many long distance routes. 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.

*In person at ticket offices and travel centres, and via selected telesales. Online transactions are usually limited to confirmed timetables and may not be available more than 12 weeks in advance.

Which Ticket is Right for Me?

 

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.

PLEASE NOTE: 'Off-Peak' and 'Super Off-Peak' will differ depending on the journey, and there is not a national 'Off-Peak' time. If an Off-Peak or Super Off-Peak ticket is available for your journey, journey planners will make them available to purchase. 

If you are travelling around London, take a look at London and Oyster pages.

National Rail Guide to Tickets

Rail Delivery Group have produced the National Rail Guide to Tickets leaflet to download and keep, 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.

To search for the full range of Tickets and Restriction Codes, you can also use the Ticket and Validity Finder tool

Finding The Best Fare

 

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.

Book in Advance - Train companies have almost doubled the number of 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 10 minutes before you travel (subject to availability). Advance fares are single (one-way) 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.

Travel at Quieter 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.

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.railcards.co.uk to check out all the Railcard options.

Buy a Season Ticket - If you are making the same journey more than once a week, a Season ticket can mean considerable savings. An annual Season Ticket offers a full year's worth of travel for the price of 10 months and 12 days, and 7-Day, Monthly, and Flexi Season Tickets are also available to most destinations.

Use National Rail's Season Ticket Calculator to check prices and to find out what your journey to work on an annual Season ticket costs.

Use money-saving tools - Check National Rail Enquiries' Cheap Fare Finder tool. Days Out Guide offers 2-for-1 entry with National Rail tickets to hundreds of attractions across Britain.

Travel in a group - 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 www.daysoutguide.co.uk/travel-by-train/groupsave.

Finding Ticket Prices

 

Our Journey Planner will show point to point tickets 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.

The Journey Planner will not show Season Ticket or Rover and Ranger prices. Take a look at our  Rovers and Rangers pages for these prices.

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".

A small number of other fares are not shown by our Journey Planner.

Money from ticket sales goes towards running and maintaining the railway. Find out more about your fare.

Changing Tickets

 

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, unless your train is cancelled or delayed and you no longer wish to travel.

Railcards & 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 Railcards & Savings tab to find out more.

Rail & Bus Tickets (Multi-modal Travel)

 

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.​​​​​​​

M​​​​​​​any towns without railway stations can be reached using public transport from the nearest rail station. Combined rail and bus tickets may be available on some of these links. Take a look at our pages for more information.​​​​​​​

Ticket Validities

 

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.

Routeing Information

 

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 at that time, 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 Rail Delivery Group 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.

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Crossing London

 
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 Travel

 

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 Travel.

Click here for the current National Rail Conditions of Travel, valid from 04 December 2019, until further notice.

N.B - Reference is made in the the National Rail Conditions of Travel to a Code of Practice for meetings arranged in connection with duplicate Season Tickets, including refunds when duplicate Season Tickets are no longer needed. A copy of this can also be found here.

Compensation and Passengers' Charters

 

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.

Further information about your rights to a refund or compensation in the event of delays is available on our dedicated 'Compensation' page here.

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.

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.

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Last updated:   24 November 2021