Best way to book train tickets

Discussion in 'transport' started by rikwakefield, Aug 24, 2009.

  1. rikwakefield

    rikwakefield Born to be Mild

    I've not got the train for ages so I'm a bit out of touch as to where to get the best deals.

    I'm looking for 2 x return tickets from Manchester to Leeds on the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th of September.

    Thanks in advance.
  2. QueenOfGoths

    QueenOfGoths Fuck you Dave!

  3. Relahni

    Relahni New Member

    bunk the train rik.
  4. sam/phallocrat

    sam/phallocrat Denarian + 1 R.I.P.

    the national rail website is definitely your best bet but you might find that for a trip that short it won't necessarily be any cheaper buying in advance . . .
  5. stavros

    stavros Well-Known Member

  6. Roadkill

    Roadkill Well-Known Member

    Could we perhaps have a train-tickets 'sticky' thread, since this question comes up so often...?
  7. Mrs Magpie

    Mrs Magpie On a bit of break... if by magic :)
  8. citygirl

    citygirl friendly fire

  9. moose

    moose like some cat from Japan

    I tried last week, till Roadkill pointed out that if you go to the operator's website it's sometimes cheaper. I got the tickets way cheaper from the operator only to have them arrive in a envelope. It's a fucking racket, and extremely unfair. :mad:
  10. paolo

    paolo Well-Known Member

    General rule:

    Use the National Rail site to find out prices initially.

    If you decide to buy, only then click through to a particular seller. Travelling on FGW for example, you currently get a 10% discount if you buy from them.

    Don't start out with a 3rd party (trainline or whoever). At best they can only show the tickets that National Rail has. But sometimes they don't even do that, leaving only the more expensive options to choose from.

    The above advice may be superseded at any time, e.g. When Teuchter joins the thread ;)
  11. Roadkill

    Roadkill Well-Known Member

    Perhaps someone with more time on their hands than me might put together a list of train operators' websites...?

    FWIW I do use trainline for booking a lot of journeys because it's a convenient one-stop shop (although it does charge a booking fee :mad: ), but if it looks pricey I go to operators' sites.
  12. paolo

    paolo Well-Known Member

    No need though. National Rail first, then pick the operator running the cheapest. Starting with the operator is the wrong way round.
  13. Roadkill

    Roadkill Well-Known Member

    Trainline shows you precisely the same info as National Rail - as will most other places you can get train times: they all use the same database. The difference is, if I see a very good deal on trainline I can just click 'buy' and save myself pissing about on other sites.

    *e2a* You can often find deals on there as good as you can anywhere else. For some journeys the database seems to have a glitch about changing from one operator to another - hence my finding moose a cheaper ticket via the TPE site last week - and a few special-offer fares don't appear on it, so neither trainline nor nationalrail are without drawbacks. For finding tickets and prices, though, one's as good as another.
  14. Crispy

    Crispy The following psytrance is baṉned: All

    The actual best way to buy train tickets is to go to a train station and use the ticket office. They're obliged to sell you the cheapest ticket (although the operators' websites sometimes have special offers). It's a lot less stressful than using the internet.
    muscovyduck likes this.
  15. paolo

    paolo Well-Known Member

    Sure... My work currently involves that very system ;)

    What I'm driving at is that some operators offer discounts when booked direct. There's no rule to say that they have to offer those discounts to other ticket sellers. However alot of people might not initially know the operator for the journey.

    So use National Rail first, then - if it's a single
    operator journey - click through to the operator.

    It's only one extra step, not 'pissing about' ;)
  16. quimcunx

    quimcunx Too tall.

    I am no longer using trainline. I had a problem booking with them the other week and it ended up costing me £36 on what I would have paid. They tried to say it was a problem with my cache.

    If this is the sticky thread I want to ask why a network rail card only gets me a discount on london and the southeast whatever that covers.
  17. Roadkill

    Roadkill Well-Known Member

    You're right about some operators offering discounts for buying direct, but not all do and in those cases - booking fee aside - you can get as good a deal through trainline as anywhere else.

    There have been some reliability issues with it, as quimcunx hints at, but IME it's improved of late. On the one occasion I have had a problem - the site crashed half-way through payment - their call centre was pretty helpful and sorted it out promptly.
  18. moose

    moose like some cat from Japan

    They sell you crazy shit!:eek: mr moose and I went to Manchester one Saturday and they sold us a 'Northern Duo'. It was only when I tried to come back, leaving him in town, that I was told that the return was only valid if we travelled together!
  19. paolo

    paolo Well-Known Member

    Crispy... I've read the same, however I don't think the ticket offices have access to any different rules systems than the regular sites. It's possible that there's local specials that wouldn't show up (there's some crazy off peak discounts in Birmingham for example, for travel within the conurbation), but I think for longer distance they'll have what National Rail has, and everyone else (should) have.
  20. paolo

    paolo Well-Known Member

    The challenge! National Rail vs. The Trainline

    So, just for fun, here was the challenge I've just completed. Booking London to Bristol, outward after 10.00am Sat Sept 5th, coming back early evening Sunday.

    Which would be cheaper?
    Which would be easier?

    National Rail then choosing a ticket seller.

    There's no disputing that the national rail site is the ugliest european national rail site possible. But the jarring user interface does offer me the chance to select 'Direct Journeys Only' up front, which I choose, and later becomes important when compared with the Trainline.

    Soon enough, we have our times, and then the fares. Although I'd specified a 17:00 onwards return, it's obvious straight away the 19:00 is the cheapest. So, it's 11:00am out, and 19:00 return, totalling £28.50.

    The journey is on First Great Western, so at the ticket buying option, I choose them to buy my ticket from, and am flipped over to their site, with my selected tickets all set up.

    I step throught the screens, logging in (as a previous customer), not recalling any choice of seat arrangement, and finally end up with a price of £27.00 - a £1.50 discount that they bizarrely kept secret right up until I'd got near the end of the booking.

    Total time about 4 minutes, 50-50 split between the initial search on National Rail, and then stepping through FGW to book.

    The Trainline

    At first glance this is far nicer. But because they've missed off the 'Direct Trains' option, I don't think to go into 'Advanced Search' to select it. When I start looking at times, this isn't good. There are just four trains shown for the return, including the indirects, so I can't "see" the 19:00. After some faffing, I get it to appear - the faffing maybe due to my internet connection going crap.

    So, same journeys selected, 11:00 out, and 19:00 return, I start stepping through to purchase. Logging in, as I did with First Great Western. This time though I have to confirm some options about them spamming me or not. Well, that's good, but having confirmed that... rather bizarrelly, it's started me kind of at the beginning.

    I now have my original journey parameters, but in the Trainline's advanced search. I've no idea why I have to search again. But I do. They have some nice options - choosing a window seat say, or choosing a power socket. It can't be guaranteed of course, but it's nice to be asked.

    During all this, there's some text saying I've "saved £19.00". You could be forgiven for thinking that they mean "*they* have saved you £19.00". Except *they* haven't, that's the standard fare for the tickets you've chosen. To be fair, they 'fess up if you click the link for the pop up, but it's a little disingenuous.

    And then they charge you another quid.

    Total Time: Unrelated internet problems meant I couldn't stopwatch this, but my guess is about double National Rail due to being made to do most of it twice.

    End result:

    National Rail, then choosing train operator: £27.00, with no claimed saving.
    The Trainline: £29.50 (£2.50 more expensive, despite a claimed "saving" of £19.00)

    Your mileage may vary of course, but I would say: Don't be put off by how shit the National Rail site looks. It really does look shit, but it's honest with it's information. Once you've found your cheapest fare there, THEN click through the buy option and choose your preferred ticket seller. If it's a single operator journey, the chances are that buying from them will get the best discounts.
  21. Roadkill

    Roadkill Well-Known Member

    Fair enough.

    As I say, I've always used trainline and been fairly happy with it - booking fee aside - but if National Rail and operators' sites are better I'll give that a shot in future.

    To be fair though, with the latter system there is the slight added inconvenience of opening an account to buy tickets with each operator you use.

    The fact there are so many different ways of buying tickets, giving different results, reflects badly on the system in general IMO.
  22. paolo

    paolo Well-Known Member

    That's a fair point - there is indeed more form filling and faff in not having a single source. Plus you could have to navigate a variety of user interfaces, which is arguably alot more annoying than just one, even if it has its flaws.

    And yes, this just shows how wrong the UK rail system is for the customer. The 'commercial competition' that should benefit the customer hasn't materialised. It's a confusing mess. In no other European country would this thread exist. :(
  23. Bungle73

    Bungle73 I was there, now I'm here Banned

    Because it's a hangover from the old Network Southeast days and only covers that area.

    For some reason there is no railcard that covers the whole country, unless you're aged 16-25, a pensioner, disabled or a family.
  24. ShiftyBagLady

    ShiftyBagLady Thinks she is a flower to be looked at

    And military.

    I use trainline because it's simple, fast and you print off the tickets really easily without having to queue up. I'm lazy you see.
    Will check national rail in future though, thanks for that.
  25. quimcunx

    quimcunx Too tall.

    So there are not similar schemes covering other parts of the country?

    And where does it actually cover?
  26. jakejb79

    jakejb79 Laughing Cow

  27. rikwakefield

    rikwakefield Born to be Mild

    Thank you for all the advice. :D
  28. paolo

    paolo Well-Known Member

    You mean printing them off from the machine at the station?

    All the online ticket sellers do that, not just trainline, AFAIK.
  29. Bungle73

    Bungle73 I was there, now I'm here Banned

    I know there's no national railcard. I'm not sure whether there are any other local ones.
  30. Looby

    Looby Well-Known Member

    I've just had a fucking nightmare booking tickets for next weekend. This new pricing thing is very confusing.

    The returns to london were silly prices so I found 2 cheap singles for the outward journey on megatrain then found 2 first class singles (16 each) on the way back cheaper than standard. I bought the megatrain tickets, went back to national rail to buy the others and every website they transferred me to said the tickets weren't available although they still were on national rail. I phoned them and they put me through to SWT, after being on hold for 20 minutes I checked their website and they were shut. Called National Rail again and they did the same thing. The cheapest ticket I could get then was 33 each!

    I couldn't cancel the megatrain tickets either so was nearly in tears at the frustration of it all. I have managed to book returns now through raileasy but that was a fucking stressful hour. :eek: :mad: :mad: :mad: :mad:

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