Latest News page updated 2019/11/27



Train tickets in the UK are a real adventure. Here is an outline of some of the things you are likely to want to know.

Ticket types

Anytime
Off-Peak
Advance
There are "Off-Peak", "Anytime", "Advance" and other, minor variations. If you buy your ticket at a station then simply say when you'll expect to travel and they will advise as to the right ticket. You can save a lot of money by buying tickets in advance, and occasionally by doing weird things like buying tickets from A to B and B to C instead of simply from A to C. However, if you're only taking one journey then the savings probably aren't worth it.

Almost always a "Return" is
much, much better value than
two singles.
Note that buying two single tickets instead of a return ticket is often terrible value for money. A return ticket where the outward half is valid on the day you buy it and the return half can be used any time in the next month will typically cost only very slightly more (10p?) than a single ticket. So in particular if you arrive at Manchester airport buying a return ticket to Stone is almost certainly a better idea than buying a single ticket and then buying another one on your way back. Just make sure you don't get a day return where the return half has to be used on the day you buy it!

In part this can explain why splitting your tickets can save you money. If your journey starts from station A before 09:00 and calls at station B at 10:00, then the A->C ticket will count as "Peak", so getting A->B Peak and then B->C as an "Off-Peak" ticket, you can see how savings might be possible.

In truth, it's significantly more bizarre than that. If you're brave, you could try asking Colin Wright about it, but some will strongly recommend you not do that.

If you are travelling on a weekday (and if you're coming from overseas, you probably aren't arriving on Saturday morning), you may want to seriously consider waiting until 9am or 09:30 before taking a train. The prices can drop massively after those times as it goes from "Anytime" to "Off-Peak".

Buying your ticket

You can buy your tickets in advance and collect them from the counter or ticket machine on arrival. Here's a link:

You can also use that site simply to investigate train times, and then buy your tickets when you arrive. Note that, as the name suggests, "Advance" tickets probably won't be available on the day.

Also note
the final
destination
When checking the train tables on NationalRail, make sure to note the final destination of the trains you have to take, as this helps in identifying the correct train when changing.

Sometimes when purchasing your tickets online you are given the option of printing your own tickets - thus you have them in hand - or of having them on your phone. Some quick checking suggests that the major train companies offer apps, but there is little to no consistency about whether they will then let you have your ticket on the app. We recommend that you not rely on this being possible, although it should become clear when you buy your ticket if it is, indeed, an option.

Going onwards after the MathsJam, train tickets can be bought in the train or from the ticket machine at Stone.

Keep your ticket
until you've left
the station
Increasingly train stations have a barrier inside the station at which you have to present the tickets to leave, so don't throw them away beforehand. Not all stations have such barriers - there is no such barrier at Stone, but there are at Stafford, Stoke-on-Trent, Crewe, and Manchester Piccadilly, for example.

Next: Travelling by train

Reservations

Advance tickets
are only valid
on the specific
train.
Most trains during the day have seats, and reservations are not necessary unless you're travelling on an "Advance" ticket, in which case you must be on a/the specific train for which the ticket is valid.

There are some services that are sufficiently busy that reservations are recommended. Reservations can usually be made at the time of purchase if tickets are purchased in advance, and are compulsory for "Advance" class tickets.

Next: Travelling by train

More obscure options

If you're in a group (of 3-9 people) then "groupsave" can save you money. And if there are more than 9 of you, you can of course act like multiple smaller groups for the purposes of groupsave ticket purchasing. However, groupsave forces you to all travel together. If you get a return groupsave ticket you must all take the same train on the way back. And be getting off at the same stop.

There is a thing called "The Key" at least in some parts of the UK which is a credit card sized object that can be loaded with virtual train tickets. If you live overseas it's probably not worth getting one of these.

Here are two links to read:

It appears that these tickets are not available on West Midlands Trains, and it is West Midlands Trains that call at Stone station.

Next: Travelling by train


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