British Train Tickets - 1st Class Train Tickets - 2nd Class Train Tickets

Train Operating Companies

The British rail system is comprised of 29 different train operators that are collectively known as National Rail. Although some of these are just suburban rail operators, most of these companies operate mainline rail services.

These train companies include: Arriva Trains Wales, Chiltern Railways, CrossCountry, East Coast, East Midlands Trains, First Capital Connect, First Great Western, First TransPennine Express, Hull Trains, London Midland, National Express East Anglia, Northern Rail, ScotRail,South West Trains, Southern, Virgin Trains and Wrexham & Shropshire.

In most cases it doesn’t matter which train company you use since the ticket office at the station will usually sell tickets for the next departure regardless of which company operates the train and all train operating companies accept the Britrail Pass. However the presence of competing train companies on some routes mean that one company may undercut another’s prices and offer a better deal. An example is how Chiltern Railways and London Midland run trains between London and Birmingham starting at £5 each way, while Virgin Trains charge up to £66 for essentially the same trip.

It is always a good idea to check your route on the National Rail website for times, prices and details of the train operating company and then check that company’s website for any specials.

Ticket Types

The names of train tickets in the UK have been simplified so the whole process of buying tickets is more straightforward. For most travellers this is not big deal, but if you are returning to the UK after a few years out of the country, some fare types now have new names. For instance, a “cheap day return” is now called an “off-peak return”.

The ticket types are:

Advance Tickets

Advance tickets are good value for longer trips and must be purchased in advance with the ticket valid for a specific train departure.

Anytime Tickets

These are the most flexible, and most expensive, tickets. There are no time restrictions and you can travel during peak hours on the same day you buy the ticket.

Off-Peak Tickets

These are cheaper fares for travel outside peak hours. Where there are several off-peak fares for the same journey, the cheapest off-peak fare (with the most restrictions) is called Super Off-Peak.

Cheaper Train Fares

Although the United Kingdom is one of the most expensive countries to travel by rail, on certain routes some train operators have very cheap fares. These fares are usually on routes with more than one competing railway company and they usually involve restrictions such as online advance purchase. Despite the restrictions, the savings with these cheap fares can be enormous and they are worth the effort of booking in advance.


Chiltern Railways run trains between London and Birmingham starting at £6 each way with London Midland also offering £6 fares and advance purchase fares on Virgin Trains starting at £8, while the standard ticket price on the same route can cost as much as £115. Chiltern Railways depart from London Marylebone Station (London Midland and Virgin Trains depart from Euston Station) and the journey with Chiltern Railways takes longer than London Midland and Virgin Trains services. To get the £6 fare with Chiltern Railways, you need to book by 6pm the day before travel. These cheap tickets are only available in limited numbers and only for specific train departures. They are best booked online through Chiltern Railways website and tickets are either sent to your mobile phone or emailed for you to print at home. London Midland trains from London to Birmingham run from London Euston to Birmingham New Street (like Virgin Trains) with £6 advance purchase fares that can be purchased through the London Midland website from 12 weeks in advance up till 6pm the day before you travel. Virgin Trains advance purchase fares on the London–Birmingham route start at £7.50, which can be booking using the widget on the righthand side of the screen.

London–Leeds & York

Virgin Trains East Coast has advance purchase tickets for travel between London and Yorkshire with fares on the London–Leeds and London–York routes starting at only £14.50.

London–Leicester, Nottingham or Sheffield

East Midlands Trains have advance purchase tickets for travel between London and Leicester or Nottingham starting at £14.50. One-way fares between London and Sheffield start at £16.50. These are advance purchase fares that are only available up to seven days before travel and tickets are cheapest for off-peak travel when booked online through East Midlands Trains website. Travel on these routes is also sold through Megatrain, which can often work out cheaper than booking directly with East Midlands Trains. Often you can get these same tickets for just £9 each way when you book through Megatrain.


Virgin Trains sell tickets for travel between London and Manchester with prices starting at £21. These special fares are for advance purchase through either the Trainline or Virgin Trains websites. They are non-exchangeable, non-refundable and available for specific routes only. These tickets are sent to your mobile phone so you’ll need a UK sim card in your mobile to take advantage of these fares.

Megatrain one-way fares from £1

Megatrain sell cheap rail tickets using a yield management pricing model similar to the pricing system used by most low-cost airlines with tickets starting at £1 (plus a 50p booking fee); although train fares on some routes start at £9 with Megatrain, while it is easier to find £1 fares on Megabus coach services booked through the same website. Megatrain do not operate their own trains, but instead resell tickets for services operated by East Midlands Trains, South West Trains and Virgin Trains. Megatrain routes include Sheffield–Chesterfield–Loughborough–Leicester–London St Pancras, Nottingham–Loughborough–Leicester–London St Pancras, Portsmouth–London Waterloo, Southampton Central–London Waterloo, Exeter–Yeovil Junction–Salisbury–London Waterloo, Bristol–Bath–Salisbury–London Waterloo and Birmingham New Street–Edinburgh Waverley. Megatrain is the cheapest place to buy British train tickets, particularly if you are booking your travel at least a few weeks in advance. This should be the first place to come to book your train tickets.

Please allow sufficient time to receive your train tickets before your departure.


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