The complexities of booking a train ticket

by backpackingbongos

Over the last couple of weeks it has felt like I have spent too much time trying to purchase cheap train fares to Scotland.  At the end of March I will be travelling to the Isle of Rum with Pete from Writes of way, followed by the TGO challenge in May.  When attempting to purchase a ticket to Mallaig to get the ferry to Rum I initially did a search to see what the fare would be from Nottingham.  The result was the fact that I would need to remortgage the house!  I therefore sat at the laptop for hours one evening trying to work out every single permutation of train routes, the result being that I purchased six singles to get me there and back!  In the end it has cost me £48 return to Glasgow where I will spend the night, followed by £43 return to Mallaig.  Not too extortionate.

What really got my goat (where does that expression come from?) is whilst searching for Glasgow to Mallaig I spotted fares of £14 each way, bargain I thought.  I then went and had a bath to celebrate before actually making a booking.  Less than half an hour later I went back and one of the fares had already increased to £29!  How can something double in price in less than thirty minutes?!

Anyway the whole painful experience has been repeated this afternoon as I attempted to get tickets to the start of my challenge route.  Feeling rather chuffed this time as I have managed to get to Glasgow for £32 and travelling first class.  I have never travelled first class and am hoping that it is all decadence and luxury with uniformed staff catering for my every whim.  At the very least free tea and coffee!

With the cost of diesel becoming ridiculous I think that train travel may have to become more of a feature of travelling long distances to the hills.  It’s just a shame that you have to book three months in advance to get a half decent fare.


12 Comments to “The complexities of booking a train ticket”

  1. You know you can fly from Nottingham airport to Glasgow for 40 pounds?

  2. I bought the last cheapy while you were in the bath! Spend half a day looking for ‘cheap’ tickets and you might get something resembling a fair price for your travel. All this privatised companies competing to see how much they can rip you off for bollocks has me spitting feathers. Grrrrr! Travelling anywhere at all is soon going to be beyond the means of everyone except George Fecking Osborne and the Royal Family, gawd bless ’em ( sound of exploding blogger off-stage, right).

  3. I find you get the knack of finding cheap fares. Having no car means I have no other choice. I always use National Rail Enquiries to find potential routes, but always book direct through the train companies, it’s vastly cheaper. As an example, a return to Windermere would have cost me £37.80 through NRE, but I found return tickets for £18, by buying singles through the train companies websites.
    But I agree that train fares are a ludicrous price and the only way to get really good deals is to buy them the day they are realeased. I’d go off on on a rant similar to Peter if you gave me half the chance.

  4. I think there are only a certain amount of tickets prices at £14 and when they go the next price is introduced the £29 one.

    I’m in the process of booked ticket to either Aviemore or Inverness from London; at the moment I can get London to Aviemore/Inverness on the sleeper for £33 but the return tickets are not available yet, so have to wait and hope the first lot are still available in a couple of weeks.

    Have you tried

  5. A while ago i thought it would be fun to take the family (2 adults and 3 children) from Crewe to Fort William on the sleeper for a few days. No matter which combination of dates and booking methods I tried, it would have been cheaper to charter a private jet.


  6. Jimmie I did not even think about flying, although I think that it is best not to take to the skies just to get to Glasgow!

    I had a sneaky suspicion that you nabbed the last ticket Pete! Please don’t bring this blog down by using the name of George Osbourne, it is a family site you know and I don’t want to scare the children.

    Rant all you like Northernfall, I have been doing so for the past day.

    I have not tried, cheers for the link I will check it out.

    I feel your pain Ian, it’s a bloody nightmare.

  7. I found out the hard way that you need to book the cheap fares the minute you see them. Like you I went over every conceivable permutation to get from Belfast to Mallaig and then from Montrose back to Belfast. In the end I grabbed the Belfast-Glasgow ferry/bus for £25 and the Glasgow to Mallaig train for £14. Unfortunately my train doesn’t arrive in Mallaig until 11:30pm and I fear I may be too late for a fish supper 😦 The cheapest, and fastest, return journey was the train from Montrose-Edinburgh and then a flight from Edinburgh to Belfast. I really wanted to avoid flying but it gets me home about 10hrs quicker than bus/ferry and costs the same. Total cost of return travel including a connection to the airport is £70. Nearly seems cheaper getting to Scotland from Northern Ireland!

  8. Jon it would probably be cheaper for me to get to Northern Ireland first and then travel to Scotland. Maybe our paths will cross on the TGO challenge?

  9. I’m investigating cheaper ways to get into the hills, the first of these hopefully will be posted in a couple of days. It’s cheaper for me to fly from Newcastle to Poland, then either walk there or catch bus down to Slovakia and back than it is to catch the return train to Aviemore (certainly last minute).

    • That sounds interesting Steven, looking forward to reading about that if you do it. It sort of shows that something is definately wrong with our transport system if it is cheaper to fly to Poland from Newcastle than catch a train to Aviemore!

  10. I remember travelling to Bolton from London in the middle of the Hatfield fall-out in 2000. I had to leave at 4am and was still not there until 11am. When the ticket chap came round and I asked for a Return Ticket, he asked me for £175. I told him I could fly to Boston for that and he suggested I do so. As it was raining outside, and around 5am at the time, I could see his point…

    • £175 is cheap for the simple pleasure of sitting in an overcrowded train for several hours Maz, Not!! I don’t understand the whole ‘lets make train travel really expensive for people who need to us it to get to work’ lark.

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