Train Review – Bath to Newcastle (Return)Back to Forum
There are dangers with Advance tickets: they are not always that cheap especially considering the loss of flexibility they bring.
Super Off Peak and Off Peak returns can often be a few pounds more or cheaper than Advance, dependent on demand.
The loss of flexibility is a big consideration for me.12 Apr 2013
I agree but I always balance out what I write.
So when you read Platform for the April issue then you will see that I discuss both the advantages and disadvantages of using Advance tickets.
A big selling point for Advance fares is that you can use peak hour trains which you cannot do with almost all the Off-Peak fares you mention.
This is important because if you are heading from London to Manchester during the week, the first Off-Peak train at 0940 won’t get you there before 1149. What use is that if you have a morning appointment ?
If you were to take the 0920 train (or an earlier service) from Euston then the standard class return fare rockets from £77.30 (Off-Peak saver rate) to £308 (Anytime return).
So that is where the Advance ticket scores. And if you are unsure of your return journey time, then book a one-way Advance then simply buy the return as a ‘walk-up’ Off-Peak single at the Manchester end. You will still make a worthwhile saving.12 Apr 2013
Actually you can still make a saving by throwing away one ticket and buying another advance ticket. Back in January I was in Nottingham and had booked the 1628 back to London.
The ticket was priced at £24.00 first class. The evening before I found that I would be finished early and could catch the 1128 rather than waiting for the 1628 I booked for the 1128 at £24.00 again.
The off peak single 1st fare is £88.50 so I still saved £40.50 and if anything went wrong and I missed or needed to stay beyond the 1128 I still had the 1628 to fall back on. Probably doesn’t fit like this every time and on every route.12 Apr 2013
TRIP 3: Newcastle to Bristol Temple Meads, Cross Country
I purchased an Advance First Class ticket for £84.50 (with rail card) using the Cross Country website. Initially, I was planning to use their e-Ticket and print out the ticket but I then recalled this required showing the piece of paper to a ticket officer at the barrier at Newcastle which can be a hassle so I changed to picking the ticket up from a machine at Newcastle. This seemed to confuse the site and it wanted to add a £1 booking fee. After much hassle, I dumped the booking and reloaded the site from scratch and this time completed the booking without issue and the extra fee.
My observation from using this route a number of times is that Cross Country are putting out fewer and fewer Advance tickets and those that are being sold are more expensive. Only the 0942 service I took had the £84 fare, other services were over £100 for an Advance 1st class fare.
The train was on time and it turned out to be an HST rather than the usual Voyager. I believe this is the Aberdeen to Plymouth train and is the first time I have used this on this route. It has 1.5 1st class carriages with the 0.5 in the Buffet car carriage which oddly also had 3 rows of standard class. I sat in this carriage as none of the seats were reserved whereas the other coach was full of reserved seats. The carriage was more or less empty until Birmingham and I had a table for 4 to myself for the whole journey. I noticed there were 4 power points for this table which is unusual as TOCs tend to skimp on the number of sockets.
The seat reminded me of the East Coast 1st class seat with a cradle style recline action. One thing bothered me with this seat. The headrest cushion is quite large and goes down below the neck area. The cushion is not quite flush with the back cushion so consequently I kept feeling the edge of the head cushion sticking into my upper back which was annoying. Apart from this, it was comfortable enough.
There is an on-board wifi but this wasn’t working and it wasn’t until we got to Cheltenham before it was fixed. Once fixed, the speed was acceptable and it was just a shame it wasn’t there before. I wonder how much priority long distance train operators are putting on their wifis? In my opinion, on a long journey, there are 3 things that are a must. Toilets, Drinks & Wifi. Food is less important as far as I am concerned.
The staff on board were very efficient and pleasant. There was a change of personnel at Birmingham but I didn’t notice any difference in service. The trolley with complimentary tea, coffee, soft drinks, biscuits and cakes appeared after most stations. I had a mixture of teas & soft drinks throughout the day and a muffin in the morning which was fine. However, I would have liked to have seen a bowl of fruit as well. FGW have this on their trolleys and I think it gives an alternative to carb snacks.
The biggest surprise came with lunch which was free. I could have had a hot bacon sandwich for breakfast on leaving Newcastle but I had already had breakfast and decided to wait for lunch. At lunchtime i was offered an egg with roasted vegetable sandwich/salad or a Lancashire Hot Pot. I detest eggs so it was a no brainer for me.
Whilst they prepared it, I went to the toilet (which was much cleaner than normal for a train) and coming back saw this cardboard cube on my table with plastic knives & forks. Never in my experience of eating whilst travelling has something promised so little and delivered so much. The box opened up to expose a really good looking hot pot that was one of the best I have tasted ever! The convenience of the packaging made me feel that perhaps this could be Britain’s own true fast food competitor to the burger! I did not expect that.
We arrived on time at Bristol and I caught the bus back home.
The HST 1st class experience on Cross Country is possibly superior to the Voyager experience mainly because of the larger number of seats that give the feel of more space. I was surprised by the quality of the food, especially given it was complimentary. I am happy with the overall Cross Country 1st class experience having used it many times and would recommend it. However, it is definitely becoming more expensive and Cross Country could price themselves out if they are not careful.12 Apr 2013
Just a note when booking with a railcard using advance tickets. The yeild management systems have a far lesser amount of advance tickets with railcards. It is always worth doing a check but without the railcard, te fares can work out cheaper as there are advance fares which have no railcard discount.12 Apr 2013
Are you sure the TOCs are allowed to do that? I have just checked the same route for the 26th April and the cheapest was the 0942 again for £84.50 with railcard or the 1841 which was £58 with railcard. Otherwise the cheapest was £118. Without railcards all fares were 30% more. I was shocked to see the anytime 1st class single was £300! Who would pay that?12 Apr 2013
Thanks again for an interesting train check. I did not realise that Cross Country served complimentary food in first class. But I agree with you, its first class Advance fares are costly with quite a gap between standard and first class.
I agree that EMT have some of the best value first class Advance tickets of all the TOCs. Sometimes they cost only a little more than the standard class rate.
The example I gave above re London-Manchester-London was based on a day return trip. In other words, booking a peak time Advance ticket heading north and then buying a ‘walk-up’ one-way ticket at Manchester if you were not sure when you would be returning.
As you probably know, these Off-Peak tickets from Manchester (unlike the situation ex-London) do not have any late afternoon time travel restrictions.12 Apr 2013
Bath_VIP – yes they can because they are unregulated fares so they can work the yeild management to whatever criteria they want. It can depend on the route and TOC
NIRscot – I don’t have a railcard (other than a Network Gold Card) so I don’t have any experience of advance fares with one. However from the information given to me by someone in the know the number of railcard advance fares are lower and some of the low advance fares don’t attract a railcard discount.12 Apr 2013