Virgin Trains East Coast (VTEC) is making life easier for passengers who book Advance tickets at a major South Yorkshire rail hub.

With little publicityit will now allow Doncaster to London King’s Cross passengers to board a train one hour either side of the train on which you were originally booked.

The deal applies in either direction. It covers both first and standard class tickets and note that Advance fares must be booked before 1800 on the previous day.

At the time of writing, the offer is available only until July 24. However it may be extended or offered on other routes too – so watch this space.

Normally Advance tickets are like the airlines’ Apex fares. In other words, you had to travel on the service on which you were originally booked and changes are not possible unless you cancel and buy another ticket.

It is believed to be the first time that any UK rail firm has eased Advance restrictions in this way.

So why VTEC and why this particular route? Why not York or Newcastle to London?

Seemingly it’s down to competition. VTEC faces competition from two “open access” operators at Doncaster: Grand Central and Hull Trains. The latter have competitive prices.

As can be seen from VTEC’s publicity, the train firm is stressing the number of services it operates between Doncaster and London compared to Grand Central and Hull Trains.

And finally, VTEC points out that travellers who do take an earlier or later train will have to board the alternative service without the guarantee of a seat reservation.

Note VTEC is not to be confused with VT (Virgin Trains). The latter operates over the West Coast Mainline and, unlike VTEC, faces no competition from open access rail firms.

From 2021 VTEC is set to face more competition on the East Coast mainline, with First Group having been granted permission to offer a budget service between London and Edinburgh.

VTEC recently unveiled new Azuma trains which will launch on the East Coast line from 2018.

Alex McWhirter