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Travel tickets on the National Rail network

When can I buy tickets?

You should always make sure that you hold a valid ticket before you board the train.

  • Anytime and Off-Peak can be bought in advance or on the day of travel.
  • Advance tickets are sold in limited numbers and so subject to availability, and are made available for sale as soon as timetables have been confirmed - this is usually about twelve weeks beforehand.

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Which ticket suits you best?

The names of tickets describe when you can buy or use your ticket, making it easy for you to buy the best value ticket for your journey.

  • Advance - Buy in advance, sold in limited numbers and subject to availability. These tickets are only valid on the date/train specified.
  • Off-Peak - Buy any time, travel off-peak.
  • Anytime - Buy any time, travel any time.
  • Season - Unlimited travel between two stations for a specified period.
  • Rovers and Rangers - Unlimited travel within a specified area. There may be a few time restrictions on when you can travel.

ATOC have produced a new edition of the National Rail Guide to Tickets leaflet which provides an overview of the rail tickets available across the National Rail network and is designed to help customers choose the best value ticket for their journey with confidence. It also includes a summary of train companies’ commitments to customers.

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Changing tickets

Depending on the type of ticket held you may be able to make changes to travel plans, or obtain a refund if you do not travel. Please note that Advance tickets are not refundable.

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Railcards and other discounts

Railcards offer value for money if you travel by train, saving you at least 1/3 on rail fares. A selection of national Railcards are available and can be found on the Railcards website.

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Rail and bus tickets

Add unlimited bus travel around your origin and/or destination town or city with PLUSBUS. It can be added to single or return train tickets, and, in many towns and cities, to season tickets as well. Take a look at the PLUSBUS website to see which towns/cities are covered.

Many towns without railway stations can be reached using public transport from the nearest railhead station. Combined rail and bus tickets may be available on some of these links. Take a look at our pages for more information.

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Ticket validity information

The ticket that you have selected may require you to travel at specific times of the day, days of the week or on a specific route. Our Journey Planner will have already taken this into account with the selection that you have made and will only have shown tickets that are valid for the selected trains.

Your ticket is associated with a 'Restriction Code' applied by the train companies and this can be viewed by clicking the link from the Journey Planner ticket terms and conditions page once you have made your selection.

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Routeing information

Your ticket may indicate a route or train company that you must use to complete your journey. In all other cases you are allowed to use any permitted route for the journey you are making - this is also the case where no route is shown. Permitted routes cover all the reasonable routes available for making the journey indicated, including all direct services and suitable connecting services. When you book your journey online, any ticket offered in connection with the timetable or itinerary produced by the journey planner will be accepted as a permitted route.

The full Routeing Guide can be found on the Association of Train Operating Companies website. This includes a list of maps of permitted routes and is intended as guidance, however, the full range of routes and options (especially for longer distance journeys) can be very complex and we would therefore encourage you to check any intended route using our Journey Planner to validate that it can be used with your ticket.

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Crossing London

If your journey involves travelling through London to connect with another National Rail service, your ticket will usually include the cost of transfer on London Underground, Docklands Light Railway or Thameslink services between the relevant stations. To check if the cost of travel across London is included in your ticket, look for the ‘†' symbol which will be shown in the tickets ‘Route' information, e.g. [‘†' ANY PERMITTED].

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National Rail Conditions of Carriage

When you buy a ticket to travel on the National Rail network you enter into an agreement with the train companies whose trains you will be travelling on. This agreement is detailed in the National Rail Conditions of Carriage.

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Refund / compensation rights and Passenger's Charter

Each franchised train company has a Passenger's Charter which is a guide to the level of service you can expect to receive when using their services and provides information about your rights to compensation in the event of delays.

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Ticket Irregularities Code of Practice

Train companies carry out regular inspections, both on train and at stations, to make sure that customers are buying and using the correct tickets for the trains they are using. If you do not have the right ticket for your journey when you had the opportunity to purchase one, you may be issued with a Penalty Fare or an Unpaid Fare Notice, or further action may be taken to examine the circumstances of the case. This can in some cases lead to prosecution.

When dealing with such ticket irregularities, Train Companies abide by the Ticket Irregularities Code of Practice.

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