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Let the train take the strain......travel to London?

Sheffield, United...
Level Contributor
42 posts
60 reviews
23 helpful votes
Let the train take the strain......travel to London?

I'm curious to hear how others based in the Midlands and North travel to London for personal trips, what their preference is and any tips that we may be missing.

For many years we've made the trip from Sheffield to London in or around the first week in December. Up until the last 2 years we've always taken the train, now we drive due to cost and flexibility.

In Dec 2018 we booked advance return first class tickets for the two of us at a cost of £110. In Dec 2019 there was ongoing rail maintenance, prices were high and availability limited so we drove. In Dec 2020 the only issue was a price hike so we drove. For this December we'll be driving again. A standard advance return for both is £168, first class is £377, and that's catching it just as those fares are released. That's quite a jump in 3 years, standard pricing has jumped significantly and the cheap first class upgrade deals don't seem to be there anymore. It's not a great incentive to use public transport.

Driving isn't particularly enjoyable and we have had one leg of one journey disrupted. It takes a little longer but we don't have to factor taxis and the cost/time at Sheffield station. The plus points are the cost, fuel is around £50 and parking is £40 (3 days). We save around £85 all-in and we have flexibility to depart and leave when we like. Plus we are able to transport any larger purchases far more easily which pleases my partner. We're a 10/15 min walk from our parking to the hotel which isn't bad at all.

28 replies to this topic
Liverpool, United...
Level Contributor
28,609 posts
74 reviews
124 helpful votes
1. Re: Let the train take the strain......travel to London?

If you buy a Two Together Railcard you will save 1/3 off train fares.

Warrington, United...
Level Contributor
418 posts
21 reviews
4 helpful votes
2. Re: Let the train take the strain......travel to London?

There have been numerous similar threads on here saying similar about the high price of rail travel. Many recommend splitting tickets. My son is currently in London and it would have been £190 for him and his his girlfriend from the NW. He ended up getting a London bound train to crewe but got off. Waited half an hour for the next train to london. Same coming back. Price dropped to £77, plus the cost of a 12 month 2 together railcard for £30.

Ive seen trains from Birmingham Moor Street to London for £7.

Obvioisly you are coming from a different direction so maybe change somewhere like, Derby, Lincoln, Peterbrough. Worth checking nation rail.co.uk.

Edited: 21 September 2021, 20:52
Reigate, United...
Level Contributor
847 posts
43 reviews
110 helpful votes
3. Re: Let the train take the strain......travel to London?

A while ago I downloaded an app called TrainPal as I saw it mentioned as a good source for "cheap" train fares. To be honest, I've yet to actually use it, but a couple of weeks ago I was considering a trip from home south of London up to York, so used it to get some sample fares. What the app does is looks at ways of...well, tricking the system I suppose! It looks at split fares and all kinds of combinations that I never would have thought of.

For example, I just did a search for a day return from Reigate to York for this coming Saturday, the 25th. It's giving me a cost of £77.10, but the outward journey has me going from Reigate to Purley, where I would pick up a Thameslink service to Stevenage, where I would change to a train to York. Journey time four hours. Coming home, I would be taking a direct service from York to Kings Cross, tube to Victoria, train to Purley, where I'm then instructed to stay on the same train, but if asked, to then show a ticket I would be issued with from Purley to Reigate! Journey time 3h 42 minutes.

If I had booked a more normal route, I would have just taken a train from Reigate to Victoria, tube to Kings Cross, then a direct train to York. But I know that would have cost a lot more than £77.10.

If you can be bothered with all that, it might be something to look at. Like I said, I've yet to actually use the app to buy tickets, and others who have may have something to say about how good or bad it is. But just thought I'd mention it.

Level Contributor
581 posts
4. Re: Let the train take the strain......travel to London?

For the journey Sheffield to London, £168 is the price of two Super Off-Peak Returns - i.e. the flexible walk-up fare, which you could buy at the station on the day of travel (likewise with the First class fare you mention).

If you're happy to get the more restrictive Advance fares (tied to a particular train), these are currently available up to 26th November (weekdays) or 24th October (weekends), so you'd need to wait a little bit for these to be released for your dates.

However, I do agree that Advance fares are often more expensive nowadays, which could well be due to the government now wanting to minimise its losses running the railway, and having more direct involvement with setting prices. It looks like you could get your total cost down to around £120 for two Advance returns.

To get a discount on those prices you could purchase a Two Together railcard for a year for £30 (you only need one for both of you). This would save you 1/3rd on the Advance or walk-up fares (as long as it's after 9:30am Mon-Fri). That could get the cost of the Advance tickets down to around £80 total, which would pay for the railcard in one journey.

United Kingdom
Level Contributor
3,262 posts
8 reviews
3 helpful votes
5. Re: Let the train take the strain......travel to London?

in December 2018 it was reasonable value, after that it wasn't. In summer 2019 the franchise changed from Stagecoach to Abellio (Dutch state), there may be a link!

Hucknall, United...
Level Contributor
971 posts
155 reviews
63 helpful votes
6. Re: Let the train take the strain......travel to London?

I live in Nottingham and our direct train service is provided by East Midlands Railway who are, I find, pretty expensive. They are always the most expensive option.

If you have a connection to an LNER station, I would try that.

Example: London St Pancras to Nottingham one-way was over £60 (although I have seen them lower). Instead I went King's Cross to Grantham & Grantham to Nottingham for £24 in total.

Sometimes if I'm going to Manchester it's far cheaper to get EMR to Sheffield and then Transpennine to Manchester than it would be to get the direct train, even booking as far in advance as possible.

For you I think EMR are also the main train service from Sheffield to London, maybe try via Doncaster as LNER do King's Cross to there, then get a connection to Sheffield?

I've travelled LNER a couple of times lately and the trains are also far nicer than EMR's.

One more thing to add... sometimes the cheapest fares don't appear straight away for weekends, this is usually because there's a possibility of engineering works being planned, you just have to keep checking.

And yes, get a Two Together card. I and my husband travel by train only a few times a year but it only takes one trip of around £100+ to make it worthwhile getting the card.

Level Contributor
223 posts
1 review
7. Re: Let the train take the strain......travel to London?

When are you looking?

I am seeing Advance Singles from £30.50

Guildford, United...
Level Contributor
8,655 posts
27 reviews
26 helpful votes
8. Re: Let the train take the strain......travel to London?

Although I’m also normally a train fan, it is worth pointing out the big difference between advising those in the UK coming to London and tourists from abroad - locals are unlikely to live right by their home train station, so have to factor in the cost of getting there, and then back at the end of the trip.

Bristol, United...
Level Contributor
231 posts
15 reviews
17 helpful votes
9. Re: Let the train take the strain......travel to London?

In response to number 2 - split ticketing - if you buy separate tickets there is no need to actually get off the train and wait fo the next one. The only requirement is that the train stops at the station where you split the tickets.

There are various web sites that will help to work out the best split.

Preston, United...
Level Contributor
9,456 posts
8 reviews
14 helpful votes
10. Re: Let the train take the strain......travel to London?

The OP hasn’t allowed for depreciation costs on the car, which will be there unless they have a company car or an old banger. Including those if appropriate would greatly narrow the difference.

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