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Traveling from Fort William to London

Hi All

This is my first post to the group - but I may have posted to the incorrect thread (Understanding Scotland).  Apologies if that's the case, so I'm re-posting here. 

We're Aussie travelers who will be spending only a few days in Scotland in June 2018, sadly.  We've already booked our train travel from Edinburgh to Fort William, but not sure if we should travel all the way back from Fort William to London by train, mainly due to the apparent cost.  Currently tix are available for more than 300 pounds for two, which is a bit pricey for us.

So I'm asking for your advice as to the best options.  Do we sit tight and await for a reduction in the ticket price for the train from F William to London?  Or should we start thinking about an alternative, such as traveling back to Glasgow by train, then on to London by plane?  If we fly, we'd still need to get ourselves from Glasgow Queen Street to the airport, then from Stansted to central London, so I'm a bit reluctant to make the journey more complicated than it needs to be).

All advice and suggestions would be very welcome.

Thanks :-)

Comments

  • HorizonsHorizons Member, VisitScotland Ambassador ✭✭✭✭
    Hiya @Tassie_Traveler_66, allow me to help you navigate a common (and might I add nonsensical) UK travel trap, railway tickets. There are many pages on the internet about how to buy railway tickets for the lowest price (including this one which I authored) but I'll try to summarize the information specific to your usecase here.

    The trap symptom and simple remediation: If you buy point to point tickets on the UK rail network where the two points do not have a direct train between them, you are bound to spend inordinate amounts of money (such as the £300 fare you're seeing, Fort William to London is connected only by the sleeper train which is a speciality train and hence more expensive, there are no regular passenger trains between the 2 points).

    The immediate remediation is to book 2 separate tickets in your case, one from Fort William to Glasgow (£30.80 Anytime day single) and one from Glasgow Central to London Euston (£141.50 off-peak day single) to immediately bring down the cost to £172 for flexible travel through a single day. If you leave by the morning train from Fort William, you'll reach Zone 1 London by 5 PM.

    So is £172 the number I would pay for the journey: Nope. There are mainly 2 types of tickets: Advance (which are cheaper, non-refundable and inflexible, a word not seen above) and the flexible types (ex: Anytime, Off-peak referenced above). I always buy Advance tickets because I am happy to stick to a fixed schedule if it saves me 50% or more.

    In the Fort William - Glasgow example, the ticket booking website trainline (which I love) suggests that I can do the journey that ends in Zone 1 London at 5 PM exactly 1 week from today on 17th March for £50!!! (using the 2 ticket search method + buying Advance tickets). That is a reduction of 83% from the price you're seeing. You can potentially do this journey for £33 if you invest in a railcard, something you can read about on my blogpost on this topic.

    But this does not make any sense!! - Nope, it does not. It defies logic and is an archaic ticketing system which is not fit for purpose that nerds like me like to game. To my mind, it fleeces travellers like yourself who'd think that this is what a local would pay anyway. It is inconvenient to "play the game" of buying the right ticket and I can only hope I have made the rules clear to you. Feel free to ask any follow ups if something is unclear.

    I'm Anirudh, an Indian travel blogger who has explored a lot of Scotland by public transport. My blog. Find me on Facebook | Instagram

    Best of Scotland in 1 week itinerary (fully by public transport)

    My Scotland travels (includes EdinburghSkye, HarrisMullArranOrkneyLoch Lomond, Islay, Oban, Speyside)

  • Hi Horizons

    Thank you.  That's SO helpful. And a great relief to know that there's an alternative (and cheaper) approach!

    I'll start the ball rolling on this tomorrow and see what I can come with regarding best prices.

    One other query regarding Railcards.  I looked into this a few months ago and I was under the impression that I can't obtain one from Australia. If I recall, the online application won't allow me to enter my Australian address.  So will I need to wait until we reach the UK before I apply for our railcards? 

    Thanks again for your very comprehensive and useful response.  It's very much appreciated.

  • HorizonsHorizons Member, VisitScotland Ambassador ✭✭✭✭
    @Tassie_Traveler_66, my recommendation is to book all train tickets with the assumption that you'll own a railcard that you're eligible for and works best for you (ie put that information in when you search for and book ticket). Once you land in the UK, one of the first things that you need to do is get a railcard made, all it needs is £30, a passport photo for all applicants and 10 mins to fill up a form. This needs to be done at the ticket booking office of a major railway station (I made my first railcard at Edinburgh Waverley).

    Note that tickets bought using the method recommended above are NOT valid unless you buy the railcard before taking any of the booked journeys (hence it needs to be one of the first things you need to do after landing).

    Finally, make sure you buy the correct type of railcard. My partner and I have a two together railcard as we have no kids but would have considered buying a family & friends railcard had we had kids. If travelling solo and under 25, get the 16-25 railcard.
    I'm Anirudh, an Indian travel blogger who has explored a lot of Scotland by public transport. My blog. Find me on Facebook | Instagram

    Best of Scotland in 1 week itinerary (fully by public transport)

    My Scotland travels (includes EdinburghSkye, HarrisMullArranOrkneyLoch Lomond, Islay, Oban, Speyside)

  • Thanks again for your assistance.  Greatly appreciated :-)

  • HorizonsHorizons Member, VisitScotland Ambassador ✭✭✭✭
    No worries. Do let me know if you're facing issues in finding not as expensive fares in your search.
    I'm Anirudh, an Indian travel blogger who has explored a lot of Scotland by public transport. My blog. Find me on Facebook | Instagram

    Best of Scotland in 1 week itinerary (fully by public transport)

    My Scotland travels (includes EdinburghSkye, HarrisMullArranOrkneyLoch Lomond, Islay, Oban, Speyside)

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