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Advance rail tickets

Advance rail tickets are great value single (one-way) tickets. They are subject to availability, which means that the cheapest ones on the most popular trains will sell out fast.  Just like flights, the earlier you book, the cheaper the train fares and the greater the value for money. Ticket types and prices are shown on our journey planner, so you can find Advance fares quickly and book your train tickets online.  

How can I buy Advance train tickets?

Here at Railsmartr, we’ll always offer you the cheapest ticket for your journey. If your cheapest option is to buy Advance train tickets, then that’s what we’ll suggest to you. Here’s how to check the kind of ticket that you’re buying:   

Image showing the purchase of an advance RAIL ticket

When we offer you a list of trains to pick, just click on the price. This will then open up a choice of the different kinds of tickets that you can buy.   

In this option, you can see that the cheapest option is actually a Super Off-Peak Single, rather than an Advance Single. This is because Advance train tickets are sold in different ‘tiers’, meaning that more expensive tiers may not be the cheapest option. This often happens when the train is due to depart in the next few hours or even minutes. 

What’s the earliest I can buy Advance rail tickets?

Advance train tickets are usually available at least 12 weeks before travel if you’re catching a train on a weekday. However, planned engineering works or other disruptions may mean that they aren’t available as early. The latest information on when tickets are available can be found on the National Rail website. 

If strike action has been announced, then Advance tickets will be removed from sale. Once the new timetable is confirmed, then they might be brought back on sale, but it’s unlikely that the cheapest tickets will be available.

Is it cheaper to buy train tickets in advance?

If you’re buying Advance tickets (as we’re discussing here) then it’s usually cheaper to book in advance. However, you shouldn’t confuse this with generally just buying train tickets in advance! For example, there’s no real advantage to booking AnytimeOff-Peak or Super Off-Peak tickets far in advance, unless you know the train will be busy and you’d like a seat reservation. 

The price of these tickets won’t change so there’s no need to secure them weeks and months ahead. 

What’s the latest I can buy Advance rail tickets?

Sometimes you’ll have some last-minute plans or want to take advantage of lower prices on the go. If you’re after a bargain at short-notice, some rail operators will sell you Advance tickets until the train leaves. Here’s our handy guide to when you can buy Advance train tickets with Railsmartr:  

Operator When’s the latest I can buy Advance train tickets?
Avanti West Coast Up to 10 minutes before departure
Chiltern Railways Up to 6pm the day before departure
CrossCountry Up to 9pm the day before departure on Cardiff to Nottingham and Birmingham to Leicester/Stansted routes. Up to 15 minutes before departure on other routes.
East Midlands Railway Up to departure of the train on Liverpool to Norwich and Sheffield/Nottingham to St Pancras routes. 
Grand Central Up to 15 minutes before departure
Great Western Railway Up to departure of the train
Greater Anglia Up to departure of the train, except on London Liverpool St-Southend Victoria services, which is up to 11:59pm the day before departure.
Hull Trains Up to departure of the train
LNER Up to five minutes before departure
Lumo Up to departure of the train
Northern Up to departure of the train
ScotRail Up to 11:59pm the day before departure
Southeastern Up to 6pm the day before departure
Southern Up to 6pm the day before departure
South Western Railway Up to departure of the train
Thameslink Up to 6pm the day before departure
TransPennine Express Up to departure of the train
Transport for Wales Up to departure of the train
West Midlands Trains Up to 11:59pm the day before departure

Please note that for trains where Advance tickets are available up to departure, you should leave enough time to purchase your ticket and have it ready for inspection prior to boarding. For the most convenient way to purchase a ticket at short notice, you should consider buying an eTicket.   

At busier times, you may find that tickets have sold out much earlier than the times stated above.

Can I refund Advance rail tickets?

In normal circumstances, it isn’t possible to do this. However, you can amend your ticket without any fees (other than the difference in ticket price) with Railsmartr. You can find more information on amending your Advance rail ticket here.  

If your train is cancelled and you no longer wish to travel, then you can also refund your ticket.

What trains are Advance tickets valid on?

When you buy an Advance train ticket, it will only be valid on the train(s) specified on your ticket. If you attempt to use a different one, then you could be charged for a new ticket or a Penalty Fare.

We’ll allow you to amend your ticket without any extra charges. So, if you know you’ll want to travel at a different time, then amending the ticket is your best option.

What if I miss a connecting train?

If disruption means that your train is cancelled or you miss a connecting service, then you can board the next service operated by the same company that you were booked on.

This includes if you’ve bought separate tickets for each train. So long as you’ve left enough time between trains (at the largest stations, this will be up to 15 minutes), then you’re allowed to get the next train operated by the same company. You do not have to buy a new ticket. If there are no more trains operated by the company that you were booked to travel with, then you cannot be left stranded.

In some cases, there will be ticket acceptance arranged so that you can use a different operator. If you’re ever in doubt, just speak to station staff or the conductor before you board.

What else do I need to know?

First of all, Advance tickets are usually cheaper the earlier you book. If you want to book a return journey, just book two singles.

Don’t forget though, that this isn’t always the cheapest option. Here at Railsmartr, we’ll always offer you the cheapest option, even if it’s a more flexible ticket.

Finally, not all routes have Advance tickets available. If you’re making a local trip or a long-distance one that avoids London, you might not find any available for sale.