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Can I buy tickets on the train?

It seems logical that you can buy a tickets on a train. After all, you’re still buying one, aren’t you? Unfortunately, it isn’t quite that simple. Let’s go through what the best way is to buy a ticket. 

Can I buy tickets on the train?

You’re in a rush, there’s a queue at the ticket machine and the ticket office is closed. So, you just jump on and hope to buy your tickets on the train instead. What’s wrong with that?

Many rail companies operate a strict ‘buy before you board’ policy. This means that unless there aren’t any facilities for you to use, you have to have a ticket before boarding. 

What happens if I don’t have a ticket?

You’ll either be asked to buy a ticket on the train or you’ll be issued a Penalty Fare. You can find more information on the Penalty Fare scheme here

If you’re sold a ticket, it might be the ‘Anytime’ fare without any Railcard discount. 

The only times when you can buy discounted tickets on the train are: 

  • There weren’t any facilities to do so (no machines and no ticket office) 
  • The faciliities weren’t working (ticket office closed or machines out of order) 
  • The facilities don’t accept the payment method that you wish to use
  • The ticketing facilities cannot sell a ticket with the discount that you need
  • You’re a Disabled Persons Railcard holder
  • The operator allows you to (more information below).

Which companies allow you to buy tickets on the train?

All ‘Open-Access’ operators allow you to buy tickets on board. These are: 

  • Grand Central 
  • Hull Trains
  • Lumo

ScotRail also has a different approach to selling tickets on the train which is less strict than in England and Wales. You can find more information on their website

What’s the best way to buy a ticket, if not on the train?

The best way is with Railsmartr! Most of the tickets we sell are available as ‘eTickets’, which means that you’ll have them sent to your email address almost straight away. 

They’re perfect if you’re in a rush and don’t want to get stuck in any queues. If you don’t have a mobile device, you can print them off before you travel. 

Just remember that you need to buy the ticket before the train leaves. When staff scan tickets, it will tell them if you bought a ticket after the train left. This can still leave you liable to a Penalty Fare. 

You can find out more about eTickets in our guide to getting your tickets

Author Richard

Hi, I'm Richard and I've been working for Railsmartr since 2022. I make sure that everything we communicate with customers is top-notch and write exciting and informative content for the website. When I'm not at work, you'll still find me on the rails - though often in the far corners of Europe!