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Can I take an earlier train than booked?

Sometimes your plans might change or you want to get a headstart during disruption! Let’s go through when it’s okay to take an earlier train than booked, and when you need to hold tight and wait for your scheduled train.

When can I take an earlier train than booked?

If you have an AnytimeOff-Peak or Super Off-Peak ticket, you may be allowed to take an earlier train than booked. These tickets don’t tie you to a specific train. As a result, you can be flexible about when you travel.

You just need to be careful about time restrictions. If you have an Off-Peak ticket, there will be some restrictions on weekdays. When it comes to Super Off-Peak tickets, it’ll be the same. If you’re using one of these tickets with West Midlands Trains or South Western Railway, there could also be some restrictions on a Saturday.

If you choose to take an earlier train, then your seat reservation will no longer be valid. Instead, scout out the unreserved carriage(s)! You can find out more information about these in our dedicated guide.

If you have an Advance ticket, these are only valid on the date and service specified. When you book with Railsmartr, we’ll tell you clearly which kind of ticket you’re buying. Just click/tap the price to see what’s what:

Ticket types on Railsmartr site, including ones where you can take an earlier train than booked

Can I take an earlier train than booked during disruption?

If there’s disruption, then you might want to start travelling as early as possible and take an earlier train than booked. Here are the key rules to be aware of if you have an Advance ticket:

  • You can take the service before or after if your train is cancelled. It’ll usually need to be operated by the same company
  • If there’s widespread disruption, you can usually travel whenever you prefer on the day. It all depends on what kind of ticket acceptance is available
  • As per the National Rail Conditions of Travel (Section 28.2), train companies cannot leave you stranded (unless it’s physically impossible to run a service or source replacement transport)
  • If you’re ever in doubt, speak to the conductor before you board.

Is there anything else I should know?

If you’re ever unsure about when your ticket is valid, feel free to contact us. We’ve also written dedicated pages about disruptionstrike action and more.