Frequently Asked Questions
If you're new to Railsmartr or looking for answers to your questions, this guide will help you learn more about our services and their features.
- Previously, it was possible to comment on some of the content on the Railsmartr site. Of course, we were more than happy to help with any of your comments! Unfortunately, the vast majority of comments were from Spambots. We weren't notified when we received a comment, either, so it meant that users could be left waiting a lot longer than usual. As a result, we've decided to remove this feature on our new site. We still welcome any questions, queries or qualms, but it's best that you drop us an email. We'll get back to you a lot quicker! Just drop us an email at email@example.com.
Yes, it's possible to use rail tickets on Tyne & Wear Metro. There are a couple of types of tickets that are accepted for travel.
Which rail tickets can I use on Tyne & Wear Metro?
Firstly, you're able to use any rail ticket issued to Newcastle Airport or a Metro Zone (A, B or C). These are journeys that can only be completed on Metro services.
However, the main journey that you're likely to be making is from Newcastle to Heworth or Sunderland, or vice versa.
Any ticket (other than a train-specific Advance ticket which doesn't specify a Metro journey) which is valid on the train between Newcastle, Heworth and Sunderland is also valid on Tyne & Wear Metro.
Your ticket doesn't have to be issued to Newcastle, Heworth or Sunderland. For example, a flexible ticket from Edinburgh to York is valid via Sunderland, so you can use it on the Tyne & Wear Metro. Your ticket won't work in the ticket barrier, so just show it to staff.
Here at Railsmartr, we'll show you if the best option involves a Tyne & Wear Metro train:
Which stations can I travel to?
If you're using a rail ticket on Tyne & Wear Metro, then you're only able to travel to Newcastle (Central Station), Heworth and Sunderland. You can't enter or exit at intermediate stations along the way. Your ticket also isn't valid at the other stations in Newcastle City Centre.
All of the stations on the Metro system are Compulsory Ticket Areas. This means that you're not allowed onto the platforms without a valid ticket.
If you have a Ticket on Departure booking, then you'll need to collect it from a National Rail ticket machine before you travel. Metro ticket machines won't be able to issue your ticket.
Can I use Metro tickets on the train?
Yes, you can use a Metro ticket on trains between Newcastle, Heworth and Sunderland. If you have a Railcard though, it's cheaper to buy a rail ticket (such as on the Railsmartr website). This is because tickets bought at Metro ticket machines don't get a discount.
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
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.
So, you've popped in a search on the Railsmartr site to look for the ideal train. When you find it, you're faced with this:
First of all, don't worry. Very few trains in Great Britain can 'sell out'. But if they can't sell out, what does this message mean, why is it there and how can you get around it?
What is a sold out train?
There are a couple of reasons why you might see a sold out train. The first one is that all reservable seats have been taken on that service. This means that ticket-selling websites (including Railsmartr) can't sell any tickets for them, even tickets that are 'flexible' and valid on multiple trains.
Secondly, it might be because reservations aren't available yet! If a timetable hasn't been confirmed, then keeping reservations closed ensures that you won't book tickets for a train that either won't run or might be changed. Of course, it's confusing, as you'll think it's a sold out train. If this happens, just wait a little longer. You can also check the National Rail website for information on when tickets are released.
Why is there a sold out train?
You'll likely see a sold out train because many rail companies set their trains to be 'reservations compulsory' during COVID-19. This ensured that a seat was given with every ticket, and allowed for social distancing. Despite all COVID-19 restrictions being lifted, this information was never removed.
The final question is: what can you do about this?
Can you get on a sold out train?
So, you need to travel but the train you want is 'sold out'. What next? The main thing you'll need to do is buy a ticket.
You'll need an 'Super Off-Peak', 'Off-Peak', or 'Anytime' ticket, for one. Advance tickets will have completely sold out. Next, pick a different train from the journey results on the Railsmartr website. Ideally, make sure that it's operated by the company and leaves as close to the original departure time as possible.
Make sure that the ticket you're buying is valid on the company and route that you want to travel on. When you get to the payment stage, selected 'detailed ticket information' on the right-hand side. It'll tell you about any route restrictions:
Once you've bought the ticket, you can disregard any reservations. Your ticket is valid on any train within the time and route restrictions.
Don't worry about boarding the train. Unless it's a special event, you won't be refused boarding without a reservation. The only exception is the 'Night Riviera' train from London to Penzance and Caledonian Sleeper services. You cannot use these trains without a reservation, so 'sold out' unfortunately means 'sold out'!
How do I get a seat on a sold out train?
Well, you don't want to be stuck standing, do you? Don't worry, we've wrote a guide to finding an unreserved seat on a train. Most companies will leave a certain number of seats free for people who haven't managed to book one in advance. You can find it here.
You'll want to make sure that you get to the station with enough time to spare. Trains at London Terminals tend to board around 20-30 minutes beforehand.
If you're at King's Cross, head upstairs to the 'Mezzanine' level where the cafes/restaurants are (escalator facing Platforms 9-11). Turn around at the top of the escalator and you'll see a smaller set of ticket gates.
Once your train is announced, head straight through there and you'll get a head-start compared to the large crowds waiting on the main concourse!
Help, I'm still confused!
We know that there's a lot to take in, so don't worry. Feel free to contact us if you need any help with booking a sold out train.
Alternatively, a ticket office will be able to sell you a ticket without a reservation if your station has one. Just make sure that you leave enough time to buy the ticket first, as you might be charged a Penalty Fare if you board without one.
If you've collected a paper ticket from a ticket machine and have lost it, unfortunately we're unable to reissue it. We know that having a lost train ticket can be frustrating.
What if I've already collected a lost train ticket?
A lost train ticket cannot be cancelled or refunded. This is because we require proof that the ticket has been defaced/cut up in order to issue a refund.
In the event of a lost train ticket, you have two options:
- You can purchase another ticket. We're unable to reissue previously collected tickets. If you still have a while until you travel, this is likely to be the least costly option compared to buying again on the day. We'll be more than happy to help you find the cheapest alternative ticket
- Speak to staff on the day. While Railsmartr doesn't have the authority to allow you to travel having lost a train ticket, staff at the station or on the train may be able to help. Ticket offices can also issue 'emergency' ticket replacements in exceptional circumstances.
Can I show my booking confirmation?
Showing a booking confirmation or a reservation is not allowed, unless you've been given permission to travel with one. The only thing that staff can accept is a ticket. We'd advise getting written permission if you've been allowed to use your booking confirmation, in order to avoid any issues on your journey. Don't board a train and wait for a member of staff to come to you; you should seek them out at the first opportunity.
How can I avoid a lost train ticket?
To avoid having a lost train ticket, you should keep your tickets in a safe place. Alternatively, why not try an eTicket instead? eTickets allow you to have the ticket on your device but also to be printed out. This means that you can easily have a backup option.
If you're using an eTicket but lose access to it and need it to be reissued, that's not a problem. We're able to check if an eTicket has been used, meaning that we can quickly send it to you again if you haven't been able to use it.
You can find out more about eTickets in our guide to getting your tickets.
If you've lost your booking confirmation or you're unsure how to collect your tickets from the machine, then that's not a problem. Simply contact us and we'll be more than happy to locate your booking.
To find out more about your rights when travelling, take a look at the National Rail Conditions of Travel.
The simple answer is that there's no minimum age to travel on a train alone. However, your child should be mature enough to travel by themselves or with their friends. They should also understand the risks and dangers (as well as the benefits!) of travelling by train.
Can my child be accompanied if they're travelling alone?
While there's no minimum age to travel on a train alone, you should also know that rail operators don't offer a chaperone service. Unless your child otherwise meets the criteria for Passenger Assist, staff cannot be pre-booked to accompany them on and off trains.
Is there any guidance for children travelling alone?
The British Transport Police have prepared some useful guidance for when your child travels by train without an adult. This advice includes:
- Texting or writing down details of the trains they'll be catching
- Making sure their mobile or other device is fully charged
- Let them know the '61016' number, which is the number to text for non-emergency situations
- Tell them to always call 999 in an emergency
- Teach them how to use a help point on a station.
There are also some basic safety rules that children should follow when travelling alone or with friends:
- Keep well away from the platform edge, moving trains and closing doors
- Stay together and look out for each other if in a group
- Stay away from the tracks and don't ever use them as a shortcut
- Follow any instructions from railway staff
- Always find a member of staff or a police officer if in doubt or in need of help.
If railway staff think that a child might be in danger, or that they're vulnerable, then they'll contact the British Transport Police.
To make sure that your child has the right ticket before they travel, you can use the Railsmartr website. You can either choose to buy an eTicket to email them or print out for them. You could also collect it from the station so they have a physical ticket. You'll receive a detailed itinerary with every ticket, so that your child knows where to go and when.
Step-free access can be something that makes your journey more comfortable. It could even be the reason that your journey is possible at all! But, how do you know if a station has step-free access?
What is step-free access?
If a station is step-free, then this means that a station has ramps, lifts and/or another means of access to ensure that everyone can access their train comfortably and safely.
Some stations might only be partly step-free. For example, one platform might have level access, but you can only get to the other one by using a stepped footbridge.
Step-free access doesn't mean that the gap between the train and the platform is completely level. It only means that you're able to get to the platform without needing to use any steps.
How to find if a station has step-free access
The National Rail website contains is the most complete source of information on stations which are step-free. It'll also tell you what kind of access that might be. For example, if it's a lift or a ramp. Here's how to find the information that you're looking for:
When you visit the site, choose 'Stations':
This will take you to their Find a Station page. Next, you'll need to pop in your desired station:
Finally, select 'Accessibility and Support'. In this section, you'll find all of the information you need about a station being step-free, whether it covers all platforms and whether staff are available to help if you need them.
If a page says 'please check details', just click on the info symbol to the right-hand side.
In this example, we can see that this station is completely step-free, but the ramps are a bit steep in some parts of it. For some passengers, that might not be a problem, but others might prefer to have some assistance.
I'd like some assistance with my journey. What can I do?
If you'd like some help on your journey, including if your nearest station isn't accessible at all, then you can take a look at our dedicated page about receiving assistance on the train.
You're allowed to take bikes on most trains. Usually, there will be some restrictions during peak times, or you might be required to make a cycle reservation before you travel.
When taking bikes on trains, you should ensure that they're stored in the right place. Non-folding bikes are not allowed to be stored in doorways, wheelchair spaces or anywhere else that they might cause passengers difficulty in moving through the train.
If you choose to make a bike reservation, there's no charge for doing this. If you've made a reservation, we'd recommend arriving at the station at least 10 minutes before your train leaves. This will give you time to find a member of staff to assist you. Some cycle areas on trains are located in staff-only areas, so they'll need to unlock them for you.
Most long-distance trains will require you to make a reservation. The exception is Lumo, who do not allow you to bring non-folding bikes on board.
You can bring folding bikes on trains without restriction, with a couple of exceptions:
- On c2c and Stansted Express, folding bikes should be in a carrying case
- East Midlands Railway, LNER and South Western Railway allow folding bikes to be carried, provided that they're stored as luggage
- During peak times, you can only store one bike per vestibule area on London Overground.
You'll find specific policies for each train operator online or in ask in person at staffed station ticket offices. It's also worth looking on National Rail's cycling page for up to date information on what you need to do when you're bringing bikes on trains.
On the vast majority of the rail network, Boxing Day trains do not operate. This allows for essential engineering works to take place.
Do any Boxing Day trains operate?
Due to strike action during December 2022, there will be no rail service throughout Great Britain. The exception to this is the shuttle between Heathrow Terminals.
I've booked a Boxing Day train already, what happens now?
If the train that you've booked will no longer be running, we will contact you and let you know. If you have any questions about Boxing Day trains, please contact us.
Need to travel by bus before or after you catch your train? PlusBus is a great way for you to save money.
What is PlusBus?
PlusBus is a day (or season) ticket that allows you unlimited travel by bus, both before and after you catch your train. All you need to purchase one is a valid rail ticket! Starting at £2.50, they're both the easy and affordable option for travelling by bus and train.
Where is PlusBus valid?
It's available at over 400 GB rail stations. All you need to do to find the right one for you is visit the PlusBus website.
Some tickets are valid for an entire region. For example, any ticket purchased for Leeds, Bradford or anywhere else in West Yorkshire is valid on buses in the whole of West Yorkshire. The same applies to tickets purchased for Greater Manchester and South Yorkshire.
Purchased a PlusBus ticket for Nottingham, Sheffield, Wolverhampton, Blackpool or Birmingham? You can use it on trams, too.
Just be aware that sometimes, you need to start your journey from a certain point to be entitled to a PlusBus ticket. For example, you can only buy a Sheffield PlusBus if you've come from outside of South Yorkshire.
Which bus companies accept PlusBus?
Usually all of them! However, it's important to check before you travel. When you've found the right ticket for you on the PlusBus website, check the 'Participating Operators' section. You'll also find a handy map which shows where the ticket is valid.
Can I use a Railcard?
Yes, you can use the following Railcards to get a third off your ticket:
- 16-17 Saver
- 16-25 Railcard
- 26-30 Railcard
- Disabled Persons Railcard
- Family & Friends Railcard
- HM Forces Railcard
- Network Railcard (or Gold Card equivalent)
- Senior Railcard
- Two Together Railcard (you must buy 2 tickets together)
- Veterans Railcard.
Our handy page on Railcards will tell you about any additional restrictions you need to know about.
Can I buy a PlusBus ticket for longer than a day?
Yes! You'll need to have your season ticket ready to present at your staffed ticket office in order to buy one. They can be purchased for seven days, a month, a quarter of a year or a full year.
You can only buy one for the origin and/or destination on your ticket.
How do I buy a PlusBus ticket?
Unfortunately, we don't currently offer the ability to purchase PlusBus tickets at Railsmartr. However, you can buy one from any staffed ticket office or from the conductor on the train. Just present your valid rail ticket and a Railcard if you have one! Just be aware that you can't buy them on buses, so you'll need to have your ticket before you board.
Rail Ranger tickets can be a convenient and cost-effective way for you enjoy a day out on the railway. They offer unlimited travel in a city or region and are perfect for planning a day out on the go.
Where are Ranger tickets valid?
Most areas of the country will be covered by at least one Ranger ticket. The National Rail website offers a full list of all of the tickets you can buy.
Some products are advertised by rail operators, while others are offered by local councils or transport authorities. For example: Liverpool, Manchester and West Yorkshire offer Rail Ranger tickets that cover all services within their local authority boundaries.
Some Ranger tickets, such as the Ride Cornwall ticket, offer travel on buses and/or other modes of transport. These are ideal for exploring places outside of the rail network.
You can also purchase a Ranger ticket for London, known as the Travelcard. While you may find Oyster and Contactless payments more useful for occasional trips, Travelcards can be the most convenient option if you're travelling from outside of London or have a Railcard.
When are Ranger tickets valid?
These tickets are usually designed as 'leisure products', so they're intended to be used outside of peak hours. However, we would advise checking the restrictions that apply to your Ranger ticket before you purchase it.
London Travelcards are valid after 09:30 on Mondays to Fridays and anytime at weekends and Bank Holidays. If you have a Railcard, then additional restrictions may apply.
Can I get a Railcard discount?
Some tickets will allow you to get a discount with your Railcard. These are usually the tickets offered by rail operators which cover larger regions or specific rail lines.
While there are some exceptions (such as London), Ranger tickets offered by a particular city or transport authority area (such as Newcastle, Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool) don't offer Railcard discounts.
How can I buy Ranger tickets?
The majority of these tickets are currently only available to buy at staffed ticket offices. If your station doesn't have a ticket office, you can buy them from the conductor on the train.
In the future, we hope to offer a full selection of Ranger tickets for you to purchase at Railsmartr.
If you're ever bought a rail ticket, particularly a flexible one, you might see that it has a restriction code. But what are rail ticket restriction codes and what do they mean for you?
First of all, let's take a look at where you can find rail ticket restriction codes when you buy one. In this example, we'll look at a restriction code on an e-ticket:
The part that we're interested in is highlighted in yellow. Under 'Ticket Details' you'll find the restriction code for your ticket. It also includes a link to the National Rail website so you can take a look at what those restrictions are. In this case, the link is nre.co.uk/1l, as the restriction code is 1L.
As you can see, this tells you everything that you might need to know about your ticket. It tells you where it's valid to and from, when it's valid and whether you can break your journey.
Each ticket (where it has a restriction) has its own restriction code. Codes are usually given to the same types of ticket on the same route or in the same area with the same operator, rather than per ticket.
So next time you're travelling and you're unsure of when you can use your ticket, just look out for the rail ticket restriction codes on the tickets you buy.
Want to know more about Off-Peak travel and what that means? We've made a handy guide for you. It includes everything you need to know and how to make sure you buy the right ticket for your trip.
When you buy a ticket with Railsmartr, we'll always make sure you have the cheapest valid ticket for your trip. That means that there's no need to worry about restriction codes or whether your ticket will be accepted!
- Please check there are no extra spaces either side of the promotional code. Or you can try typing the code in manually. If you are still experiencing difficulties, please email our customer service team on firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Yes, we do. Railsmartr offers a business account facility. Therefore, if you would like to enquire about business travel, please contact us on email@example.com.
- To know which train operating company you are travelling with, click on the “info” link next to any train time on the ‘Train times and tickets’ page. We'll display a pop up window showing the details of your train journey and the train operator. If your journey involves a change of train, you may be travelling with more than one train operator.
- Yes, don’t worry. You have enough time to transfer between trains. In fact, we will always provide you with an itinerary that gives enough time to change trains at the station. The minimum interchange times are set universally by the rail industry. Rail industry calculates them individually for each station. Therefore, someone walking at a below-average speed will have sufficient time to get from one end of the station to another. Subsequently, you will have enough time even in busy conditions.
- An overtaken journey is a journey that is slower than others between your origin and your destination. This might be because the journey involves stops at more stations, or because it goes via a different route. We indicate a slower journey with a snail icon. If there’s more than one snail icon, that indicates the number of other journeys that we’ve found that are faster than this journey. It is often the case that slower journeys have cheaper tickets available. This might be to attract passengers, or because they don’t include premium inter-city services. If you’re not in a hurry, this may be the best option for you.
You're able to take pets on trains. In fact, the majority of Train Operating Companies (TOC) allow you to take up to two dogs, or other small domestic animals, with you on the train at no extra cost.
When travelling with dogs, they should not occupy a seat and should remain on the floor next to you, without obstructing the aisle.
When taking other pets on trains, they should be enclosed in a basket or a pet carrier. The size of this shouldn't exceed 85 × 60 × 60cm. Please be aware that you are fully responsible for any pets that you choose to bring along on your journey, so they shouldn't interfere with the comfort of safety of your fellow passengers. For full details, please refer to the National Rail Conditions of Travel.
What if I'm travelling with an assistance animal?
Passenger Assist teams will be able to book an additional seat for you, in order to give your assistance dog or other animal the necessary floor space to help you on your journey. Please note that Railsmartr is unable to reserve additional seats directly.
To find out more, visit our dedicated page about receiving assistance on the train.
- You can take up to three items of luggage with you on the train. Other articles, such as pushchairs or musical instruments are also welcome on board. Please refer to the National Rail Conditions of Travel for more information on this.
- You cannot book tickets for more than one journey in a single transaction at present. We will add a basket feature to Railsmartr soon.
- You can buy train tickets for up to nine adults and children in a single transaction. Therefore, if you want to buy tickets for a larger group, you will need to do this in separate transactions. Some train operating companies (TOC) also offer discounts on group bookings (groups larger than 10), which are not available to Railsmartr. Consequently, you may want to contact the train operating company directly to enquire about these.
- No, you don’t need your email confirmation to travel. It’s just for advice, although you may find the itinerary useful to remind you of your train times. To travel, you must have your train tickets, and your railcard if you used one, with you. These are proof of your right to travel. If you board a train with only a booking confirmation, and without any tickets, you will be asked to buy new tickets at the full price (without any railcard discount). You may also be subject to a Penalty Fare.
When travelling by train in Great Britain, you're able to make use of the Passenger Assist service. Staff can help you if you require assistance on the train and at stations.
Who can receive assistance on the train and at stations?
You can pre-book assistance if you're elderly, disabled or have an invisible disability or impairment. Passenger Assist teams can help you with your luggage, help you to get on and off the train and around the station, or just give you a bit of guidance in an unfamiliar setting. They'll also be able to assist if part of your journey involves a rail replacement bus.
Assistance on the train and at stations can be pre-booked by filling in this form or by downloading the Passenger Assistance app. You can find more information on their website. If you'd prefer, you can also contact the operator of your journey who will be able to book assistance for you.
What if a station isn't accessible to me?
If a station isn't accessible to you, then you should contact the operator who runs it. You can use the National Rail Find a Station tool to do this. Alternatively, you can call the operator who's running the train that you'll be travelling on. They all have dedicated Passenger Assist teams.
They'll be able to arrange some sort of alternative transport for you. In most cases, this will be a taxi that will take you to and from the nearest accessible station. These taxis will not normally take you to and from your home address.
When should I book the assistance?
When pre-booking assistance on the train or at stations, you should do this a minimum of two hours before travel in order to guarantee it. Pre-bookings made after this time cannot be guaranteed, particularly during busier periods.
Alternatively, feel free to approach any member of on-train or station staff during your journey. To find more information on accessible travel, you can consult the National Rail Conditions of Travel.
If you require any assistance with purchasing your ticket, please contact us.
It is naturally very frustrating if you're denied boarding on the train. There are a couple of reasons why this could happen, and some things that you can do to remedy the situation.
Why was I denied boarding on the train?
There a couple of reasons why you might be denied boarding.
- If staff claim that your ticket is not valid, then you should double check your ticket. Ask them to explain why it is not valid, and what you need to do. If you believe the ticket to be valid, explain why. After your journey, please contact us to let us know what has happened
- The train might be too full. If a train is too full to board, then you need to be accommodated on the next available one. You cannot be left stranded for this reason. Your ticket should be accepted, too
Are there valid reasons to be denied boarding on the train?
There are some situations where staff able to be deny boarding. This could be for your safety, for the safety of other passengers, or because it is too late to get on the train.
- If you arrive too late, then you won't be allowed to join the train. If the doors of the train are already locked, then they cannot be opened again. You should stand back and allow the train to leave. Remember that at the largest stations, boarding will stop around two minutes before the train is due to depart (London King's Cross and London Euston, for example). If you missed the train due to another connecting train being late, then you can catch the next one and claim Delay Repay compensation
- Abusive behaviour, severe intoxication or other unsafe behaviour will not be tolerated. If you behave in a way that goes against the National Rail Conditions of Travel, then staff can deny boarding. Remember, this decision is made for your safety and the safety of other passengers.
- Escooters and power assisted bikes can be carried onto your train providing they are a similar size to a traditional bike or scooter. There may be some restrictions at busier times of day. Train operators publish their policies online and information on specific services is also available at staffed station ticket offices.