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What are the best Sheffield to London trains?

Whether you’re heading for a trip to the Capital or exploring the City of Steel, you want to make sure that you’re getting value for money and travelling in comfort. Let’s take a look at the best Sheffield to London trains and what your options are for getting between these two vibrant cities.

What are the options for Sheffield to London trains?

When it comes to travelling between Sheffield and London, you have two main options, and one ‘cheap’ option. We’ll take a look at all three.

First of all, East Midlands Railway run the direct Sheffield to London St Pancras trains. They operate twice an hour for most of the day, and take roughly two hours to complete the trip. If you want the simplest option with no changes, then this is the way you’re likely to go.

Next, you can go via Doncaster. This involves taking Northern or TransPennine Express to Doncaster, then LNER to London King’s Cross. You could also take Grand Central or Hull Trains to London, if you wanted. This is the option with the most choice, and the most competition. With a good connection at Doncaster, this can take around 2h20m.

Finally, your last option is to travel with Hull Trains and Northern via Retford. The connections at Retford can be a little bit long, but the price can be competitive. It’ll take around 2h45m with a good connection time.

What are the Sheffield to London trains like?

This very much depends on which Sheffield to London trains you’ll be travelling on! Let’s take a look at the different options, and why you might choose to travel with each of them.

East Midlands Railway

The vast majority of the services that East Midlands Railway run on their Sheffield to London St Pancras route are operated by Class 222 ‘Meridian‘ trains. They have either five or seven coaches, with the five-coach trains often being paired up to form a 10-coach train.

emr meridian sheffield to london train

In terms of seating, all seats in Standard Class are in a 2+2 layout, with First Class being in a 2+1 layout. All window seats have a power socket in both classes. Here’s what First Class is like:

interior of a sheffield to london train operated by emr

The one main perk about going this way is the fact that the trains are direct. Unfortunately, the trains themselves often don’t make for a great trip!

As we mentioned in our review of the best train for luggage, these trains aren’t great for travelling with lots of luggage. The overhead racks are tiny, and there aren’t many bigger luggage stacks.

These particular trains have a film on the windows which causes very poor mobile signal too, so you might struggle to stay connected on your trip. The northern section of the route is very bad for this.

Finally, the shorter five-coach trains can really struggle with the number of people using them. Make sure you reserve a seat in advance if you can.

Via Doncaster (TPE/Northern & LNER/Grand Central/Hull Trains)

This is the option with lots of different options, so to speak! We’ll just take a look at the most ‘common’ type of train that you’ll find on the Doncaster to London part of the trip, which is operated by both LNER and Hull Trains.

They both run relatively new Hitachi-built trains, which LNER refer to as Azuma and Hull Trains refer to as Paragon. The LNER trains have five, nine or 10 carriages, which the Hull ones have five or 10 carriages. Here’s what the LNER trains look like:

lner azuma train

In Standard Class, all trains have 2+2 seating, while First Class has seating in a 2+1 layout. On LNER, everyone has access to a three-pin socket (with USB ports in First Class), while everyone has access to both kinds of socket on Hull Trains.

Here’s what Standard Class looks like on LNER:

interior of an lner azuma

In terms of luggage space, these trains have plenty of luggage stacks and the overhead racks can take a cabin-sized suitcase.

Via Retford (Hull Trains and Northern)

If you’re travelling to/from London via Retford, then your section between Sheffield and Retford will be operated by Northern. You’ll likely have a two-car Class 195 train like this one:

class 195 northern train

These trains have seats in a 2+2 layout. You’ll find a socket under every pair of seats. There’s a reasonable amount of luggage space, but bear in mind that these are meant as commuter and short-distance trains, too.

Between Retford and London, you’ll have a Hull Trains Paragon. They look pretty similar to an LNER Azuma on the outside and inside:

interior of a hull trains paragon set

Seating is in a 2+2 layout in Standard, and 2+1 in First. Every seat has access to a three-pin socket as well as a USB port.

What are the cheapest Sheffield to London trains?

Next, we’re interested in price. Let’s take a look at the typical fares we can expect for each route, and work out which are the best Sheffield to London trains in terms of value for money.

East Midlands Railway

First, we’ll take a look at the direct trains. We’ve done this 11 days in advance, and as you can see, the prices are broadly similar on a mid-afternoon:

railsmartr website showing direct sheffield to london fares

However, do you notice that the cheapest Sheffield to London trains seem to involve a change? This is because you could save a little more if you head to Nottingham first. Once you’re there, you can change onto a train to London.

For a direct train, the prices are reasonable. You just have to bear in mind what we said about the trains themselves not being ideal if you want to stay connected (or carry a lot of luggage).

Via Doncaster

You have a lot of choice when you take a Sheffield to London train journey via Doncaster. This does mean that prices are extremely variable:

railsmartr website showing fares from sheffield to london via doncaster

They have the potential to go lower or higher than this, too. The main journeys to look out for are ones involving Northern. When you have CrossCountry or TransPennine Express taking you between Sheffield and Doncaster, the price is often higher.

Hull Trains & Northern

Finally, we have the option to go via Retford. At £28.50 in this example, it’s the cheapest way to get from Sheffield to London:

railsmartr website showing a £28.50 fare from sheffield to london via retford

While Retford is a small station, it is a bit of a walk between platforms. It’s completely step-free, but can take a while if you have a lot of luggage. It’ll take longer if you’re going to Sheffield, as well.

If you’re travelling light though, this isn’t a bad shout, even if it’s a slower option.

What if I want to go First Class?

First Class prices can vary, but it’s worth briefly mentioning what you can expect in First Class if you choose to pay for it.

If you’re taking the direct East Midlands Railway trains, it depends on when you want to travel. In the mornings on a Monday to Friday, you can get a hot breakfast sandwich, as well as other snacks. On Saturday mornings, a cold sandwich is offered, along with snacks.

The all-day offering on East Midlands Railway consists of sandwiches, snacks, hot and cold drinks, and the option to buy an alcoholic drink. On a Sunday, there is no complimentary service at all.

As we wrote in our review of the best First Class trains in the UK, LNER offers a good First Class product. You’ll get complimentary food and drink on board, with the selection being from their Deli, Dish or Dine menu.

Finally, Hull Trains offer a selection of sandwiches and snacks. In a nutshell, nobody will be letting you go hungry (unless you take East Midlands Railway on a Sunday).

Is there anything else I should know?

Looking to know more about the Capital? Take a look at our guide to travelling to London. We’ll tell you about getting the best fares on routes like Edinburgh to London and Southend to London, as well as whether it’s worth upgrading to First Class on LNER.

The final thing we’d recommend is using the Railsmartr website to book your Sheffield to London trains. We’re completely independent, so we’re happy to ‘tell you like it is’ when it comes to rail fares. Not only that, but we’ll show you the slower, but cheaper options that some websites won’t.

Don’t forget that we don’t charge any fees, either. That includes if you change your mind and want to travel on a different day. If your ticket is refundable, we’ll refund it fee-free, too!

We’ve taken a day trip to Sheffield too, if you’re looking for inspiration on what to do.

All fares stated on this page are for ONE adult with no Railcard discount and were correct at 11:00 19/05/23. All trains were for travel on 30/05/23. They’re subject to change at any time and Railsmartr are not responsible for any loss or disappointment incurred as a result of the information provided.