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What are Pick-up and Set-down only stops?

If you’re looking at a train timetable, you might see some trains that only let people on at some stations, and only let them off at others. Here’s our guide to pick-up and set-down only stops on trains.

What are pick-up and set-down only stops?

If a train is pick-up only, then it means that it only stops to let passengers on. You’re not supposed to leave the train at these stations. A set-down only stop is the opposite! It means that the train only stops to let people off.

This can happen for a number of reasons. Long-distance trains might be pick-up only to make sure that everyone who’s travelling is able to get on. For example, a London to Plymouth train might stop at Reading, but only to let people on. This makes sure that it doesn’t leave London full of people only going to Reading.

Usually, a set-down only stop exists for one of two reasons. The first reason is that it’s a long-distance train near the terminus. In this case, there are probably plenty of alternatives, so there’s no need for it to wait for people to board.

It might also happen on services that run very late at night. Many trains have some extra time added to the timetable in case there are any works taking place on the tracks, which is more common during the night. If the train is set-down only, it can leave straight away, even if it’s running early.

Can I get off when a train picks up, or get on when it sets down?

Broadly speaking, you shouldn’t do this. You might have to buy a new ticket. For example, you could have to buy a ticket to the first station where the train legitimately stops to let people off. In some cases, this can be quite a large difference! Sometimes, if a train is too full, it’ll skip a stop where it was only meant to pick people up. We should add that it’s difficult to do this by accident, as any of these stops won’t show on the screens at stations, and we won’t sell you a ticket to them.

These are some of the strictest trains for pick-up and set-down only stops:

  • Lumo and Hull Trains at Stevenage. They’re pick-up only heading north, and set-down only heading south
  • Avanti West Coast at Watford Junction. They’re pick-up only heading north, and set-down only heading south

It’s highly likely that staff will charge you for a new ticket. In the case of Lumo, this could mean having to buy a ticket to/from Newcastle. Platform staff might also prevent you from getting on the train.

In some cases, the train will be shown on the departure screens anyway. The main example of this is Norwich to London trains at Stratford. The only difference is that the train will leave as soon as it’s ready to go, even if this is earlier than scheduled. In this case, you shouldn’t have a problem if you jump on.

How can I tell where pick-up and set-down only stops are?

First of all, we won’t sell you a ticket if you’re not able to get on or off the train according to the timetable. So, the only time that this might be an issue is if you have a flexible ticket and you’re using a train timetable to plan your journey. Let’s take a look at an example of what to look for when it comes to pick-up and set-down only stops:

pick-up and set-down only stops in the great western railway timetable

This is the timetable for Great Western Railway trains between London and Plymouth. So, what do the letters next to the times of the train mean?

  • u means that the train is pick-up only. You can’t (or shouldn’t) get off the train at this station
  • s means set-down only. At these stops, you can only get off the train. On the platform, the train won’t be advertised on the screens in most cases, so you can’t accidentally get on.

Is there anything else I should know?

Here at Railsmartr, we know how difficult it can be to navigate the world of train tickets. Why not check out our pages on the best time to travel for cheap tickets and the best First Class train next?

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Information stated on this page was correct at 12:00 10/07/23 and it’s issued without liability. It’s subject to change at any time and Railsmartr are not responsible for any loss or disappointment incurred as a result of the information provided.