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What’s the best London to Portsmouth train?

Looking for the best London to Portsmouth train? Maybe you’re looking to get lost in some Naval history, or head off to the Isle of Wight. Either way, we’re here to help you find the best train, and show you how to book it on Railsmartr.

What are the London to Portsmouth train options?

You have two companies to choose from. South Western Railway runs from London Waterloo, while Southern goes from London Victoria. Let’s take a look at each of them.

South Western Railway

South Western Railway operates a London Waterloo to Portsmouth Harbour train three times every hour. Here’s where they stop and how long they take:

  • Woking, Guildford, then all stations to Portsmouth Harbour (1h45m to 1h50m)
  • Woking, Guildford, Godalming, Haslemere, Petersfield, Havant, Fratton, Portsmouth & Southsea and Portsmouth Harbour (1h30m to 1h35m)
  • Woking, Farnborough (Main), Fleet, Basingstoke, all stations to Portsmouth Harbour via Eastleigh and Fareham (2h05m to 2h10m).

Extra trains run during peak hours. The limited stop train via Guildford is the fastest London to Portsmouth train, though. We wouldn’t recommend using the train via Basingstoke unless you’re able to bag a cheap fare on it.

Here are the typical on-the-day fares for a South Western Railway journey. These tickets are also valid on Southern trains:

  • Anytime Open Return – £90.10
  • Off-Peak Return – £50.10
  • Anytime Day Return – £48.20
  • Super Off-Peak Return – £39.00.

The Anytime Open Return‘s outward portion is valid for one day, and the return part is valid for one month. You can use the Off-Peak Return after 10am on weekdays (any time weekends and Bank Holidays) on your outward trip, and you can arrive back in London after 10am on your return (any time weekends and Bank Holidays).

Meanwhile, the Super Off-Peak Return is quite restrictive. You can’t leave London until 12pm Monday to Saturday. On your return, you can’t arrive back in London until after 2pm Monday to Saturday.


Southern runs an hourly direct London to Portsmouth & Southsea train. Only a couple of these continue to the Harbour, so you’d need to change trains most of the time for connections to the Isle of Wight. If you’re changing trains, we’d advise doing it at Fratton. It’s a long walk between platforms at Portsmouth & Southsea.

This is the slightly slower, but cheaper option. The hourly train runs via Three Bridges, Horsham and Chichester, and typically takes two hours.

All of the fares on this route are routed via Three Bridges. This means that you aren’t restricted to Southern trains, but you’ll need to travel via Three Bridges. Here are the typical on-the-day fares:

  • Anytime Return – £75.20
  • Off-Peak Return – £44.90
  • Anytime Day Return – £40.00
  • Off-Peak Day Return – £36.40.

The Anytime Return‘s outward portion is valid for five days, and the return part is valid for one month. You can use the Off-Peak Return after 09:30 in both directions on weekdays (and at any time weekends and Bank Holidays). The Off-Peak Day Return is valid after 09:00 on weekdays (and at any time weekends and Bank Holidays).

How do I get the best fare for a London to Portsmouth train journey?

That’s simple! Just make sure that you book with Railsmartr. You’ll be able to buy all of the fares we’ve listed above, as well as cheaper train-specific Advance tickets. Let’s see what we can find for a one-way trip, a week ahead:

london to portsmouth train fares on railsmartr site

So, what can this tell us about London to Portsmouth train fares? In a nutshell:

  • The slower, but cheaper, Southern train, is the cheapest, at just £6
  • The slowest train operated by South Western Railway is the next cheapest at £14.80
  • The faster train operated by South Western Railway is more expensive at £18.60.

It also shows that the cheapest Advance tickets are only available for a direct journey. It’s more expensive if you need to change trains on the way.

Remember, these London to Portsmouth train fares are subject to availability, and the prices can vary, depending on the train that you choose.

What are the trains like?

So, what sort of train can you expect? What will it be like inside? Are there power sockets? Are the seats comfortable? Let’s take a look.

South Western Railway

You can expect two different types of train on the South Western Railway route from London to Portsmouth. They’re both Desiro trains, but with different layouts. The first one is a long-distance version, which has five or 10 coaches:

interior of low-density south western railway train

All of the seats are in a 2+2 layout, and there’s a power socket at every window seat. You’ll either have access to a fold-down table or a full-size table for four. These are the most suitable type of train for a journey like London to Portsmouth! However, around half of the services on this route have a commuter-style train instead. They have four, eight or 12 coaches:

interior of high-density london to portsmouth train on south western railway

Every window seat still has access to a power socket, but the seats are narrower, and there aren’t any full-size tables. So, how can you predict which kind of train you’ll get?

On a weekday, these services are typically scheduled for the trains that have a long-distance layout (correct up to December 2023):

  • From London: 05:08, 05:45, 06:15, 08:00, 09:00, 09:30, 10:00, 10:30, 11:00, 12:30, 14:00, 14:30, 15:00, 15:30, 16:30, 17:00, 17:15, 18:00, all trains up to 21:00, then 22:00, 23:00
  • From Portsmouth Harbour: 06:10, 06:42, 07:13, 07:31, 07:45, 08:15, 08:45, 10:03, 11:45, 12:03, 12:46, 13:03, 14:45, 16:15, 16:45, 17:15, 17:45, 18:45, then all trains up to end of service.

A couple of the trains above are a ‘hybrid’ train, where one part will have a commuter layout, and the other has a long-distance layout.

This is subject to change at short notice, so these aren’t guaranteed. The train formations will be different on weekends, too. The RealTimeTrains website will normally have the train information available on the day that you travel. If your train has 5, 9 or 10 coaches, then at least part of it has a long-distance layout.


It’s a little bit simpler on Southern! Every train is the same type, known as an Electrostar, but many of them have a different seating layout, depending on which carriage you’re in. A Southern train will have either four, eight or 12 coaches.

The end carriages of each unit (for example, in an eight coach train, that’d be coaches 1, 4, 5 and 8) usually have a ‘low-density’ layout, which is a 2+2 layout with lots of tables:

interior of low-density southern train

Meanwhile, the centre coaches have a ‘high-density’ layout with more seats:

interior of high-density london to portsmouth train on southern

All of these trains are currently being refurbished and having power sockets added to the window seats. It’s not possible to guess which trains will have the sockets, but it’s about a 50:50 chance as of September 2023!

If you want a guarantee of a table seat though, then Southern is your best option. So, you might prefer it if you’re travelling with family or want to get some work done.

Is there anything else I should know?

Feeling inspired? We’ve written about day trips by train across the country, if you’re after a car-free getaway. Unsure about the Capital? Don’t worry. We’re here to help with getting across London.

The final thing we’d recommend is using the Railsmartr website to book your London to Portsmouth train tickets. 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!

All fares stated on this page are for ONE adult with no Railcard discount and were correct at 13:00 05/09/2023. All information is issued in good faith. 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