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British Trains, three questions

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Aug 21st, 2013, 04:04 PM
  #1
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British Trains, three questions

My husband and I are planning a train trip form London to Edinburgh this fall.
We are going to be leaving from Kings Cross, but I have three questions, never having used British trains before.
1.) We are seniors...over 65...living in the USA. Can we get senior rail discount cards, or are they only for British people?
2.) On this trip to Edinburgh, we would like to stop in York for two or three hours, for a quick look-see, maybe lunch. Do we buy a ticket to Edinburgh and get off one train and back on a later train in York or do we have to buy two separate tickets, one to York from Kings Cross and the other from York to Edinburgh
3.) What are the main differences between standard class (not sure what it is called) and FIRST class? Better seats, free tea or coffee, etc????
Thanks,
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Aug 21st, 2013, 05:40 PM
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Lots of your questions will be answered at these three superb IMO sites - www.seat61.com - commercial site of a British train guru and http://www.budgeteuropetravel.com/id11.html and www.ricksteves.com. check www.nationalrail.co.uk for ticket prices, conditions of use, schedules, etc - there are zillions of types of tickets with varying conditions - generally I think it will be more expensive on most but full-fare tickets to stop off in York but not always - depends which of the Byzantine fare structure you decide on. Full fare can cost a lot more than flying - IMO of riding trains in the UK for decades there is a huge difference between first and standard class - much more than in other countries in Europe IME. And yes on that train line you get free 'tea or coffee' and snacks the whole way - only in first class not standard as 2nd class is called in the U K. Seats are much much larger in first class and there are usually many empty seats - in 2nd class be sure to reserve a seat as many trains I have seen are chock full in 2nd class but you never know.

For the deepest discount tickets book NOW - what you see today may be gone tomorrow and be flexible - there are 2-3 trains an hour to York and slightly lesser onto Edinburgh - check several different ones.

Forget any railpass - not enough trains and I think the Senior Railpass' annual fee may be more than any savings you may get but not sure - especially if you go full fare fully flexible hop any train anytime basis.
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Aug 21st, 2013, 06:35 PM
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1) yes, you can get the Senior rail card. You can download the form and fill it out at home. Then take it to the station in London to get the card - you can buy your senior discounted tickets now even though you don't yet have the senior rail card. Buy the railcard when you get to Kings X at the same time you collect your tickets.

2) You need to book two different tickets London > York and York > Edinburgh.

3) 2nd class is fine . . But you get such a nice discount w/ the railcard, I'd opt for 1st. Not just free tea/coffee. Free meals and alcoholic beverages.
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Aug 21st, 2013, 07:01 PM
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Thanks, PalenQ and Janet. I appreciate the good advice and suggestions. I will get busy with the sites and the downloading. I am a little surprised that it is wise to book so soon. Hadn't realized the trains were so full, not like the USA, where they usually are not full at all, at least the ones we have been on. Thanks, again.
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Aug 21st, 2013, 07:06 PM
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12 weeks out is the optimum time to buy your tix.
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Aug 21st, 2013, 08:15 PM
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British Trains, three questions
Posted by: HelenPet on Aug 21, 13 at 7:04pm
My husband and I are planning a train trip form London to Edinburgh this fall.


The senior rail card is not free. Is your trip to Edinburgh a one-off and then fly out, or more training around, or . . .? I would investigate a BritRil Pass depending on what else you plan to do. See the B.E.T.S. site at http://tinyurl.com/nyxc9p and phone them up to talk about your plans. Byron and Linda are very helpful.

Two or three hours in York? Shame. Try to stay two nights.

For an illustrated introduction to trains in Europe, including a photo of a 1st class rail car on the London Edinburgh route, see http://tinyurl.com/eym5b. Amenities on board include free WiFi and electrical outlets, 220 volts with the British plug.
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Aug 21st, 2013, 08:49 PM
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That time frame is amazing, janisj, but will keep it in mind for future trips. We are under a BIG time constraint, and I have been to York a couple of times in the past ten years, but Hubby, never...So this will give him a taste, and again will keep it in mind for future trips.
Now, the big thing: I have spent almost two hours on the eastcoast.co.uk web site and the other sites, looking at tickets, fares, times, standard vs first class etc. I think I have earned a graduate degree!! I have a spread-sheet anyway. And will discuss it with hubby. But the site itself worked very smoothly. This will not be a surprise, but there is no point in getting the senior rail card, since we won't be back in less than a year, and will probably rent a car when we do return, anyway. If I am correct in looking at the sites, the senior rail card costs 30 British Pounds and comparing the prices with and without it, on the spread sheet, it was only worth it for one time with first class bookings. All other times, it was cheaper just to do adult fare...the saving with the senior card, was less than the cost of the senior card. I can see where it would be great if you were taking more than one, or in this case, two trips.
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Aug 21st, 2013, 09:02 PM
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OH, forgot to answer your question, spaarne. Yes, a one-off. We are flying home from Edinburgh.
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Aug 21st, 2013, 09:10 PM
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And then PLUSBUS...etc etc, etc.
I suppose for someone living in the UK, it isn't so complex and confusing as it seems to Americans, but rail travel in the UK does take some study, seems to me. What on earth did the British do before they could see all these times, fares, options, 2for1,PLUSBUS, various rail lines and operators, with various rules, fares, etc? Must have been even harder!!!
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Aug 21st, 2013, 09:24 PM
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The quicker you book, the cheaper the tickets will be.

We purchased our tickets three months out: London to York and York to Edinburgh and paid roughly 13 pounds per person for each leg of the train journey.

As our train trip approached I checked the current prices for fun and they had more than quadrupled, even a couple weeks out.
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Aug 21st, 2013, 11:53 PM
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<>

It may (or may not) be cheaper to buy two tickets London/York - York/Edinburgh, but a "Super off Peak Single" ticket allows a break of journey. You're not restricted to a particular train so you can stay later in York (or leave earlier) if you wish. All fares and ticket types are on the east coast site.
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Aug 22nd, 2013, 12:23 AM
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It may well be advisable to reserve specific seats as well, since this is a busy and popular route. In particular, for the York to Edinburgh leg, try to get window seats on the right-hand side (as you face the direction of travel), for the best views of Durham, Newcastle and the coastline north).
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Aug 22nd, 2013, 12:51 AM
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I am a little surprised that it is wise to book so soon. Hadn't realized the trains were so full, not like the USA, where they usually are not full at all, at least the ones we have been on

I think you misunderstood. The reason for booking in advance is NOT because the trains are full if you just turn up on the day, it's the pricing strategy employed by the train companies. As with airlines, they know they can charge a lot more for people who make a last minute decision to travel (presumably because they HAVE to), as opposed to people who plan a long time in advance.
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Aug 22nd, 2013, 12:53 AM
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What did we do before all this complexity? We had one company to deal with, one set of prices and a service that was the joke of the country (think terrible food, filthy trains and loos, slow trains, strikes, you name it we had it. You could not assume a train would ever be on time). So somethings better somethings worse. But the mainline trains are packed and as soon as they put on more services they fill up, so you do need a reservation if you are going 2nd class.

Still the internet has changed everything and we just use websites to sort it out. Interestingly the ticket inspectors are not yet wifi enabled though the London to Edinburgh is.
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Aug 23rd, 2013, 08:55 AM
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First class has more benefits on this train line than most because of what bilboburgler and patrick and others say - 2nd class is often chock full and walk ups may have to stand a spell - but usually full which means more congestions in aisles - more bags to fit anywhere they can - more mobile phones going off - more folks going to the loo - the buffet car to get snacks, etc.

But in first class IME lots of empty seats and like janisj says not only free food tea and coffee but also booze - the whole way - now there are discounted first-class tickets as well but IME there are often two types of first class - GOLD, which a BritRail Pass allows you to sit in and regular first class and this seems to be where the discounted first class passengers sit - often in completely full car - seats not as plush - sometimes on weekends 2nd class ticket holders can upgrade to first class - and these upgrades seem to be in those discounted 1st class ticket carriages. Now I am not sure this is the case but after umpteen Brit train rides with a first class pass seems to be the case - very few are riding in the cars I and business types ride in - yet other cars are packed full with discounted first-class tickets. Thus the benefits of first class may be more on this train ride, due to its popularity and crowding than other train lines.
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Aug 23rd, 2013, 09:10 AM
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2nd class is called Standard Class.
At weekends, they are special carriages (usually just one) for 'Weekend First' - people with Standard Class ticket can upgrade to sit there for £15 or so one-way, but it's separate from regular First Class carriages.
On weekdays, while there may be certain seats set aside for elite travellers (depending on train operators and routes), if they aren't reserved (look up the electronic display above or look out for reservation ticket), anyone with First Class ticket can sit there. You get exactly the same service, and the only advantage is it's located near the front of the train and often a single seat with own table. A bit like exit-row seats for elite flyers.
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Aug 24th, 2013, 09:22 AM
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ttt
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Aug 25th, 2013, 03:48 AM
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Advance ticket seat reservations are put in the same carriages. You will often find that if there are 2 first class carriages (eg A and B), all the reservations are in carriage B, where pretty much every seat is reserved, whereas carriage A is empty. If you'd rather sit in carriage A on the assumption it will be quieter with fewer people, then do so. Ticket inspectors check if your ticket is valid for that train and class, and that you have a reservation if the ticket specifies it. They don't care if you are actually sitting in those seats.

It is courteous if the train has printed seat reservations stuck in the back of the seats to remove them from the original seats and slot them in the back of your chosen ones. That way, other people can see the original seats are now free to use.
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Aug 25th, 2013, 12:08 PM
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IME most of the seats in Standard class will be reserved so when boarding without reservations read anicecupoftea's talk about those reservations and protocol and advice so you do not sit down only to be roused by a reservation down the line - look at the bit of paper on top of the seat and if it is reserved between stations after you plan to get off then sit in that reserved seat.
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Aug 26th, 2013, 12:56 PM
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OP may want to stay overnight in York as this city offers so so much that in a few hours you see the yes fantastic Minster but not its many really neat other places - like the haunted Treasurers House, walking the rampart paths - doing one of the neat and free walking tours by local resident docents thru the tourist office (including a ghost-themed one as well at night I believe, etc).
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