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Esperanza77 Feb 6th, 2017 01:07 AM

Buying Train tickets on the day
We usually book our train tickets ahead of time but in this instance we're thinking of doing it on the day.

The situation is, we arrive in Heathrow early in the morning and need to go to Bristol. I know the coach is the easiest option but I get really sick on buses.

So we're think of taking Heathrow Express then the train from Paddington.

We're concerned about unexpected delays such as flights delays, immigration lines, etc. So we're thinking of waiting and booking directly at the station when we get to Paddington. Is that crazy? How much more are we expected to pay if we wait.
The tickets now are for 15 quid each way for 2nd class (Paddington to Bristol).

Can we book an open ticket to use whenever we want going and coming back?

Thanks in advance

Heimdall Feb 6th, 2017 01:21 AM

I guess I'm old-fashioned, because I still buy my tickets when I get to the train station.

bilboburgler Feb 6th, 2017 01:39 AM

Esperanza77 Feb 6th, 2017 01:40 AM

I'm a planner, I always like to have my stuff in advance partly because of the cost and partly because I'm obsessive LOL. It is said that tickets bought in advance are cheaper, I wanted to know if that's always the case.

bvlenci Feb 6th, 2017 01:43 AM

That's exactly what I'd do. You may miss the chance for a discounted ticket, but that's not a major problem.

The last time we were in England, we landed at Stansted, and wanted to go directly to York. The full-price tickets were quite expensive, and I was tempted to buy a heavily discounted ticket in advance. In the end, the flight was delayed, the collection of luggage was very slow, and we would have missed the train I had been thinking of getting tickets for.

Some people buy tickets for several hours after their arrival, but I would never do that. First of all, it's no guarantee that you won't still miss the train. And, to me, waiting around the station for hours when you could have caught an earlier train is even worse than missing a train.

StCirq Feb 6th, 2017 01:54 AM

I'm the opposite. I enjoy hanging around train stations and always buy the cheapest tickets in advance, give myself a few hours, and take my chances. I'm not super budget-conscious, but often the difference in price is enough for me to have a nice meal.

PatrickLondon Feb 6th, 2017 02:08 AM

Just did some experiments on

Looking at a Monday mornings about 10 weeks ahead, there's an "advance" ticket (which ties you to a particular train) for £15 or £17, an off-peak for £33 - and the "anytime" fare is £102! The off-peak fare seems to be available for a whole range of trains mid- to late-morning, but goes up to £44 for a train at 0945.

As I read the descriptions, you can buy an off-peak ticket up to the time of departure:

Heimdall Feb 6th, 2017 02:13 AM

Well, I'm a planner too. I look up the departure times on the internet, then show up at the train station early enough to buy my tickets there. If for some reason I were delayed, I would just take the next train and not be left with unusable tickets.

flanneruk Feb 6th, 2017 03:28 AM

First: I wouldn't do the journey you're planning. It's as quick, and cheaper, to get the bus to Reading station and catch the ex-Paddington train there.

Second: there's a specific reason in your case why this makes sense.

As a simple principle, it almost never makes sense to book an Advance fare on a train to connect with an arriving flight: if you're not there on time, you forfeit everything you've paid. The almost-universal recommendation is to buy an offpeak ticket. If your train's on Sat or Sun, all fares are offpeak anyway.

As PL shows, your problem really comes from the fact that the extra cost of buying on the day (we'll come back to that in a minute) is almost trivial if you're travelling WEEKDAY offpeak, but really substantial if you're travelling at a peak times.

The complexity of the fare-setting algorithms, though, makes this "peak penalty" far greater, and far more likely, on a train caught at Paddington than on the same train caught at Reading. The difference is £69 if you get on at Paddington - but £30-odd if you get on at Reading.

More importantly still, you may not have to pay it anyway, since peak rates vary by departure station and the phases of the moon. On a GWR train from Reading to Bristol they apply only to trains leaving before 0830 or after 1630-ish.

So if you're arriving about 0600 on a weekday, by the time you're immigration, onto the bus and get to Reading, it's likely to be 0800-0830. Waiting for the 0841 (the first offpeak of the day should be no hardship.

If you're worried about queues at the ticket office, the trains are every 20 mins or so, so they don't matter. If you want an offpeak ahead of time, buy online - but you have to retrieve the actual ticket from a machine in the UK, so there's not much time saved.

Worrying about finding a seat is pointless.

Esperanza77 Feb 6th, 2017 05:27 AM

Hello all and thanks for taking the time and effort to help us.

Obviously everyone agrees that we should not book ahead. Flight arrives around 7 am on a weekday so I don't think there is a chance of getting a train before 9:30 am.

Flanneruk, if I'm getting you right, you mean get the coach from Heathrow to Reading rail station. According to the National coach website that would take 1h32m. As I mentioned I get really sick on buses. If I'm getting the bus, then I might as well take the bus all the way to Bristol, the trip is 2h20m. The point was to avoid the bus altogether.

sofarsogood Feb 6th, 2017 06:33 AM

the rail air coach takes just over 60 mins from LHR to Reading

janisj Feb 6th, 2017 07:00 AM

This is one case where booking a car service would probably be better than the trains - door to door and cheaper in the long run

Something like this one


I did a dummy booking and it would be £124 to central Bristol.

PalenQ Feb 6th, 2017 08:28 AM

If you buy a 15 pound ticket and somehow miss it you are out 15 pounds but could save a ton if OK over full fare.

Fastest way to Paddington - Heathrow Express - about 20 minutes.

janisj Feb 6th, 2017 09:05 AM

With the HEX and train to Bristol not only are there the (possibly large) extra costs should you miss your pre-booked train, you will have a fairly long walk to the Heathrow station and then have to maneuver your bags through Paddington and then at the Bristol end take a taxi to your final destination.

That is why I suggested a car service -- it might or might not cost more in the end, but it would be a lot more convenient after an overnight flight . . . Unless you also get sick on long car journeys

PalenQ Feb 6th, 2017 11:04 AM

As I mentioned I get really sick on buses. If I'm getting the bus, then I might as well take the bus all the way to Bristol, the trip is 2h20m>

Don't compare it to city buses -these are modern coaches that IME are fairly smooth- could save a ton of money with the coach- carscan be bumpy too if roads are bad.

Seems the best IMO - 15 quid ticket from Paddington to Bristol (+ cost of HEX)- you may want to investigate the London Plus railpass which at its lowest gives your three days unlimited hop on at will rail travel throughout southern England, including to Bristol and also return tickets on HExpress (or other airport express trains) - more expensive than 15 quid ticket but for fully flexible fares a great deal- especially if you have a third day of rail travel in the area covered-if 60 and over a special rate for first class travel (IME vastly nicer than Standard class) - for details on British trains and passes check;; and

Otherwise do the 15 quid ticket and leave lots of fudge factor time like StCirq does and save a ton over a private driver and go the smoothest possible ride way.

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