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kiwi_rob Feb 3rd, 2008 11:08 PM

LHR to Exeter by train -- reservations required?
In July, my wife and I will be arriving at LHR (hopefully) around 11.00am on a Thursday. We intend to go straight down to Exeter by the first available train (through Woking, I believe). Given the possibility of flight delays and delays in clearing customs, etc, it is difficult to say which train will be the "first available". Can anyone tell me if reservations on these trains are usual or essential, or can we reasonably expect to waltze up and hop on the next one along without reservations or purchasing tickets in advance? We will have been travelling for over 30 hours by the time we get there, so the fewer the hassles the better.

flanneruk Feb 3rd, 2008 11:34 PM

You're sort of asking the wrong question.

If you book journeys over 100 miles or so in advance, for a specific train, you save a very great deal over buying a ticket at the station, and with those advance bookings seat reservations come free. So, for most of us on longish journeys, advance reservations are an important part of saving money. For most people, the answer to your question is "allow an hour more than you think you need, get that train, and do the 'I'm a confused foreign tourist' act if you end up missing the train you're booked on". Current popular wisdom is that ticket inspectors on First Great Western (trains via Reading to Exeter) are allowed to be more tolerant of human frailty than those on South West Trains (trains via Woking). Well, Worst Late Western can't be the worst train company in the world on EVERY dimension, so the wisdom might be accurate.

Non-Britons using some passes are an exception to this need to advance book to save money. Even so, by about 2 pm on a July Thursday, westbound trains from London to Devon start filling up, and getting on without a seat reservationat an intermediate stop like Reading or Woking might risk having to stand part of the way.

But my knowledge of this comes just from watching the crowds at Paddington. Others might have more accurate insight.

alanRow Feb 3rd, 2008 11:38 PM

I would expect that you'll be able to get on the next train - it's not a busy route

HOWEVER doing that would get you a fare of at least £71 return with around £64 for the one way fare

I can't see BTW why you'd want to go via Woking - the direct trains to Exeter only go every 2 hours so the first you could get would be the 14:46 from Working

Easier to get the bus to Reading & change at Bristol

You may find BTW that it's cheaper to pay for the bus separately on the day and buy the ticket to Exeter from Woking / Reading about 8 weeks in advance and use the Fastticket machine to collect it

alanRow Feb 3rd, 2008 11:39 PM

No Fastticket machine at Woking - there is one at Reading though

GeoffHamer Feb 4th, 2008 01:05 AM

Trains from Reading to Exeter take two hours or less and are much quicker than the ones from Woking. Buses from Heathrow go directly to Reading station.
There are two main stations in Exeter. Exeter St Davids is the main station and served by trains from London Paddington via Reading and from London Waterloo via Woking. Exeter Central is a smaller station served by trains on the line from Waterloo.
A saver return from Reading to Exeter is £51, and these can be used on most trains outside peak hours: if you miss the train, you can generally use the ticket on the next one.
Times and fares are on

rogeruktm Feb 4th, 2008 07:36 AM

Others can jump on this reply, however, as you stated, you want the less hassle free method. So, if me, I would try for the 12:33 Heathrow Express to Paddington then the 1:05 1st Great Western direct to St. Davis's station in Exeter. If you can't make the 1:05 you can get the 2:05 train. Secondly, if you are going to use the train a lot, check out the britrail passes. The thing is is you can take any train at any time including the Heathrow Express.

kiwi_rob Feb 4th, 2008 11:18 AM

Thanks for the good advice. I had assumed that we would need to go through Woking because I had been advised that that was the best/closest station for the link south. I hadn't realised that there were so many options available. We will be travelling one-way only and don't expect to be doing any other train travel on this trip.
Believe me, flanneruk, the "confused foreign tourist" act will not be difficult to achieve. It seems to come naturally to me! Hence the questions that I am asking.

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