Rail - London to Edinburgh

Old Oct 14th, 2007, 09:02 PM
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Rail - London to Edinburgh

G'day from "down under".

Have been doing a little research (including reading Fodor's), but being new to this, I am still confused, so I thought I would add my question to the forum.

BACKGROUND
Our plans (hubby & myself) in May 2008 are:
Wed .. Fly into London (ex Tokyo)(accomm not yet arranged)
Thurs .. Catch train to Edinburgh
Thurs-Mon .. Rental car (doing the family tree bit - see where the ancestors once lived)
Mon .. Catch train to London
Tues .. Dept London (coach tour to Europe)

QUESTIONS:
* Which London "Kings Cross" station does the train leave? (When I type in "kings cross" on www.tfl.gov.uk journey planner, I am required to select from 14 stations .. eek)
* What's the best "fare/ticket" to purchase for this trip? (eg. Advanced etc).
* Is it worthwhile (scenery wise) to travel different routes - say East (via York) to Edinburgh and back the West side?
* My main confusion is that there seems to be so many rail systems (train companies) in UK. If we have a choice, which is the better?
* Any recommendations on accommodation - which is easy to get to from Heathrow Airport (via train) and also handy to the "Kings Cross" station?

Apologies in advance if these seem "dumb" questions.

Thanks for your time.
Cheers .. B
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Old Oct 14th, 2007, 09:38 PM
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You should immediately fly to Edinburgh from Tokyo. Either via a connection at Heathrow or other European airports.

Then come back to London a day earlier by train.

The train route to take between Edinburgh and London is the East Coast Main Line (ECML) from Edinburgh Waverly to London Kings Cross.

TFL is a website for local London transports, not long distance trains. You can use www.nationrail.co.uk to get train times.

The ECML is changing operator in December, from GNER to National Express East Coast.

You can't buy tickets this early anyways, but check back in February. Train fares in the UK vary highly depend on the advance fare you get. Edinburgh-London is under 20£ if you purchase early, but over 100£ if you walk up.
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Old Oct 14th, 2007, 09:53 PM
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I agree w/ rkkwan. If it were me, I'd fly directly up to EDI and spend that night in the city. Next morning pick up you car and head out (what part(s) of Scotland are you visiting? )

I personally wouldn't go into London for 1 night just to take the train north. You can always train back to London if that's what you want.
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Old Oct 15th, 2007, 05:30 AM
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FYI, there is one more train option. If saving the cost of a night in a hotel and having more daylight hours for sightseeing is more important than being able to look out the window during the day, you could take the overnight Caledonian Sleeper between London Euston and Edinburgh. If you book well in advance online, tickets are quite cheap. See here: http://tinyurl.com/g9ehd.
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Old Oct 15th, 2007, 06:07 AM
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I agree with the Caledonian Sleeper option. We frequently used that, arriving in Edinburgh early, getting settled in sleeper compartment, and enjoying a restful sleep on the way to London. Nice wey to travel.
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Old Oct 15th, 2007, 06:58 AM
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QUESTIONS:
* Which London "Kings Cross" station does the train leave?

(When I type in "kings cross" on www.tfl.gov.uk journey planner, I am required to select from 14 stations .. eek).

Thats because Kings Cross is a large area, with many tube stations and bus stops. There is only one station called "Kings Cross" (but several tube stations in or near the district known as "Kings Cross"). Kings Cross mainline train station, shares a tube station with neigbouring St Pancras Station (trains for Sheffield and Paris). The tube station is called "Kings Cross / St Pancras" - this causes endless confusion.


For route planning to Edinburgh, use www.gner.co.uk. This is the train company that runs to edinburgh from Kings Cross. There are some "gner-only" tickets not available elsewhere.

It is also possible to travel to Edinburgh on Virgin, via the West coast line, from Euston.

* What's the best "fare/ticket" to purchase for this trip? (eg. Advanced etc).
The cheapest tickets are called Advance (various subtle name differences, but all called "Advance-something-or-other"). Even first class is reasonable on these tickets, so is well worth it. Be aware that these tickets are valid only on a particuar train (ie a particular departure time) - miss it and your ticket is void. Have a practice with the GNER web site until you have got the hang of it (ie play with dates about two months from now to see what is available). When you pick a date and time you get a range of trains shown. You then press "buy tickets" (or something similar) and it shows you what tickets are valid on each train. Be aware that not all the tickets shown will actually be available when you go to the next screen, because there are limited numbers (but booking well ahead, you will be ok). Make sure you try the "singles can be cheaper" link.

The next cheapest tickets are "savers". You can only use these off peak, but are not tied to a particular train. You have to travel OUT on the spcified date, but can come back any time inside a month, and can even split the return journey over several days.

There are also "Business Saver" tickets which allows people travelling TO London to get a cheaper ticke by travelling OUT off-peak, but they can travel home on any train, even in the rush hour.


The rest are basically OPEN, which means, "full fare (ouch) but travel when you like within three months".

* Is it worthwhile (scenery wise) to travel different routes - say East (via York) to Edinburgh and back the West side?

Both routes have their attractions, but you will not see anything spectacular on the West Coast route, apart from a very very distant view of the Lake District hills. You might choose to use the west coast to split your journey in Glasgow.

* My main confusion is that there seems to be so many rail systems (train companies) in UK. If we have a choice, which is the better?

The two you are concerened with here are Virgin and GNER. Not much to choose between them. If you get a newer train , both companies run very comfortable trains. GNER wins for me because (WiFi on board - free in 1st Class - but rather slow ; proper restaurant cars on a large number of trains, the food is surprisingly good (not cheap - but you can buy a first class ticket, then by paying for a meal, travel in First Class and catch up on your email!).

* Any recommendations on accommodation - which is easy to get to from Heathrow Airport (via train) and also handy to the "Kings Cross" station?

No spectacularly good hotels right near Kings Cross. The Radisson Grafton (or is it Edwardian?) is very nice but is a minimum 10 minute walk away (next to Warren Street Tube). If you are economising there are lots of basic but surprisingly clean, comfortable, and (for London) inexpensive tourist hotels very close to the staton but on fairly quiet streets (my advice is to google "Argyle Street"). Try Laterooms.

There is a Travel Lodge very near Kings Cross Station - but be VERY careful which one you pick, there are two others further away that probably still count as being in Kings Cross.
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Old Oct 15th, 2007, 07:06 AM
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The fast day trains to Edinburgh go from London Kings Cross station, but the sleeper goes from London Euston. On www.nationalrail.co.uk, you can just enter "London" as your departure point and it will search all the options, but it's best to check the websites for GNER or, for the sleeper, First Scotrail.
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Old Oct 15th, 2007, 08:14 AM
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rkkwan, can you explain more about the change on operators from London to Edinburgh. Thanks
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Old Oct 15th, 2007, 08:20 AM
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The ECML franchise ran out in Dec, and National Express (yes, the bus company) put out the winning bid. So, starting 12/9/2007, they will be the new operator for the ECML trains.

The new franchise ran out 3/31/2015.
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Old Oct 15th, 2007, 08:29 AM
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Thanks for that rkkwan. Does anyone know if major changes are going to be made to the schedule (timetable)?
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Old Oct 15th, 2007, 08:40 AM
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There will be no major changes and trains will still run as now - franchise change means no immediate changes if the many other franchise changes that have happened are any harbinger.
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Old Oct 15th, 2007, 09:04 AM
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Or you can look at a 4-consecutive day BritRail pass to cover each way and let you take any train any time - 1st conveninet one after landing and getting to Kings X - these currently cost $232 p.p. in 2nd class (under 26 $185) - for full fare changeable tickets on any train should be a bargain if you don't want to lock yourself in to non-refundable non-changeable advance discounted tickets.

Or as you are only renting a car a few days investigate the BritRail Drive program where you can mix car and train - pick up train at any sizeable station and return it to any other

You could take train up to Inverness pick up car, return it in Edinburg

even are overnight trains London-Inverness

BritRail car and drive is well priced for folks doing just what you are doing.
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Old Oct 15th, 2007, 09:26 AM
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I wish we Brits could get £115 quid tickets for four days rail travel. A pity its "consecutive" days, though - I bet once you start the ticket, you feel obliged to keep travelling to "make good use of it" ! And if you do stop anywhere for more than 5 minutes, you feel it ticking away your dollars in your pocket...

If you do use a pass (or a non-specific-train ticket) DO book your seat a few days in advance. I don't think it costs anything (or very little) and it is not scaremongering to say that without a reservation you MIGHT have to stand for long stretches on a train to Edinburgh in the peak season. Remember that nearly everyone other than you will have got a booked seat automatically with their ticket.

But also remember that you can sit in an empty seat even if it has a "reserved" ticket sticking out of the top - the ticket will tell you the stations between which the seat is reserved. Look for people quietly removing the reserved ticket and hoping to play the innocent when the reservation holder gets on (they usually DON'T get away with it). Also look for people on an almost empty train neurotically insisting on hunting down and sitting in their reserved seat - even if it is next to you and you are the only person in the carriage. grrrr !
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Old Oct 15th, 2007, 09:32 AM
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<<< On www.nationalrail.co.uk, you can just enter "London" as your departure point >>>

You can, but it's not as easy as it looks because it will default to "London Blackfriars"

What you have to do is type "London" then click with your mouse on any area outside where you've typed "London". Then it stays as "London"
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Old Oct 15th, 2007, 09:43 AM
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ChrisEngland

there are also flexipasses which i did not mention because OP was doing their travels with 4-day period and consecutive are cheaper

4 day flexipass - any 4 calendar days out of a 2 month period runs $293 p.p. in 2nd class ($235 if under 26)

8 day flexi $425 2nd class

There is also the cheaper England Flexipass - no Wales or Scotland for $235 p.p. for 4 days/2 mo flexipass or 8 days for $340 p.p.

And as pound rises these pass prices have not changed in two years about so become better deals every day (for full fare)

I've had dozens of BritRail passes and never make reservations - just board though you usually can make free reservations until 7pm the night before.
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Old Oct 15th, 2007, 09:47 AM
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OH and Chris the Party Pass means that the 3rd thru 9th person traveling on a pass pays just 50% of what the first two pay ($170 for an 8 day flexipass England)

and kids 16 and under get free passes and Off-Peak Special every year means Nov 1 - Feb 28/29 all BritRail BritEngland passes are a further 20% off

so the 3rd thru 9th traveler then would pay just $96 for an 8-day flexipass.

British residents cannot use BritRail passes and passes are not sold at British stations though they are at the BTA in London. In the U.S. i always recommend www.budgeteuropetravel.com for their British rail expertise and great service - pass prices are universal - set by BritRail USA (actually HQ'ed in Canada i believe as APT rail - not exactly sure) - Japanese do qualify so if OP is a Japanese resident they should buy passes before leaving Japan if they think they want them - any travel agent.
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Old Oct 15th, 2007, 10:04 AM
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Palenq

I travel lots of times without reservations too. For short journeys I am willing to risk it, and usually get away with it. But I have regretted it sometimes when standing up all the way from Sheffield to Manchester (50 minutes) on a Friday evening !

I would *strongly* advise anyone travelling between Edinburgh and London in summer to reserve a seat. The trains DO get full sometimes, and it is no fun at all standing all the way to Doncaster or Newcastle (or even having to switch seats before every station as you hunt the seat free for the next stage).

May is not high season, of course, but at weekends, or in the rush hour, I would feel reckless not to have a reservation for a long journey if at all possible (especially at my advanced age). Apart from the discomfort of standing, it's so ANNOYING to pay £50 to stand up !
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Old Oct 15th, 2007, 02:00 PM
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Chris - i agree and often on such trains you describe they seem to becoming more and more full or overcrowded

Actually i always have a first-class BritRail pass and in that class i've never not seen empty seats on trains like to Edinburgh but in standard class these trains do seem inevitably full so i would make reservations in standard class on any ride on which standing a long time would not be nice.
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Old Oct 16th, 2007, 03:31 AM
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G'day all! Thanks for your feedback.

To expand on our trip - we are Australians with a stopover in Tokyo. The trip from Tokyo to London is 12 hours and we've already arranged it (and unfortunately cannot change the destination from London to Edinburgh).

We had thought about the Sleeper train (London-Edinburgh), but after being 12 hours on a plane, the late departure out of London and the 'restricted space' for the journey, decided against it.

Nevertheless, thanks for your comments (and time). It's given us some 'food for thought'.
Cheers from "down under"
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Old Oct 16th, 2007, 04:19 AM
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I agree with rkkwan & Janis - just fly up to Edinburgh, it will be much easier, faster and could be cheaper. BA (www.ba.com)& BMI (www.flybmi.com) fly between Heathrow & Edinburgh.

I haven't got the train to London in years.
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