Reserving train tickets

Jun 23rd, 2013, 08:34 AM
  #1  
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Reserving train tickets

We are going to be travelling from London to York and from York to Oxford while in England early july. I already have Britrail passes, but wondered if it's worth paying the extra to reserve seats? I'm just not sure how busy the trains generally are (we are flexible with time) and they seem to be very regular. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
huntersmom is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2013, 08:44 AM
  #2  
 
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What are the trains you're taking? What class of pass do you have? If first class then IME of decades of traveling on first-class passes I have never ever not seen several empty seats in first class - 2nd class can always be full so with a 2nd-class pass on long-distance routes I would book a seat - last I knew seat reservations were free if done by 7 pm or so the day before but not sure now.
For lots of great info on British trains I always spotlight these fine IMO sites - www.seat61.com; www.ricksteves.com and http://www.budgeteuropetravel.com/id11.html.
PalenQ is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2013, 03:41 PM
  #3  
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We are travelling second class. Reservations cost about $20 each now according to Britrail website. Thanks for input.
huntersmom is offline  
Jun 24th, 2013, 12:47 AM
  #4  
 
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This isn't an easy question to answer. The standard policy is that reservations are free if booked at the same time as the ticket - and 99% of advance bookings are straightforward Britons booking a cheapo in advance and getting a seat reservation automatically. For the few people wanting a reservation at another time, policies vary by operator

East Coast, the most frequent London-York operator, says all reservations are free, though Grand Central, the other London-York operator, merely says they're "available". Cross Country, the main York-Oxford operator, says they're "available". I assume "available" means "we'll charge the odd person who wants a reservation but not a ticket".

It's very common indeed for bits of the York-Oxford journey to be chockfull, with lots standing. It's almost unheard of for those standing to do so for more than a couple of stops (it takes so long because it stops so often), and there are no trains, except over Xmas/New Year and a few holiday routes, where all seats are reservation only. Once you're sitting in an unreserved seat, it's yours for the journey.

Personally, I wouldn't faff about with reservations just to avoid the possibility of standing between York and Doncaster (possible in evening weekday rush hours): in fact, last time it happened I just got the next train. And I wouldn't bother on the train to York either. But only you know how adverse you are to a bit of elbowing other seat-hunters out of the way
flanneruk is offline  
Jun 24th, 2013, 12:57 AM
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Not sure if "Britrail" is a US-based representative/agent, but that $20 looks like a rip-off to me. Try www.nationalrail.co.uk, which is run by the train operating companies and links through to them for you to buy tickets (and if necessary reservations) direct, which may well be cheaper (and make it clearer when it's advisable/required to reserve).

>>Once you're sitting in an unreserved seat, it's yours for the journey.<<

A formidable Northern matriarch once trumped my mother with the observation "It's bums saves seats, not bags".
PatrickLondon is offline  
Jun 24th, 2013, 05:52 AM
  #6  
 
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Not sure if "Britrail" is a US-based representative/agent,>

BritRail is owned by the various British rail franchises and is NOT an American thing they they have a representative/agent in the U.S. - actually based in Quebec - APC Rail.
PalenQ is offline  
Jun 24th, 2013, 07:15 AM
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>>BritRail is owned by the various British rail franchises and is NOT an American thing . . . <<

But they make most of their money selling to unsuspecting Americans . . .
janisj is offline  
Jun 24th, 2013, 07:58 AM
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>>
>>BritRail is owned by the various British rail franchises and is NOT an American thing . . . <<

But they make most of their money selling to unsuspecting Americans . . .<<

All the more reason to play them at their own game and go to their UK website(s).
PatrickLondon is offline  
Jun 24th, 2013, 12:55 PM
  #9  
 
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Patrick you know little of what you speak to throw all Britrail Passes into the rip-off category - what if one is doing several longer train trips and wants flexibility to hop any train anytime - do you still say that is a rip off - compare passes for what they are - full fare fully flexible tickets to hop any train anytime - and what about the Party Pass for couples traveling together - are they rip-offs always - or the Family Pass where kids under 16 travel free always - no you paint it all with one brush and say things like unsuspecting Americans yet folks from all over the world use BritRail Passes except the UK as Brits are not eligible to use them.

In many cases folks may buy passes for a few trips where they could do it a lot cheaper otherwise but to say that passes are always a rip-off just shows your ignorance of passes and what they provide - compare them to fully flexible tickets for folks who want to just get up go to the station and hop on any train - no blackout periods - no restrictions of a train-secific ticket you often must book in stone weeks in advance, etc.

Again I'm not saying that some folks waste money on railpasses - probably because of travel agents who also do not know the whole situation but you cannot throw the baby out with the bathwater as you do. a disservice to folks who may genuinely benefit from them - like small groups with the Party Pass - 3rd thru 9th person on a pass pays just 50% for that pass - Family Pass where folks under 16 get a free pass or even the BritRail Youthpass where folks who have any kind of Eurail Youthpass gets 50% off any BritRail Youthpass - there are indeed some times when a pass is beneficial for the above types of travelers - have you even heard of the BritRail Party Pass, i doubt it.
PalenQ is offline  
Jun 24th, 2013, 01:21 PM
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Seat reservations...

(a) ...are either free or cost something like £2 ($3) made at the station. Not $20! (sharp intake of breath!)

(b) ..are NEVER compulsory on British trains. You can always just get on and sit in any unreserved seat. The risk of standing if there are too many other passengers is tiny, and restricted to pretty much the peak times such as Friday nights.

So Friday night out of London on a long journey, yes, a reservation is a good idea (but to heck with it if it costs $20!)

But most of the time, I end up ignoring my reserved seat anyway, even if I get one automatically and free, because Sod's Law says it's next to a pillar and I'd rather sit in an unreserved seat with a clear view out of the window. Or (in cases like the train to Holyhead for Ireland, or London to Edinburgh) on the right hand side of the train as that's where the coastal scenery is, and Sod's Law says the reservation system has given me a seat on the LHS.
Man_in_seat_61 is offline  
Jun 24th, 2013, 01:25 PM
  #11  
 
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Man in seat 61 - do you think a BritRailpass is always a waste of money as Patrick and others do - are there not some scnerios when they can be a good deal - like if wanting flexibility, Party Passes or Family Passes - or are you also of the opinion that a BritRail Pass is always a waste of money too!
PalenQ is offline  
Jun 24th, 2013, 01:45 PM
  #12  
 
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I think the point about flexibility is valid. I've used similar public transport passes in other countries, and local ones in the UK too. It's not always been the cheapest option, but sometimes you want to be able to change your plans at the last minute, or hop on and off at random. So if the lowest possible price isn't your top priority, it may well suit some people better than cheaper fixed tickets.
anicecupoftea is offline  
Jun 24th, 2013, 03:49 PM
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>>do you think a BritRailpass is always a waste of money as Patrick and others do - <<

Come ON PQ (!) no one ever says a BritRail pass is always a waste of money or never makes sense. We say they very often don't pencil out and that one should price out point to point tickets before jumping at a BritRail pass.

And sometimes flexibility is worth extra $$$/£££ . . . sometimes it isn't. A lot depends on how much extra $$$/£££ one is talking about.
janisj is offline  
Jun 25th, 2013, 12:26 AM
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>>Patrick you know little of what you speak to throw all Britrail Passes into the rip-off category<<

I didn't. I said paying $20 for a seat reseravation was, and it might be cheaper to go direct to the National Rail website. Which option someone finds to be more advantageous for them, is up to them.
PatrickLondon is offline  
Jun 25th, 2013, 06:05 AM
  #15  
 
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Patrick - sorry but your post indicated that everything BritRail sells is a rip-off to unsuspecting Americans - did not know you were simply referring to seat reservations - and $20 is a rip-off for that - and can you reserve just a seat on the National Rail www.nationalrail.co.uk web site - say if you have a pass - can you just book a seat?

Last I knew with a pass you had to go to the train station that train left from to make the reservation - I do not know but you indicate this is possible online - are you sure of this? Hopefully that is the case!
PalenQ is offline  
Jun 25th, 2013, 08:45 AM
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>>Patrick - sorry but your post indicated that everything BritRail sells is a rip-off to unsuspecting Americans<<

Sorry, but it didn't. I quote:
"Not sure if "Britrail" is a US-based representative/agent, but that $20 looks like a rip-off to me." Whether or not the National Rail website allows people who already have passes to make reservations, I don't (and didn't claim to) know - I simply pointed it out as an alternative source of information for the OP to check out for themselves.
PatrickLondon is offline  
Jun 25th, 2013, 09:16 AM
  #17  
 
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All due respect Patrick and I am sincere in that as you are one of the most polite level-headed Fodorites IME this is what you said or at least what I am referring to your words:


But they make most of their money selling to unsuspecting Americans . . .<<

All the more reason to play them at their own game and go to their UK website(s)>

selling here means what - everything by the sounds of your wording and this is a common thing said here - so sorry about the confusion and glad that you agree that not everything BritRail sells is a rip-off of unsuspecting Americans (as others continually say without analyzing it all).
PalenQ is offline  
Jun 25th, 2013, 10:23 AM
  #18  
 
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PQ - you really REALLY need to get off the paint while there is still some (small) hope for you . . .
janisj is offline  
Jun 26th, 2013, 03:30 PM
  #19  
 
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Dulox, Dulox, more Dulux, pleeeeeeze!
PalenQ is offline  
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