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Norfolkadam's Transport FAQ and Help Thread watch

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    I'm TSR's resident transport geek and I usually try and help as many people as I can with questions about transport in the UK. My special subject is train travel and Oyster cards but I can also point you in the right direction for everything from coaches to ferries to Boscombe's beautiful buses.

    I figured I would make an FAQ for people to try and reduce the number of repeat threads that pop-up and make somewhere for people to get simple travel advice rather than having to wade through 30 replies that may or may not be accurate.

    It's not finished yet but it's getting late and I want to go to bed, I'm going to finish it tomorrow. If you've got any ideas or questions then post away.


    Where is the best place to buy tickets online?
    Do not use Thetrainline.com or Raileasy or QJump or any commercial, online sales company.

    I have repeated in hundreds of times so I will say it once and for all. Thetrainline and sites like it are a scam. Train tickets in the UK are booked on a central system, you will get the same prices and availability from every train booking website. Any website which charges any kind of booking fee or collection fee you should avoid as there are tonnes of free ones that use the same software and booking system as Thetrainline.

    If you are travelling by South West Trains, Virgin Trains or East Midland Trains check Megatrain first, it sometimes offers fares as low as £1 each way.

    The best place to buy fares otherwise is the Train Operating Company's website. Occasionally they will offer reduced fares only on their website as a special web promotion (Virgin Trains and Chiltern do this). Otherwise you can use any train operator's website you want as they all use the same software and booking system. I find East Coast's to be very user friendly.

    What do the different ticket types mean?
    - These are the cheapest fares but they are subject to a number of restrictions.
    -- They aren't available on all routes, only the major ones.
    -- The must be bought before travel, at least the night before.
    -- They are limited in availability, the cheapest ones go first so the earlier you book or the less busy your service the more likely you are to find cheap fares.
    -- They are very strict, if you don't travel on your booked train they are useless, you will have to pay full-fare.
    - You can buy these online or at the station, all websites and train companies have access to the same quota of tickets so it doesn't matter where you book them.
    - When you book them is much more important. Advance tickets usually go on sale 12 weeks in Advance and are available up until the night before departure. The earlier you book the more chance the cheapest tickets will be available.
    - Sometimes, if you're lucky it's cheaper to travel First Class. I find this a lot between Norwich and London, the quota for standard class may be full but the advance first class fare is still cheaper than a non-advance standard class.
    - If you are delayed and miss your connection you should still be allowed to travel. Go straight to an information desk and find out who needs to sign or stamp your ticket to let the guard know you were genuinely delayed. Never just get on a different train and hope you get a friendly ticket inspector.

    - These are the most expensive tickets. If you see a 'ludicrous' ticket price in a news article it'll be these.
    - They are valid on all trains and are often twice the price of:-

    - Off-Peak Tickets are restricted to when you can travel.
    -- This means they are valid during 'off-peak' hours, as a general guide this is usually between 10:30 and 16:30 then between 19:00 and 04:30.
    -- This varies depending on where you are leaving or going to.
    -- Off-Peak restrictions are not applicable at the weekend or on bank holidays, you can travel whenever you want on these days.
    -- To find out if an off-peak ticket is valid for the journey you want to make go to a train operator's website, get the fare information for your journey and see if Off-Peak is available for that train.
    - You can buy off-peak and anytime tickets whenever you want. It will be the same price 6 weeks in advance as it will be on the train.
    - An off-peak return will allow you to come back on any day for a month.
    - An off-peak day return means you have to return on the same day.
    - Some people might call these cheap day returns, that's their old name.
    - A super-off peak ticket is sometimes available, it usually means there are more vigorous restrictions. Check it's valid for your journey.

    - There are other tickets out there. Rovers will allow you unlimited travel in a set area for a set amount of time. They can all be found here, sometimes they're cheaper than a return.
    - If you are travelling through London and you have to get from one terminus to another your ticket will allow you travel by tube or Thameslink or DLR. There will be a + next to your destenation. Eg. "Bournemouth +".
    - On a ticket "Any Permitted" does not literally mean any permitted route. There's a whole bunch of complex routing nonsense so it's best to just travel by the most direct route.

    How do I get from [place] to [other place]?
    - If you are travelling by train use the journey planner on National Rail's website.
    - If you are travelling by coach then use the one on National Express' website.
    - If it's local travel then either use TfL's for London or Traveline for the rest of the UK.
    - For Domestic Flights use TransportDirect.

    How do I find travelcards and passes for a specific city?
    - London Travelcards.
    - London Bus Passes.
    - Manchester.
    - Merseyside.
    - South Yorkshire.
    - Tyne and Wear travel passes.
    - West Midlands.
    - West Yorkshire.
    - If your area isn't here then you'll need to find the website of the company operating the service for ticket information. It might be worth looking for a combined pass on Google as some cities don't have an intergrated transport company but do offer them (like the Fusion in Norwich).

    How can I work out the cost of a rail season ticket?
    - Use National Rail's Season Ticket Calculator and remember that if you're a student it probably works out to buy 10 monthly season tickets than an annual one.
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