Last-minute train travel is often very expensive, but train companies relax peak-time restrictions over Christmas and New Year, Which? has found.
Lifting peak-time restrictions makes it possible to travel on Off-peak tickets at peak times, making last-minute travel at peak times much cheaper than normal.
Train companies advocate purchasing Advance tickets.
But they don’t often shout about relaxing peak-time restrictions.
Being able to use Off-peak tickets at peak times gives much greater flexibility when travelling.
So, if you miss your train, you can take the next one.
Left it too late to book ahead?
Advance tickets, which must be booked ahead and commit you to a particular train, are often cheapest.
But these can be expensive at popular times such as Christmas and New Year when demand is high.
Advance tickets are also inflexible so if you miss your train your ticket will be worthless and you’ll need to fork out for another one.
Advance tickets come with compulsory seat reservations but you can book a seat with any type of ticket, not just Advance tickets.
A spokesperson for the Association of Train Operating Companies said: ‘Train companies make some changes to ticket restrictions over the Christmas period to give passengers greater flexibility when travelling.
‘Restrictions vary from operator to operator so passengers should check with their train company.’
Different restrictions lifted
Here are the arrangements for each train company we could find details for:
- Arriva Trains Wales – restrictions lifted from 24th December to 2nd January.
- c2c – no restrictions lifted, but doesn’t have an evening peak restriction normally.
- Cross Country – restrictions lifted from 26th December to 2nd January.
- East Coast – restrictions lifted from 27th to 30th December, on 23rd December northbound from London King’s Cross.
- East Midlands Trains – restrictions lifted from 27th December to 2nd January.
- First Great Western – restrictions lifted from 28th December to 2nd January.
- First ScotRail – restrictions lifted on 26th and 27th December and 2nd and 3rd January.
- London Midland – restrictions lifted on West Midlands services from London Euston on 28th, 29th and 30th December.
- National Express East Anglia – Restrictions lifted from 23rd December to 2nd January.
- Northern Rail – no restrictions lifted, but doesn’t have an evening peak restriction normally.
- Southern Railway – restrictions lifted for 26th and 27th December and 2nd January, but not for 29th, 30th or 31st December.
- Southeastern – no lifting of restrictions on working days.
- South West Trains – no lifting of restrictions on working days.
- Virgin Trains – restrictions lifted from afternoon of 23rd December to 2nd January.
See the National Rail website for full details of engineering works over the festive period, or call 020 7068 0519 for National Rail Enquiries.
There are generally no trains running on Christmas Day itself, and very few on Boxing Day.
- Our free guide to getting the best train ticket – find out how to get the best value ticket, and affordable luxury train travel.
- Use the Which? tool to work out what compensation you are due after a delay – each train company has different standards, use our tool to find our who gives you what.
- Which? research shows poor quality advice at ticket offices and over the phone – for the third time running, Which? found advice on which ticket to buy wanting.