Why does National Rail suggest an Off-Peak Return for a departure from Reading to London on a Friday morning? Clicking through to the relevant restrictions clearly states that the ticket is Not valid on trains timed to depart after 04:29 and before 09:30. Christmas lifting of restrictions do not start until the 23rd of December.

Screenshot National Rail

Is there a bug in the National Rail travel planner? Is there another obscure rule that I'm not aware of? Is the Off-Peak ticket offered valid on this service? It does apply the "Railcard not valid" rule (I searched for 2 people with 1 Two Together Railcard).

Direct link to national rail query.

  • The train in question appears to leave Worcester Shrub Hill (its origin station) at 05:11, which I thought might be the issue, but that's also after 04:29.
    – waiwai933
    Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 23:48
  • There's definitely something weird going on there - when I click on the link I get "Return from £33.40" and "2 singles from £48.20".
    – djr
    Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 23:50
  • 2
    @djr That's just because gerrit has selected 2 tickets rather than 1.
    – waiwai933
    Commented Nov 20, 2017 at 23:51
  • 1
    At a guess, either the restrictions page is right and the travel planner wrongly thinks that Fri 22nd is off peak because Christmas, or the travel planner is right and the restrictions page is wrong. But that doesn't help you very much and I have no idea how you'd resolve it.
    – djr
    Commented Nov 21, 2017 at 11:58
  • 2
    Incidentally, if you're going to St Pancras to catch a Eurostar, you might want to look at CIV tickets ( seat61.com/UKconnections.htm#London%20International%20CIV ) which are often about the price of off peak even at peak times.
    – djr
    Commented Nov 21, 2017 at 12:01

1 Answer 1


Looking up the Reading to London journey on the BR Fares website (not an official website, but contains details of ticketing restrictions in the national fares database), and querying that fare, you find under the Unpublished Restrictions section of the Off Peak Return ticket (5B):

Restriction Code: 5B

This restriction code applies on the following dates/days:
From              Until                Applies on these days:
Sun 3 Sep 2017    Sun 3 Sep 2017          Tu We Th Fr   
Mon 4 Sep 2017    Sun 17 Dec 2017      Mo Tu We Th Fr   <<<--- Should be 23rd Dec
Tues 8 May 2018   Mon 28 May 2018      Mo Tu We Th Fr   
Tues 29 May 2018  Mon 4 Jun 2018          Tu We Th Fr   
Tues 5 Jun 2018   Mon 27 Aug 2018      Mo Tu We Th Fr    

Which to me suggests they have not correctly programmed the Christmas lifting of restrictions into the fares database - the 5B code doesn't apply after the 17th December here. If you query that fare on the National Rail website for, say, the 15th December, it only offers you the Anytime Return as being valid, as expected.

Seems like a programming error in the database. Technically it should be accepted if you have been sold that ticket via the website and can produce the valid itinerary, but it might be difficult to argue this with the conductor on the day.

  • The 'arguing' problem probably starts at the ticket gates, which will refuse entry to an off-peak ticket at those times.
    – gerrit
    Commented Dec 8, 2017 at 16:52
  • Even more than that seems to be awry -- last Tuesday I was going from Oxford to Ealing Broadway, and the National Rail planner found a departure at 17:30 with a change in Slough that it said would be OK for an Off-Peak ticket. But joining the very same GWR train at Reading at 17:57 would need an Anytime ticket -- as I found out after having jumped on an earlier (also off-peak) XC train to Reading in the hope of perhaps catching an better connection. [I boarded the GWR train there with my off-peak ticket anyway, but it was never checked]. Commented Dec 8, 2017 at 20:42
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    [Some research later] Why, isn't that byzantine! The off-peak single fares from either Oxford or Reading to Ealing Broadway both carry restriction code P7, which ostensbily restricts "up" (towards London) journeys only in the morning peak. However, brfares.com shows unpublished restrictions that include several dozen 2-minute intervals in the evening where boarding at (specifically) Reading is disallowed. Where's the point in that? And why keep it secret? Commented Dec 8, 2017 at 21:03
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    [Even more thinking later] It looks like they're (clumsily) trying to code "not valid on fast trains that depart Paddington 1600-1915" (but valid on locals), and the "up" train I joined was simply collateral damage of that because it happened to depart Reading in the same minute as one of those fast "down"s went in the other direction. <facepalm> Commented Dec 8, 2017 at 21:27
  • AIUI the "unpublished restrictions" are intended to be a computer-readable form of the actual human-readable restrictions. Unfortunately this system of computer-readable restrictions is not able to properly represent the actual contractual restrictions on many tickets and no one seems willing or able to fix it so it can. Commented Feb 13, 2020 at 22:06

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