I will be commuting between these two stations beginning 11th September, and was wondering what exactly the term "all permitted routes" means.

My typical route will be that I take the 08.05 from Aschurch, and change at University (Birmingham) to arrive at Five Ways at approx. 08.47. I will be purchasing a season ticket and know that it will allow me unlimited travel between the two stations, but how do I find out which stations I am able to interchange at? For example, if I were to miss my interchange at University, would I be able to continue to Birmingham New Street and go to Five Ways from there?

I don't necessarily need anyone here to do the research for me, I just want to know if National Rail has some kind of email to contact, as I am busy during the day and don't have time to make a phone call. Would my best bet be to go to a station and ask there?

Lots of love,

A not-so-seasoned potential season ticket holder.

3 Answers 3


First of all, as others have said, since you have a season ticket, you're also allowed to start, finish, or break your journey, or change trains, for any reason or no reason at all, at any of the intermediate stations along these routes I'm about to describe. You may also travel as many times as you want during the period of the ticket's validity, so if it's convenient for you to perform two broken journeys "back to back" for some reason, you are perfectly allowed to do so. I will list here the end-to-end routes for which the ticket is valid, but you can get off at any intermediate station, or start or finish your journey there. There are some exceptions to this in general but none of them apply to this specific fare.

Your permitted routes are:

  • Five ways to Ashchurch via University, then the line avoiding Droitwich/Worcester (always valid due to shortest route rule)
  • Five ways to Ashchurch via any train that is advertised on station screens or in timetables as travelling from Five Ways to Ashchurch without any changes being required (always valid due to direct train rule)
  • Routes that are permitted by the routeing guide:
    • Using routeing points Birmingham Group and Worcester Group:
      • Five Ways to Birmingham New Street, then back down via either of the two routes towards Barnt Green (either on a train that goes via University or one that avoids it), then via Droitwich and Worcester to Ashchurch
      • Five ways to Birmingham New Street, then to Smethwick (either on a train from New Street or by walking to Moor Street), then via Stourbridge and Worcester to Ashchurch
    • Using routeing points Birmingham Group and Cheltenham Spa:
      • Five Ways to Birmingham New Street, then via any of the previously mentioned routes via Worcester to Cheltenham Spa, then doubling back to Ashchurch
      • Five Ways to Birmingham New Street, then direct to Cheltenham Spa avoiding Worcester (once again, via either University or via the "fast" route with no intermediate stations), then doubling back to Ashchurch
      • Five Ways to Birmingham New Street, then via Smethwick to Droitwich or either Worcester station (allowed double-back due to group stations rule for interchange purposes only), then from there back north to Bromsgrove, then south to Cheltenham Spa, then doubling back to Aschurch.

I couldn't find any negative easements that would prohibit these, but that's not to say there isn't one (perhaps I just couldn't find it!).

Note that while your fare as mentioned above is valid for doubling back at either end, exiting the station at Birmingham or Cheltenham might well cause you grief from less well-informed gateline staff. It's in fact surprising how generous this particular fare is with regards to double-backs, because most wouldn't be valid for this sort of thing. If you haven't yet bought the ticket I'd echo Henning's advice to buy one for the same price with more "obvious" validity, to save you potential hassle.

Through a very vague easement you could also possibly argue it's valid all the way to Gloucester but I wouldn't like to be the one doing that!

700093 Customers in possession of tickets routed "Any Permitted" may double back between Gloucester and Cheltenham Spa.


You can calculate a permitted route buy going to http://data.atoc.org/rp_calc to see what routing points your journey is made up of. Once you have done this click the link to download the table showing what maps make up this route, you can view the maps themselves at: http://data.atoc.org/routeing-maps

Once you have done this you need to then ensure your route meets the requirements specified in F8 of http://iblocks-rg-publication.s3-website-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/nrg_detail.pdf but briefly:

  1. Tracing must start at one of the ends of the route code.
  2. All maps must be used.
  3. Maps must be used in strict sequence, first to last or last to first, for a return journey.
  4. Tracing may move from map to map only at a point where the two maps touch.
  5. Once route tracing has left a map it cannot return to it.
  6. Journeys may not double back except between stations which are members of a routeing point group for interchange or unless an easement permits it (http://www.atoc.org/clientfiles/files/easements.pdf).

Note this is a generic answer as op said that they didn't want someone to do the resurch for them. I'd tell op that if you know the rules and have done it before then it doesn't take long and if they have any problems I'm happy to tell them.

  • Thanks for the info, much appreciated. Just to make sure, can I get off at an earlier station and exit that station at will, or do the rules of "shorting" apply to season tickets too? Sep 3, 2018 at 20:02
  • No worries, I'm not sure I understand your comment though. The rules of shorting still apply to season ticket, but the rule is that you are allowed (only advance tickets cannot be start/stops short). Note that while it is definitely allowed you may need to ask a member of staff if there are ticket barriers in operation as your ticket may not work them.
    – skifans
    Sep 3, 2018 at 20:09
  • It might be useful to link to the root of the Routeing Guide data too: data.atoc.org/routeing-guide Sep 4, 2018 at 0:09
  • You've missed the other two ways to determine permitted routes - direct trains and shortest route. You've also missed that easements can be negative. I think in any case better tailoring your answer to the specific case would be more useful, since the routeing guide isn't exactly the most intuitive of things!
    – Muzer
    Sep 4, 2018 at 10:20

Season tickets are valid between any intermediate stations on a permitted route between the points it is issued for (see paragraph 16.3 in the National Rail Conditions of Travel). So changing trains at University is definitely not a problem; you could also choose to start or stop your journey at University or any other intermediate station.

A season ticket issued between Ashchurch and Five Ways would not allow you to go to Birmingham New Street and double back -- and likewise it would not allow going back to Ashchurch by taking a fast train to Cheltenham Spa and doubling back from there (which appears to be quicker at certain times of the day).

However, you can buy a season ticket all the way from Cheltenham Spa to Birmingham FOR THE SAME PRICE as an Ashchurch to Five Ways ticket would cost. This will give you superior flexibility with no downsides. Since partial journeys are allowed, it would still allow you to go directly from Ashchurch to Five Ways.

There are some destinations north of Birmingham you could extend to still for the same price, including for example Tipton, Walsall, Four Oaks, Water Orton, Solihull, or Wythall. This could give you some additional flexibility for local journeys if you can predict you might want to go somewhere on one of those lines even once when you buy the ticket. (Gloucester, Wolverhampton or Birmingham International would cost you extra, though).

But you'll need to buy it for one specific endpoint from the beginning; you cannot claim after the fact that your shorter season ticket should also get you there because it's the same price.

I found fares to compare at http://www.brfares.com

  • "A season ticket issued between Ashchurch and Five Ways would not allow you to go to Birmingham New Street and double back -- and likewise it would not allow going back to Ashchurch by taking a fast train to Cheltenham Spa and doubling back from there (which appears to be quicker at certain times of the day).". I believed this at first without question, but actually having checked it myself this doesn't seem to be true at all! The rules clearly state you can take the shortest route from the origin/destination to the valid routeing point, and both Birmingham and Cheltenham are valid RPs.
    – Muzer
    Sep 4, 2018 at 12:40
  • (Still upvoted for the good advice on buying a "more obviously valid" ticket for the same price)
    – Muzer
    Sep 4, 2018 at 12:42
  • @Muzer: Hmm, yes, it does say so in the routeing guide instructions -- but it is not obvious to me whether that trumps the general prohibition against doubling back. Would you know an authoritative reference that clarifies the precedence between those two rules? Sep 4, 2018 at 13:44
  • There's simply no general prohibition against doubling back. It's hard to prove a negative but it's true that in the general case there's nothing in the RG instructions or in the Conditions of Travel which generally prohibit doubling back. Doubling back is prohibited when calculating routes where the start and end routeing points are the same, or when tracing maps.
    – Muzer
    Sep 4, 2018 at 15:14
  • @Muzer: That makes sense. Editing to strike out wrongness. Sep 4, 2018 at 15:52

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