I will visit London with a friend from October 7th to October 13th. We will go to Brighton one day and I wanted to find out how much that will cost. I went to http://ojp.nationalrail.co.uk and it showed me the following:

To Brighton: Departure at 09:25 on October 11th, £17 for two passengers.
Return to London: Departure at 19:03, same day, £10 for two passengers.
Total: £27

When I chose to pay, I was redirected to https://ticket.southernrailway.com where the price strangely was £57.

Why does it suddenly cost £30 more?

  • I don't know the answer to why it costs more, but I think I know the solution to your problem: when you search on National Rail and it shows you the £27 return fares for two passengers, click on the "Other tickets" drop down, select a different seller in the "Buy from:" menu, I used "Virgin Trains", and then go back to the top of the page and click "Buy now for £27.00". It should take you to Virgin's website where you can buy it for the advertised price. – SgrA Sep 11 '18 at 15:12
  • My comment might have been a bit confusing, so I've outlined what I meant here: i.imgur.com/5Xiqr1A.png , which should get you the ticket at the promised fare. – SgrA Sep 11 '18 at 15:25
  • @B.Liu good grief, this is so complicated! Here (in Switzerland) you can just purchase tickets from the SBB (swiss federal railways) and you always pay the same price, no matter which franchise you travel with. – NicolasB Sep 11 '18 at 15:29
  • @NicolasBurgunder British rail fare are generally complicated! Though good news is that what you see is transient - see my answer below. – B.Liu Sep 11 '18 at 15:31
  • @NicolasBurgunder that's how it's supposed to work here; you can buy the same tickets from any franchise's website for the same price. In practice there are usually subtle differences between how the systems work. In this case, Southern's system is currently broken. – Muzer Sep 11 '18 at 15:32

Southern mentioned on their ticket engine at around 40 minutes after you asked the question:

Advance Purchase tickets are temporarily unavailable due to a technical issue currently under investigation. We apologise for this and hope to restore the service as quickly as possible.

This means that no one is currently able to by advance fare tickets on Southern. These include the £17 and £10 one-way tickets you saw on National Rail website.

Since the system is unable to see any advance tickets being available, it automatically offered you the next cheapest tickets, which are the £57 off-peak return ticket for two.

Usually under such cases, you can try purchasing the advance tickets from another TOC (Train Operating Companies), for example Virgin Train as mentioned in one of the comments. Or you can always try later, though you risk that fare being sold out.

  • 1
    Sounds like a good answer. I'd add the suggestion of trying a different TOC's booking engine to this answer. – Muzer Sep 11 '18 at 15:33
  • @Muzer good suggestion. By the way: how are the chances on getting cheap tickets when buying them on the day of travel directly at the station? – NicolasB Sep 11 '18 at 15:34
  • @Muzer Agreed with one small point - with the ticket in question being one of those Southern promotional advance fare, will the purchase run into any problem when purchased via other TOCs? – B.Liu Sep 11 '18 at 15:38
  • @NicolasBurgunder On the day of travel at the station ticket office or vending machines, you can only buy flexible tickets (eg super off-peak, off-peak, or anytime singles and returns). In this case you're looking at £28.50 each for an off-peak day return (no travel before 09:30) or £32.60 each for an anytime day return. – Muzer Sep 11 '18 at 15:38
  • 1
    @B.Liu I didn't think this was a promotional fare? I assumed it was just a "normal" advance, which can be sold by any TOC. – Muzer Sep 11 '18 at 15:39

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