Looking at http://britrail.eurail.com/#/pass/britrail_passes/ if I am reading it correctly the pass is cheaper for a peak time return from Manchester to London then buying tickets from Virgin.

What am I missing?

  • @WeatherVane I think the link now works Jul 19, 2019 at 16:01
  • I see, standard class with 2 day validity is only €89. Jul 19, 2019 at 16:09

2 Answers 2


What are you missing? Just the limitations on Britrail vs An Open Return.


  • A britrail pass is only valid for people who are not residents of the UK.
  • Britrail passes offer youth/senior discount. Anytime tickets do not.
  • The "return" part of an anytime return is valid for any journey within 30 days of the outward journey. A 1 month Britrail pass is considerably more expensive. Although the non-consecutive passes also exist.

If you:

  • Do not live in the UK
  • Need to travel at peak times, and cannot get the much cheaper "Advance" type tickets for at least part of the journey (either outward or return).
  • Will return within 2 3, or 7 days of your outward journey, or can use the non-consecutive pass.

Then the Britrail pass may well be cheaper. It gets even better value if you make more train journeys using the pass. That said, just looking for next week, I can get "advance" type tickets form Virgin within peak hours, bringing the cost way, way down (as low as £36 to London during Peak and back, lower out of peak)

  • 2
    In other words, this is another form of market segmentation, and as with many others, the highest price is targeted at business travellers who want to be flexible (and aren't spending their own money), with the lowest aimed at tourists.
    – origimbo
    Jul 19, 2019 at 16:09
  • 1
    Well, commuters are the main target of premium rail prices, although yes, that particular route gets a lot of business traffic. But yeah, the first point - UK residency- is the one that really matters.
    – CMaster
    Jul 19, 2019 at 16:11
  • So as a person who pays the tax that funds the railways I can't use it....... Jul 19, 2019 at 16:17
  • 2
    The assumption is that in general tourists won't be making peak time journeys, and this is a good way of getting them to visit and use trains. If this was a sensible scheme to offer to UK residents, it presumably would be - but the reality is that peak time Manchester-London trains aren't exactly quiet. And that with a railcard and advance booking you can still beat the britrail prices.
    – CMaster
    Jul 19, 2019 at 16:20
  • 3
    "Britrail passes offer youth/senior discount. Anytime tickets do not." note that anytime tickets over a certain price do offer railcard discounts for the under 30s, over 60s, disabled, families and pairs of people travelling togehter. You have to buy the railcard but on many journeys it can be worth buying a railcard for just the one trip. Jul 19, 2019 at 17:17

Yes, the pass is much cheaper than buying all the tickets you may need individually, and in many cases a pass allowing unlimited travel on any 3 days in 30 is cheaper than one single ticket you might intend to buy. Especially if you use the free accompanying child pass. (You can also get a pass for an accompanying Briton if you're visiting someone and then traveling around with them.)

What's more, with the pass you don't need to book a specific time and worry about missing your train. And the premium for 1st class is less than the premium on individual tickets.

The only downsides (I've used these passes, mostly London Plus, for 5 years or more once or twice a year) are that you can't go through automated ticket barriers, but have to find an attended one where you can show the pass (or, in my experience, the cover/envelope it comes in) to an attendant, and you can't book a specific seat. I get 1st class passes and have never had a problem finding an unbooked seat to sit in. You also have to order it while you're still at home and have it delivered to your non-British address, so you need to plan in advance. And you'll need to line up at the first train station you reach to get it validated. These are very minor drawbacks.

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