I’m pretty new to travelling on the rails, and I often times find myself booking the cheapest tickets despite them being for later travel than needed.

I’ve been doing a fair bit of research about the peak times for trains etc but I just can’t wrap my head around it. I am due to travel to Brighton on the 24th August and once again found myself booking the cheapest ticket. As it is a super off peak, I know there are restrictions around what times I can travel.

I’m wanting to leave around 8:30am however the original train I’m to get on leaves at 12:30pm which isn’t the most ideal thing. I was wondering if it would be acceptable for me to just get into the earlier train without booking the ticket or would I get into trouble for it as it’s a different peak time?

Additional information about my itinerary:

  • The ticket is a super off-peak return.

    Valid only for travel via (changing or passing through) Havant.

  • My original train departs at 12:35 from Sherborne (SHE) and arrives in Brighton (BTN) at 16:21 via South Western, Great Western and Southern Railways.

  • The train I need to get on leaves SHE at 08:35 and arrives in BTN at 12:21 via the same companies.

  • Both of these trains and travel times pass through Havant.

Should I be worried? I ordered these tickets online and the price difference around £13, I’m more than willing to pay the difference but would like to know if I needed to?

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  • 4
    Did you check out 'other trains you can travel on with this ticket' on the national rail site?
    – Willeke
    Commented Aug 21, 2022 at 23:18
  • 12
    The online price difference is not the one you would probably end up paying on the train when the ticket inspector makes you buy a valid fare - you would be paying full price, not a discounted fare (which is what the online prices are), so depending on the route it might be as much as a hundred pounds… Buy a new ticket in advance.
    – user29788
    Commented Aug 21, 2022 at 23:45
  • 11
    Please don't use UK National Rail station codes (e.g. 'SHE' for Sherborne and 'BTN' for Brighton) without typing the name in full at least once. Not everyone knows at once what they mean, including knowledgeable UK railway people. Commented Aug 22, 2022 at 14:52
  • 8
    Paraphrasing: "I have a bought a cheap ticket which is only valid at certain times of day, can I use it outside those times?" Answer: "No". You can however exchange it for a full refund at any time before you travel.
    – David258
    Commented Aug 24, 2022 at 11:24
  • Compared to those fools who travel daily to and from work (peak hours) I will outwit them (fancy them paying normal price or having to fork an enormous amount of money for a season ticket), I will travel exactly the same time as those mugs but pay much less for my ticket because I surreptitiously typed a different time and benefited enormously thanks to a huge discount. So, not only am I outsmarting the Railway company but I'm also cheating every single poor blockhead who has no choice but to travel at peak time in order to get to work/university/a job interview/hospital appointment etc.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Aug 24, 2022 at 19:49

4 Answers 4


I was wondering if it would be acceptable for me to just get into the earlier train without booking the ticket


or would I get into trouble for it as it’s a different peak time?

Yes. Your off-peak ticket is not valid on a peak train, so you are riding without a ticket. If you get caught, at the very least you will have to pay the full same-day price for the train you are sitting on. The conductor may also choose to hit you with fine for riding without a valid ticket but that depends on how they typically handle this case.

Should I be worried?

If you are riding a train which you don't have a ticket for you should indeed be worried

I ordered these tickets online and the price difference around £13, I’m more than willing to pay the difference but would like to know if I needed too?

The ticket came with terms and conditions that you agreed to when you bought it. These terms include the change rules. Maybe you can change the ticket for free, maybe you have to pay a change fee, maybe you can't change it all.

Look, at 8:35 the trains are packed with commuters, at 12:35 the trains will be a lot emptier. That's the reason why the train operator offers off-peak tickets for a lower price: to incentivise people to ride at 12:35 not 8:35. You can not expect to take advantage of this pricing and still be able ride the peak train . You need to buy a ticket that's valid for the train you actually want to ride.


A few well-meaning answers here that are right, but for the wrong reason, so going to set out the correct process for others who may come across this.

Rules for your ticket: https://www.nationalrail.co.uk/Bd

Your ticket's not valid to use a train that arrives in London before 2pm. The 08:35 arrives in London at 10:49, so that's not valid for use.

If you do use that train, you won't be charged a full new ticket, however – in line with National Rail Conditions of Travel section 9.5.

9.5 Where you: 9.5.1 are using a time-restricted Ticket (such as an “off-peak” or “super-off-peak” Ticket) that is correctly dated but invalid for the service on which you are travelling; ... you will be charged the difference between the fare that you have paid and the lowest price Ticket that is valid for the train you are using.

That would be £109.20 less the £46 already paid, or £63.20. In practice, you would probably be sold a new single fare for £54.60.

Now, what you can do, which is a little off-piste, is take the 07:56 from Sherborne. This train terminates at Basingstoke and does not go on to London, so does not fall foul of the ticket restriction. You would then get off at Salisbury at 08:37 and take the 08:50 to Romsey*, again the train doesn't go on to London and isn't restricted. Alight at Southampton Central at 09:28, then it's an hour wait until the Brighton train at 10:28, arriving 12:21 like you wanted to.

None of the trains you are using go to or from London, so the time restrictions don't bite.

A health warning – this is a validity loophole. The majority of super off-peak tickets on South Western don't become valid until 11am. It's pretty much a given that the train conductors, if you encounter them, will challenge the validity of your ticket pretty heavily, and even though it is valid for the reasons I've explained, you may well have to argue and explain yourself. You may even be charged an excess fare (though you won't be "fined" as another posted incorrectly suggests; only courts and police can issue fines), and that may be difficult to get back.

If you want to take the low-risk route (or if 07:56 is too early for your liking), you should cancel your ticket and rebook for the desired journey. There's currently no admin fee to cancel a super off-peak ticket assuming it's submitted for refund by 18:00 on the day before travel. If you can't get an advance fare, you will be best buying two single tickets, one there and one back.

*The Romsey train calls at Romsey twice in a "figure of 6" arrangement via Southampton, so may be identified with the destination of Chandlers Ford on the departure screens at Salisbury.

  • Ooooh, good catch! I will amend my answer to make my error clear.
    – MadHatter
    Commented Aug 22, 2022 at 9:00
  • 1
    Hang on, though, doesn't 10.1.3 mean that if you're on a penalty-fare TOC (which includes SouthWestern) a Penalty Fare may still be charged?
    – MadHatter
    Commented Aug 22, 2022 at 9:15
  • 3
    How did you find the restrictions list for that ticket? I've sometimes struggled to figure out the rules for off peak or super off peak validity for particular tickets in the past, and info on how to answer this generally would really add to this answer.
    – James_pic
    Commented Aug 22, 2022 at 9:55
  • 4
    @James_pic I use Avantix Traveller, which is available via The Stationery Office, but you can also use brfares.com. Once you have the two-letter restriction code for a ticket, you just put that after nationalrail.co.uk/
    – island
    Commented Aug 22, 2022 at 13:40
  • 1
    @MadHatter Yes, although that's a topic of a lot of debate on other forums ^^; In practice, SWR guards are not authorised as penalty fare collectors so will offer only excesses or a new ticket.
    – island
    Commented Aug 22, 2022 at 13:42

I don't think this ticket is valid on the 8.35, for the very simple reason that you can't buy one.

If you plug that route into National Rail Enquiries, then at the time of writing it will show you a Super Off-Peak Single for the 12.35 and later services; all the earlier ones are Anytime Singles. So this strongly suggests your ticket will not be valid on an earlier train.

Presumably the earlier trains will not be in the "super off peak" band for at least one of the companies involved, but it can be little tricky to figure out exactly how those are defined . For South-Western, it seems to be "after twelve if not going to London"; Great Western and Southern just seem to say "check National Rail".

I have never tried changing a ticket type like this and I don't know if you will be able to just pay the difference on the day - I worry maybe not and they'll just say "you need a new ticket, pay up".


As others have mentioned, your ticket is not valid on the earlier train. Edit: island explains the actual procedure for travelling with an inapplicable time-restricted ticket in his/her excellent answer elsewhere. That said, (s)he also notes that the guard may need to be gently walked through your arguments in respect of a cunning routing plan, and in my experience, this often applies to procedures like the one detailed in s9.5 also. Which is to say that you may end up having to pay a large penalty fare on the train, then applying for it to be (mostly) refunded later.

So I thought to discuss what you should do about it. As I understand it, your ticket is not an "Advance Purchase" ticket, it is merely an ordinary open ticket bought in advance. As such, refunds are governed by the National Rail Conditions of Travel. s29.1 specifies that

If you purchase any Ticket(s) and then choose not to travel, you may apply for a refund from the original retailer, unless the terms and conditions of your Ticket(s) state otherwise. You must do this no more than 28 days after the expiry of the Ticket(s) unless the terms and conditions of your Ticket state otherwise.

Although s29.2 permits the retailer to keep a small admin fee (up to £10 per ticket) I've never experienced this, and have got prompt and complete refunds when I've needed them, although I would also never buy an open ticket in advance. That said, in these straitened times, it can only be a short time before some bright retailer realises they can hang on to even more of your money.

So I would go back to the website where you bought the tickets, see if it has a facility for applying for a refund (and hopefully no special T&Cs that bar this), and ask for one. Then use such a refund as you get to buy an Off-Peak Return, which seems to be the ticket that covers the journey you want to make (assuming an acceptable return time). I confess that I think the price difference is £26.30 (£106.30-£80), though, which makes me wonder if I've failed to grasp something about your case.

  • Good thought on the refund - hadn't occured to me this would be straightforward but if course for an online ticket it should be. Agree this is the best way forward. For the price difference, I think the OP was looking at a single not return, which might explain it? Commented Aug 22, 2022 at 8:48
  • IME, in-person refunds are even easier than online, but yes, I see what you mean. Regarding the single/return, that makes sense, except the difference between the super off-peak single and the anytime day single is £9.80, so I'm still confused. I'm confused a lot, though!
    – MadHatter
    Commented Aug 22, 2022 at 8:55
  • One other thing on refunds. I always pick up my tickets at the station, that way the office will refund your ticket (if it's worth it after the fee, clearly not on £13) or give you a credit against the new one you buy. If you buy and print out online you have no chance: the office can't help you and you haven't got time before the booked journey to request a refund.
    – May
    Commented Aug 22, 2022 at 13:41
  • I know ScotRail charge £10 (or did almost exactly a year ago when I was supposed to be travelling Wick-Inverness but couldn't make it - and then it was nearly half the fare). Of course that's the other end of the country. Commented Aug 22, 2022 at 15:21

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