I am planning a train trip in Scotland from roundabout Aberdeen to Thurso on December 29th and have noted that the cheaper 'advance single' tickets can only be bought up to December 23rd. I first thought that the tickets may have been already sold out between Christmas and New Year, but there are also no advance tickets available for later dates in January.

The absence of advance tickets starting on December 24th has been so for about a week, so it does also not seem to be the case that the tickets can be bought within a fixed period, e.g. 6 or 7 weeks before travel.

Does anyone know if at all and when ScotRail advance tickets will be available for sale for trips on December 29th? According to a few arbitrary tests on nationalrail.co.uk, advance tickets from other train operators seem to be available for the relevant period.

Just for completeness: I am not able to reach ScotRail by phone. Whenever I call, all lines are busy and I am told to hang up and call later. When asking in writing, I got a response that advance tickets are not available yet after the time table change in December. Since the time table change is on December 12th and advance tickets can be bought up to December 23rd, this answer does not really make sense.

Edit: Just a screenshot to accompany my comment to barrowc.

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  • What is your itinerary? Are you searching on the ScotRail site itself scotrail.co.uk/plan-your-journey/timetables-and-routes/…?
    – Traveller
    Commented Nov 10, 2022 at 13:53
  • @Traveller Yes, I am searching on ScotRail's own web site and my itinerary is roundabout Aberdeen-Thurso. I have checked other routes as well and there seem to be no advance tickets at all to be bought after December 24th, not only on the route I am planning. Commented Nov 10, 2022 at 13:54
  • 1
    Personal experience is htat availability of advance tickets on all operators is pretty arbitary, and somethings different prices of advance tickets become available at different times.
    – CMaster
    Commented Nov 10, 2022 at 14:28
  • Right now on Scotrail's website I can see Advance Single tickets for Aberdeen-Thurso on 29th December. First leg: Leaving Aberdeen at 1010hrs, reaching Inverness at 1226hrs. Second leg: Leaving Inverness at 1400hrs, reaching Thurso at 1750hrs. The cost is shown as £26.80 with the tickets being "Limited Availability" (but that probably just reflects that it's quite a small train to begin with)
    – barrowc
    Commented Nov 10, 2022 at 23:04
  • @barrowc That is exactly the train I was planning to travel with, but when I look it up on ScotRail's web page, I am only offered full price tickets. I've tried again now and added a screenshot of the search result to my answer. When I look for the same train on December 29th, there are advance tickets for £26.80 available. All advance tickets are marked with 'limited availability' in the search result. I don't think that has anything to do with the size of the train. Commented Nov 11, 2022 at 7:48

2 Answers 2


Advance tickets are not usually released for sale until the exact timetable is published, because they are on specific trains and things get very messy if you sell tickets on the stopping 15.15 train and then only run a fast 15.45 one instead.

In principle, the new timetable comes out on December 12th, as you have noted. But the Christmas period is usually heavily disrupted by engineering work, and the timetables for those days, which are known in advance to be disrupted, do not get finalized until later.

From their website, there is one set of major work currently posted in this period, primarily affecting Edinburgh - Dundee - Aberdeen. If you are expecting to travel on those routes, I would definitely anticipate some disruption.

But it is possible that more work will be announced. I don't think it's possible to say for sure when that will be or when those days tickets will be released - in an extreme example, Avanti (possibly the worst of them) haven't yet released tickets for ten days from now(!) I think you have a decent chance of knowing later this month, but I wouldn't want to promise it...

  • 1
    Add to that the possibility of rail strikes (already planned for 19 November and on every Friday and Saturday after that until Christmas) and last minute cancellations due to lack of staff and I don’t think I’d be relying on travelling by rail at all over the Xmas/New Year period
    – Traveller
    Commented Nov 10, 2022 at 16:42
  • @Traveller I much prefer rail travel, and even I normally end up driving around that time of year Commented Nov 10, 2022 at 16:59
  • @Traveller Would it be more reliable to plan to take a bus instead? It does not sound very appealing to sit 8+ hours on a bus, but I won't have a car unless I rent one and I assume that one-way rentals are not necessarily very cheap. Commented Nov 10, 2022 at 17:43
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    @Tor-EinarJarnbjo Is your trip one way, or do you plan to return to Aberdeen? If so, when (bearing in mind 2 Jan is a public holiday in Scotland)? Is flying from Aberdeen an option?
    – Traveller
    Commented Nov 10, 2022 at 19:14
  • 1
    @Tor-EinarJarnbjo on that route, I would feel reasonably confident to assume the train will run & wait for tickets to be available, but it might be worth checking bus options just in case. Commented Nov 10, 2022 at 19:15

In Britain, Advance tickets are generally not sold until the timetable has been updated to incorporate any changes due to engineering work (this is different to other countries' railways, where tickets are released a set period in advance and then you are notified of any changes).

Whilst it doesn't look like there are any engineering works that will affect your journey, clearly ScotRail have not yet released Advances for the date you want to travel, and so you will need to wait.

You can sign up here to receive an alert when they do - however, due to the way that The Trainline's alert system works, you should search for a more popular journey such as Aberdeen to Inverness, as you will only receive an alert once Advance tickets are found in a search that someone makes - and very few people are likely to search for a journey from Aberdeen to Thurso.

Also, note that you may be able to save money by buying a combination of tickets rather than one through fare - e.g. Aberdeen to Inverness and Inverness to Thurso. There are ticket selling websites that will calculate this automatically for you, e.g. TrainSplit (though note that TrainSplit charges you a share of the saving).

This is known as "splitting" and is perfectly legal, in fact it's quite common. Your rights are essentially the same as if you had one through fare, with the exception that your train must stop at (or you must change trains at) the station(s) where you change from one ticket to the next. Again, sites like TrainSplit will take care of this automatically for you.

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