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I'm trying to book a train journey in the UK for September. We are currently in April and the National Rail website does not allow me to reserve tickets such a long time (5 months) in advance.

So here is the question: how early can I reserve train tickets in the UK?

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In the case of the UK, the earliest bookable tickets offered by National Rail are Advance Tickets. These are discounted early-bird single journey fares, available in limited numbers and with strict conditions. Advanced tickets are valid only for the selected journey (although they are changeable prior to departure) and non-refundable.

Turns out that National Rail has a webpage showing the dates in which Advance Ticket sales open, broken down per subsidiary. This page is automatically updated every day, since Advance Ticket sales open roughly as early as 12 weeks before departure.

Note that the train journey will appear in the Journey Planner, and hence be available for reservation, only after the train timetable has been finalised and published. Moreover the train timetable is dependent on engineering works. This is to say that the opening of the Advance Ticket sales does not guarantee that a ticket for the journey can be booked.

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    12 weeks = 6 fortnights... I learned that British word recently and I am trying to use it somewhere ;) – Nean Der Thal Apr 15 '15 at 10:42
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    But reserving early doesn't guarantee you a good deal, primarily for bank holidays and other ones. – DumbCoder Apr 15 '15 at 11:40
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    Some special features of advance tickets: (1) as @JoErNanO says, they are valid only for the specific departure time that you choose at the time of booking. If you miss your train then you will need a new ticket. (2) If you get an e-ticket that you print yourself then you will need a form of identification to verify that you are the person who bought the ticket. (3) If you have one of the orange credit card-sized tickets printed by the train company then the ticket will have two pieces (a ticket and a reservation). You need both for the ticket to be valid. – Ubiquitous May 3 '15 at 9:44
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    The Caledonian Sleeper now allows booking 12 months in advance. sleeper.scot – vclaw May 4 '15 at 13:42
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    The Trainline has a really handy Ticket Alert system that will email you when tickets become available (thetrainline.com/ticketalert) - don't actually use Trainline to book, because they charge extortionate fees. Also, @Ubiquitous - newer orange tickets have the ticket and the reservation on a single piece. Ticket printing machines are being switched over (Northern Rail ones are mostly done, other operators are being rolled out; machines in ticket offices will be changed last). – Richard Gadsden May 14 '15 at 16:07

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