I recently traveled by train in the UK. I went to the station and bought a return ticket from Bristol to Oxford. The machine presented a huge number of options but in the end I chose a super off peak return as I was coming back the next day out of what I thought were peak times.

When I attempted to come back at 9:40 am I found that my ticket wasn't valid until 10:30am. I checked my ticket and there was nothing written on it about when it was valid and no times were shown on the machine I bought it from either.

How on earth can you tell which ticket you should have at what time of day?

  • @pnuts. Given that there is no way to know at the point you buy a ticket from a machine in station, can they really fine you when you get it wrong? – eleanora Apr 24 '15 at 10:25
  • @pnuts Isn't it something to do with when the train arrives and not when it leaves as well? Also, I can't see any way to check when in the station except for to go to the ticket desk, which seems to defeat the point of the machines. – eleanora Apr 24 '15 at 13:18
  • 2
    @eleanora "can they really fine you when you get it wrong?" - put it this way, the head of Transport for London recently described some UK train company ticket conductors as "Gestapo-like" and accused them of deliberately trying to fine as many people as possible as a deliberate revenue-maximising strategy. And that's a top public official saying that, on the record... theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/apr/23/… (warning, article contains quotes of him swearing) – user56reinstatemonica8 Apr 24 '15 at 15:44
  • Ticket machines are intended for purchasing a ticket when you already know exactly what ticket you want - many people do know exactly what they want because they do the journey regularly. If you have questions, then you should talk to a human. – Richard Gadsden Dec 11 '15 at 11:53

I would recommend one of two options:

  • Go to the ticket window at the station, not a machine. The machines are quick if you know exactly what you want, but the ticket office staff know the system much better than anyone and are able to help if you're not sure exactly what you need.
  • Buy (or at least search for) your ticket online. You can say exactly what train you want, and see the price, and usually also see what other trains you can travel on with the same ticket.

Regarding "no times were shown on the machine I bought it from", there is usually a "more information" button on the more modern machines that brings up a screen showing the restrictions on one particular ticket, but this is still not necessarily easy to interpret.

| improve this answer | |
  • Thank you. I did double check and there is was no "more information" button next to each type of ticket that I could see. I would be very interested to know if anyone has direct experience of a "more information" option on a ticket machine which actually told you at which times your ticket would be valid both out and back. – eleanora Apr 24 '15 at 13:19
  • @eleanora I doubt you'd get a machine to tell you that - ticket restrictions can be more complicated than that, eg by route. Ticket office and station staff can normally explain them to you, and may even have printed sheets listing what trains you can/can't get with certain tickets. (eg Oxford station staff will give you a printed list of trains an off peak ticket isn't valid on coming back from London if you ask) – Gagravarr Apr 24 '15 at 14:30
  • On certain train companies' machines, I've seen an information screen like that at the end of the ticket selection process, and I'm pretty sure it mentions the peak-time restrictions on cheap day returns - but it's a full screen of text that's only shown for a few seconds before it's covered by an only slightly smaller popup demanding that I confirm my ticket choice and proceed to payment. So it's not as helpful as they meant it to be. – alg Apr 24 '15 at 17:09
  • @alg I would love to see a screenshot! I really did go back and check again and I didn't see anything about the times for "super off-peak" trains. – eleanora Apr 24 '15 at 18:34
  • I was at a FGW station later on Friday, so I had a look at their machines. In this case the summary information screen that appeared between selecting the ticket and actually buying it just said "Peak travel restrictions apply Mon-Fri". The text was identical for off-peak and super off-peak, so clearly not completely helpful. There was no "more information" button in this case, though there was one for "Not via London" earlier in the process. I'm sure I've seen times on a "more information" button elsewhere. I stick with my first suggestion of buying at the ticket office if you're not sure. – djr Apr 26 '15 at 8:18

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.