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Suppose that I have a booked train only ticket (such as an Advance fare) consisting of more than one segment.

If the first train is late and I miss my connection to the second train, I can take a later train despite the notice booked train only.

If I already know that the first train is late before I depart, can I take an earlier first train, thus permitting me to catch the second train that I would otherwise have missed?

Case example: in the aftermath of Storm Desmond, pretty much all trains from Scotland and North West England to the Midlands and London are running 15–45 minutes late. Travellers who would normally transfer in the Midlands to catch (non-delayed) trains to the South Coast would miss their connection. Suppose I have a ticket where the second segment is the last train from Birmingham to the South Coast and I know I will miss it if I catch my booked train; can I depart earlier so I make it home the same day without the train company having to book me a taxi home in the middle of the night?

(I suspect that in practice, train staff will be friendly about this, but I wonder if there are any rules about it.)

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    I think you'll need to go to the station, explain the situation of the onward connection, and ask them to endorse your ticket onto the earlier train – Gagravarr Dec 11 '15 at 18:44
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According to the terms and conditions for advance fare tickets, you are not allowed to do so:

If you purchase an Advance ticket, you must use that ticket in the train specified when you book your ticket. However, if you miss this service because a previous connecting train service was delayed you will be able to travel on the next service provided by the Train Company with whom you were booked to travel without penalty.

So if you miss a connection because a previous train was delayed, you are allowed to use the next connection to reach your destination. You are not allowed to take an earlier train, even if it is expected that the booked train is delayed and you therefore will miss a connection.

I have no idea how the train staff will react if you try to do so.

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    In my experience, if there is a big delay that is affecting the whole network, the staff will be quite understanding in relaxing restrictions. – Calchas Dec 11 '15 at 21:31
  • it is an interesting point whether if you are booked on the 12.30 you can travel on the late-running 12.00, which is a service to your destination departing at 12.30. Most companies would say no, but I suspect a lawyer would disagree – TimLymington Dec 11 '15 at 23:21
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    @TimLymington If the 12.30 is also delayed then I think most TOCs would find it reasonable to switch to the noon train. Which company do you have in mind about saying no? (Is it South West Trains—you might be right ...) – Calchas Dec 12 '15 at 11:44

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