Advance fares are often valid on the fare-setting TOC and connections. For example, Advance Fares set by VWC between Birmingham and Lancaster in each of the types VDS, VCS, or VBS, allow travel on connecting services. Yet while standing at the platform in Preston, I could hear a station announcement that VWC tickets are not valid on an imminently departing Northern or Transpennine service calling at Lancaster.

When I book an Advance ticket from Birmingham to Lancaster, how can I tell whether I can take any connecting service between Preston and Lancaster, or only the services operated by VWC?

  • Don't you need a reservation coupon for each train when it comes to ADVANCE fares? The system won't let you buy a train ticket for an invalid train. – Calchas Feb 22 '16 at 15:27
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    @Calchas Not all trains have reservations, and sometimes trains are cancelled. Last November I booked VTWC tickets Birmingham-Lancaster. Last January, my train didn't travel beyond Preston. I had the choice in taking the Transpennine service 10 minutes later (ignoring the announcement Virgin trains tickets are not valid for this service) or the VWC service 40 minutes later. The Transpennine service doesn't do reservations. Note that my train was not technically cancelled, rather the entire timetable had changed until late February. I did not reach the controller before disembarking. – gerrit Feb 22 '16 at 15:32

I think what you want is covered in the Frequently Asked Questions about Advance fares section of the National Rail Enquiries (internal) Knowledgebase (iKB), which isn't available online officially. However, one of the nice members of Rail UK Forums posted that to their site a few weeks back in response to a different query

Q25 - Can a passenger with an Advance ticket travel on an earlier connecting train?

A: Yes if it is non-reservable, no if it is reservable.

An exception that benefits passengers: Where Virgin Trains East Coast is a connecting TOC from Stevenage via London and vice versa, e.g. “AP London-Reading”, or “VWC & Connections”, Virgin Trains East Coast waives the need to travel on the exact Virgin Trains East Coast train booked on this relatively short journey Stevenage ↔ Kings Cross, even though retail systems will force a reservation to be made.

So, it all depends on if seat reservations would've been possible on the connecting train you want to take. If there are seat reservations possible, then an advanced ticket is only valid where you have a reservation on that service. Where no seat reservations are possible, a & Connections ticket is

Checking easily which trains can and can't have seats reserved is probably a different question... If you ask staff at the station about a specific train they can tell you though!

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