British Rail fares and timetables to/from London

Including types of tickets and money saving opportunities with train tickets

Paddington Station
Paddington station, London

London's rail network

London has a dense network of local suburban commuter trains, separate from London's famous Underground system.

These are slowly being integrated into a single coordinated London public transport system with common ticketing.

You can now use the Oyster card, London's public transport payment device of choice on most of London's rail system as well as London's buses, the Underground and the Docklands Light Railway (DLR).

We cover using London's train network on a dedicated page in the context of its part of an integrated London public transport system.

Rail Services in the London area - more details

The UK rail network from a London perspective

The UK national rail network radiates out from London offering direct inter city services with frequent schedules to most major towns and cities in Great Britain.

Rail is normally faster but more expensive than any bus service and for the trunk routes will be faster than private car too in most occasions. We have a separate page for the National scheduled coach services.

Purchasing train tickets

As a general rule of thumb for journeys of around an hour or so there is no financial advantage in pre purchasing, you may as well buy at the station on day of travel. For longer journeys, advance purchase fares offer great savings.

Only on the main trunk routes are there reserved seats, most services you just grab the first available seat you like the look off.

The three types of tickets are broadly:

  • Advance purchase: Buy in advance, sold in limited numbers and subject to availability. These tickets will have restrictions specified when purchasing.

  • Off-peak: Buy any time, travel off-peak. The definition of off peak can vary from ticket to ticket. These tickets may require you to travel at specific times of day, days of the week or on a specific route. Where there is more than one Off-Peak fare for a journey, the cheaper fare with more restrictions will be called Super Off-Peak.

  • Anytime: Buy any time, travel any time (the standard ticket). Anytime fares are fully flexible tickets, with no time restrictions on when you can travel.

Getting the cheapest London rail fares

Paddington Station London ticket collection machine
Paddington Station ticket collection machine

For longer distance trains, travelling by rail can be very expensive purchasing standard fares, often more expensive than flying. Advance purchase tickets on these longer distances on the other hand can be bargains.

The cheap tickets are normally released 3 months before your departure date and the best deals often sell out quickly.

Digital tickets

Two types of digital ticket are available: etickets and mobile tickets. An eticket comes as a PDF attached to an email, which you can either open from your email or in the Trainline app.

Mobile Tickets are just like etickets, except you can only open them directly in our app and you need to ‘activate’ the ticket before you use it. Mobile Tickets can’t be shared or used on more than one device.

You can scan them directly form your phone with no need to print.

You can use digital tickets for the majority of UK train journeys. Some stations may not have ticket gates for you can scan your phone, but you can always just show a member of staff instead and they’ll let you through. You can also use etickets across Europe.

Paper tickets

You have three options:

  • Collection from machine at station: collect just 15 minutes after booking. For some bookings you'll need to use the card you paid with to collect your tickets. 
  • Second Class post: Your tickets will be sent out within 24 hours. This option is only available if your travel date is at least seven days after your booking date.
  • Next Day Delivery: Book before 15:00 and you’ll get your tickets by 13:00 the next working day, except bank holidays and public holidays. If you book on the weekend, you’ll get your tickets by Tuesday. Some postcodes have restrictions.

Note that if you are intending to collect your tickets from a machine, although most central London stations have these machines, Luton and Stansted Airports do not, but Heathrow and Gatwick Airports do.

You can buy true tickets for the Airport express trains, (Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted Express)

At train stations there are manned ticket offices and also ticket machines. All major credit cards are taken as well as cash.

For fares and timetables use the Trainline website where you can also order tickets for delivery to your home address.



Woman in a train

Book in advance and save money on your train journey

• UK buses • Eurostar • Virgin trains


Railcards are money saving passes targeted at leisure travellers to encourage then to use the British railway network on their travels.

There are many Railcards all aimed at their own target niche market, but the broad idea of all of them are that you pay an upfront flat fee for a Railcard, with a one or three years duration that enables you to get significant discounts on nearly all train tickets throughout Britain.

The initial cost of the Railcard doesn't justify their use just for one or two journeys, but if you regularly use the railways for leisure travel or are using the railways to tour the UK they are very well worthwhile looking at.

The various Railcards are:

  • 16-25 Railcard (1 year or 3 years) - 1/3 off train fares - For those between 16 and 25 or over 25 in full-time education.

  • Two Together Railcard (1 year) - 1/3 off train fares - For those over 16 travelling as a couple (not morning peak)

  • Family & Friends Railcard (1 year or 3 years) - 1/3 off train fares for adults, 60% off children's fares aged 5 to 15 years.

    To use it, at least one of the group travelling must be named on the Railcard and there must also be at least one child travelling on a child rate ticket. The maximum size of group that can use a Railcard to obtain discounts is 4 adults and 4 children. The named Railcard holder must travel for the entire journey with any passengers who have been bought discounted tickets.

  • Senior Railcards (1 year or 3 years) - 1/3 off train fares for adults over 60 or over.

  • Disabled Person Railcard (1 year or 3 years) - 1/3 off train fares for adults who are claiming disability benefits or are registered as disabled. A travelling companion also gets the discount too.

  • Network Railcard (1 year or 3 years) - 1/3 off train fares for adults, 60% off children's fares aged 5 to 15 years for trains in the Network Railcard area (London and South East England). Restricted to the card holder and up to 3 friends.

Railcards - full details


The BritRail Pass

The BritRail Pass is a pass only available to overseas visitors to Great Britain.

The passes are for varying lengths of time and different geographical areas of Great Britain. There is even one aimed at visitors based in London who want to do day trips outside the capital by train.

The initial cost of the Railcard doesn't justify their use just for one or two journeys, but if you regularly use the railways for leisure travel or are using the railways to tour the UK they are very well worthwhile looking at.

The BritRail Pass - more details

The Railways 2 for 1 promotion

The national railways sponsor a hugely popular and long running promotion that allows those people using the train to visit leading attractions to get two people admitted for the price of one.

When visiting London you can you can get 2 for 1 admission to many of London's major sights including the Tower of London, the full list is very, very long and covers all of Great Britain.

Railways 2 for 1 Promotion more details

London's train stations

London has many train stations acting as the terminus for London rail services from all over the country. Each station serves a particular area of Great Britain and they are all interconnected by the London Underground.

London's Main Railway Stations Map

Transport for London


London Travelcard & Oyster Card

Visiting London? Save time and money on London public transport

• Visitor Oyster Card • Travelcard for 1 day anytime / off-peak or 7 days anytime • Group day travelcards available

Every effort is made to keep all our information correct and the advertised prices up to date. We endeavour to be as accurate a source of information as possible but Travellers Toolkits cannot be held responsible for any price differential between our stated prices and those of the companies supplying the product or accuracy of information provided on our sites.