Buying Train Tickets
Lets look at the trains websites that you can use to buy your train tickets.
All of the websites gave exactly the same pricing, both for a short and long journey, so no comparison table this time. However despite most of the train websites looking the same some of them have distinct advantages over others. Read on to find out...
Initially seemed very simple - train times were quick and easy to find but when I tried to purchase the ticket I was asked for registration details. Registration was also very quick and easy but having registered I had to make my journey search all over again! If the process had not been quick and easy I would surely have given up! Checking train times is more obvious to navigate to than buying tickets so it's easy to think you are making a booking when in fact only checking timetable. Also, there is no easy way to return to the home page from most of the site. Single journey alternative pricing options are confusing and misleading - the cheapest tickets are often not available for the times of your journey but to find this out you need to click through a link taking you away (in a new window) from the options you have been looking at.
Also very difficult to see what the difference is between all the different single ticket options - would have to read terms and conditions very carefully. The option to purchase travel insurance for your train journey (priced at £2 for the round trip) is automatically selected so needs to be unselected if not required and if traveling to London you will have to scroll through the underground travel-card prices before you can book. For travel to Manchester was also offered hotels.
Credit/charge card fee not shown until the very last step of booking (£1.50).
Charge for refunded or changed ticket £10. Apart from a couple of little niggles (difficult to return to the home page, difficult to start looking at a different journey after looking at one before) this is a pretty easy website to use - with a bit of practice it would be fine - but I think I would have to intimately know all the conditions of different ticket types before confidently making a purchase and that, of course takes time.
Also with 'fastticket' machines only available at some stations I would either need to know my departing station had that option or book far enough in advance for tix to arrive by mail for this site to be any use.
Completely ridiculous! Even through virgintrains.com website you have to click through 3 links before you even get to the trains and even then you need to go an extra 3 clicks to get started! Then had to register only to find out - after registering - that I could have used thetrainline login!
Also had to unclick the 'send me newsletters' and 'send me offer details' options twice! once through registration and then again after. Finally I reached the options on buying tickets - 'buy Virgin value' or 'buy any ticket' - naturally I clicked for the value tickets only to find (after going through my route/ticket search) that there are no value options for that particular journey.
In fairness I was redirected to the 'any ticket' site with the details of the journey carried over. Site is powered by thetrainline so again they have the confusing 'may be cheaper to buy single tickets' link that is not directly relevant to the journey planned. Insurance and tube tickets were offered but not preselected. Charge for changes or refunded tickets only £5.
Had to check my address four times before they would accept it (small things like no space in the postcode) AND had to unselect 'newsletters' and 'offers' AGAIN every time I checked my address.
Then the site crashed on me before I could go to payment options. This site is an absolute farce - use thetrainline instead unless you are booking well in advance and may need to make changes to your journey in which case Virgins charge is half the cost of thetrainline but use the phone over the website for the sake of your mental health.
Very similar to thetrainline but with a couple of simple improvements; the quick timetable check that is so screamingly obvious on the home page on both sites actually directly links to ticket sales on GNER's website, also the train times and prices open in a new window, leaving the home page open so you can actually reference the home page while looking at tickets or start a second journey query easily, or even open two ticket windows at the same time to compare the difference in prices leaving one day or another. Simple but very functional. As with thetrainline you do need to register and you do get the option to buy travel insurance and tube tickets. Less helpfully, again as with thetrainline, there is only a same day delivery service for London and fastticket machines are not available in all stations and also the same single ticket alternative confusion. Hotels not offered for Manchester. No booking fee. Change or cancellation fee £10. Overall very similar to thetrainline but with a couple of helpful improvements and the lack of a booking fee GNER is probably the better site.
The home page is virtually identical to thetrainline so this time around I knew not to check the quick timetable but to go to 'buying U.K. tickets'. Irritatingly I had to change my browser settings just to move onto the next page! No surprises though, as soon as the page loaded I noticed the logo stating 'powered by thetrainline'… And the site runs exactly the same as thetrainline too although after registering with Virgin only to find out I could have used my thetrainline login I went straight in with my thetrainline login here - no joy! I had to register again! Registration was requested after I had completed my journey query, which for some reason irritated me, maybe I thought I wasn't going to need to register, I don't know.
Unlike thetrainline, Qjump does not charge a booking fee for credit/charge cards.
Change or cancellation fee £10. You do get all the same optional extras as thetrainline - tube tickets, hotels, travel insurance but they are not preselected. Qjump is so similar to thetrainline that only the £1.50 charge for using credit/charge cards on thetrainline makes any real difference.
Wow! At last a train site that actually looks different to the others! Oh, hang on, it's only the homepage that looks different. Spanking homepage, everything else just like the rest. Like GNER, train times and prices open in a new window leaving the homepage open and you can move directly from timetable check to ticket booking. Registration requested at the beginning of the booking query. No booking fee. Change or cancellation fee £10. Again, all the same optional extras - tube tickets, hotels, travel insurance (not preselected). And yet again, same day delivery only available in London and fastticket machines are not available in all stations. This site is most similar to GNER with the same simple improvements over the rest.
To be honest I think it is amazing that five different websites can be the same!
There are small differences, one site, thetrainline, charges a £1.50 booking fee for credit/charge cards, one site, Virgin, only charges half the cancellation or change fee that the others do (£5 as opposed to £10), a couple of the sites ask you to register at a different stage of the process to the others, and a couple of the sites have a few nice little improvements to the other sites but otherwise these sites are all exactly the same!!
Without looking at special offers or changing my journey plan to suit a specific pricing structure I don't think it is possible even to find any difference in the prices either. GNER and firstgreatwestern are slightly easier to use so use them, or just phone rail enquiries who can actually tell you which of the plethora of ticket options is actually any use to you at the time you need to travel without you having to scour through miles of t&c's. It is also unfathomable to me that delivery is only available in London or by mail if a fastticket machine is not at your station - it makes all of these sites unusable for short term notice ticket purchases.
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"thetrainline now charges ticket fee as well, £1 I think."
"QJump now charges for both credit card (£2.50) or debit card (£0.50)purchases. Trainline charges £0.50 for using a fast-ticket machine!"