Peaktime trains vs Hotels

Overhead power lines

I can happily say I have to date never knowingly paid for a peak time ticket to London.

Even when going back and forth to London from Manchester for those meetings with the rest of the BBC, I just couldn’t do it.

Two questions bugs me around this…

  1. How can Virgin trains charge more than a hotel in Central London (booked within 24hours) for a peak ticket?
  2. Why is there peak time from 3pm – 7pm if you leave London but not the same if you leave anywhere else at the same time?

The current price of an Anytime peak return is £308! This means you can get on a train anytime and return anytime within a month. Even if you don’t need that level of flexibly, the cheapest peak time return tickets are roughly £217. Yes you can get 2 singles but there still roughly a total of £210 and you must go on that train there and back.

An Anytime off peak return is £77.30 with the same return anytime within a month. Giving you plenty of flexibility (just remember to avoid the 2nd peak time).

To be fair all these prices are based on a booking within a month of travelling and are for Virgin Trains to and from London. If you book over a month before the prices do lower and 2 months before can be reasonable. Just a shame the discount fares are not that great.

So saying all that, what I worked out early on while at BBC Backstage was, if you take a off peak train and stay in a hotel, its still cheaper than a peak time train fare. Yes believe it or not, and its not one of those crappy unknown hotels, I mean the likes of Holiday Inn, Ibis, Ramada, etc. So not your elite or boutique level hotels but a good hotel with a good bed and breakfast. Plus I don’t mean booking way in advance, I mean booking within 24hours.

The only issue is you have to give up your night before to catch the off peak train.

For many this is a absolute no way/no chance. Its hard enough going down to London to spend a night or two away from the family, let alone prolong it by adding more time away. I totally understand and who am I to judge, but for someone like myself, this is a great opportunity to save some licence fee, sleep soundly over night in a hotel and wake up early for that 10am meeting. Sometimes I even get the chance to meet up with old London friends on the Sunday, which certainly sweetens the deal some what. At least it doesn’t seem like I’m using my personal time for work then.

Frankly I hate getting up early, and there is nothing better than being able to get up later and still make that 10am meeting, without worry about delays or scrapping for the last seat on a stupidly packed peak-time train.

Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.