Even the railways occasionally get something right – and until Sunday only, they have some quite sensational deals for anyone making a trip out of London.
Among the 500-plus return fares available are:
Brighton or Eastbourne for £5;
Oxford or Cambridge for £10;
Stratford-on-Avon, Birmingham or Liverpool for £15;
Norwich, Bath, Bristol, Cardiff or Hereford for £20.
These are prices comparable to the best advance-purchase tickets – but you don’t have to book ahead, or commit to particular trains. All you need is an Oyster card or a Freedom pass. Then you visit this website, fill in your details, download and print a voucher and present it at the ticket office.
Most stations in the old “Network South-East” area – with the conspicuous exceptions of those served by Southeastern Trains in Kent and east Sussex – are covered. So are all stations in Norfolk, Suffolk, and along the Great Western lines as far west as Cardiff and Hereford, and some stations well into the Midlands and North.
The promotion only covers journeys from the central London termini, but you can, of course, buy a separate ticket to cover your trip from your station into central London. If your station is on the route out of London (eg Croydon on the Brighton line) you can join there for the same fare. You can travel as often as you like, but you need a separate voucher for each trip.
There are a few restrictions. You cannot travel on peak trains. If you travel out of Euston, for instance to Birmingham or Liverpool, it has to be on the slower London Midland trains, not Virgin, though avoiding ghastly Virgin is no great hardship. You can also go to Birmingham on the Chiltern trains from Marylebone.
Most of the fares are day returns – but those on Great Western, Chiltern and London Midland are valid for a month. There are also some very juicy first class fares on offer. See the full list of destinations and prices here.
The last day to buy tickets, and the last day for outward travel, is 25 July (if you have a monthly ticket you can come back until 24 August.) Get cracking.