You probably know that peak train times vary according to the rail company you’re travelling with, but did you realise just how much they can vary? Prepare to be very confused…
What would you call peak (and therefore more expensive) time for train travel?
For the evening I’d say perhaps 5pm; for the morning, 8.30am. But 3pm, 7pm and 11.30am? Really?
When exactly is peak time?
We asked train companies what their peak times are. Some are very simple – for example Merseyrail’s morning peak ends at 09.30. In the evening, some companies don’t have one at all, as you can see in the footnotes of our handy diagram below, which shows peak times from London.
London has longer peaks, which doesn’t seem unreasonable on the face of it. But some manage to be simultaneously very long and very varied. Virgin’s morning peak ends ‘around 11.30’ at London Euston.
‘Around’ includes peak time ending at 10.12 if you are travelling from Oxenholme in the Lake District. But if you’re coming from Penrith, 30 miles and one stop from Oxenholme, it ends a whole hour later at 11.12. Virgin tells us this is due to timetabling constraints caused by the Department for Transport.
If all these times and numbers are confusing you, I haven’t even started yet… you may want to draw breath or take a fortifying sip of your cuppa here. Down the road at London King’s Cross, East Coast’s morning peak ends at 10.05 – unless:
- You’re travelling first class, when it’s 07.59
- Or travelling with an off-peak day return or travelcard, when it’s 09.54
- Or super off-peak, when it’s 11.17
Rail companies have too many restrictions
The good news is, if you’re booking in advance via the internet, you can rely on computers to spit out the right results – although you still won’t know why they’re the right results.
But if you had the foolish notion of going to a station, buying a ticket and getting on a train, be warned. You’ll find this dizzying spread of restrictions in your way.
Bemused at how on earth passengers can make sense of all these times, we contacted The Association of Train Operating Companies. They told us that ‘four out of five passengers are happy with their journey’. Apart from the fact that they’re missing the point, this is something I find very hard to believe.