50p Train Ticket from London to Birmingham

Thanks to Ian Visits for sharing this AMAZING deal – book two one way 25p tickets to end up with a 50p train ticket from London to Birmingham in September and October 2013. Click the image below to go to the site and book yours. Hurry!


Go to the Bullring and check out the cool spacey Selfridges building, eat a curry at one of the multitude of fabulous curry houses, check out vintage clothing in the huge shop there, stay the night and go clubbing. Go to the jewellery quarter or visit the chocolate industry leftovers. Whatever, it’s cheap. I wonder where else we’d all flock to if trains were this cheap. An interesting thought really.

Chiltern Railways. Winner.

How to Book Trains in the UK and Save Money

We live in a nation of train fare hikes. It’s all to do with something really boring called RPI (retail price index) – which adjusts the prices of stuff we buy to reflect inflation every year. Last time I checked, RPI was +1% (apparently) but in some places went up by as much as +14% due to some ridiculous loophole. The fare I buy most often (London to Bristol) went up by so much I now travel by coach between Bristol and London, to my dismay. So if you were one of the many people who were caught out – by a fiver or more added when purchasing your ticket on the day of travel – you are not alone.

The first way to avoid getting stuck, is to buy your ticket in advance. I know this is a pain in the arse. But even if you book 24 hours in advance you will still likely save money. In India, fares are released 120 days in advance and get booked up pretty quickly – no walk up fares unless you get Tatkal (emergency) tickets – so for now, we may need to look at changing our mindset to one where we just accept that we need to plan ahead. I always buy my train tickets online and from the company that operates the train on the route I am travelling on. First Great Western, in the case of the Bristol to London journey. I even book my train ticket online from my phone if I am at the station, rather than from the counter, and pick it up from one of the fast ticket machines.

Try and book a week or more in advance if you can. Britain has the cheapest advance fares in Europe. When all those companies say things like ‘save up to 80% on train fares’ what they are actually saying is, buy in advance and the standard fares are up to 80% cheaper than they would be if you purchased your ticket on the day of travel.

Another way is to split your tickets. This means that you buy tickets per segment of your journey, instead of just the one ticket to cover them all.

If you are leaving at a peak time – before 10am or after 4pm, to be on the safe side – buy a ticket that covers the part of your journey up until 10am, then change trains at 10.01am or after (off peak) and carry on with a ticket that covers the rest of your journey.

If you buy two tickets for the same journey on the same train, the train you are travelling on must stop at the station you are splitting the ticket at. This means that in some circumstances, you can’t stay on the same train with your two tickets and would be staying on the train at your own risk. Always check the route.

If you are travelling on a route with more than one train operating company, check the websites for each one. The operators have different fare structures – It may be that the part of your journey with Virgin will be more or less expensive with the part of your journey with First Great Western.

More tickets = less money spent

If there is a group of you travelling, always check to see if the train operator provides group travel discounts. You will find more information about these on the website of whichever operator operates the trains on the line you are travelling on. My most regular route, as previously mentioned, is Bristol to London, operated by First Great Western. The group travel discount is called Groupsave.

Groupsave is offered by the following train operating companies:

  • c2c
  • Chiltern Railways
  • First Capital Connect
  • First Great Western
  • Greater Anglia
  • London Midland
  • South Eastern
  • Southern
  • Southwest Trains
  • Stansted Express

Yet another way to save money is to get a railcard. Railcards save you 30% on off-peak fares. Sadly I’m no longer 25 or younger, so the 16-25 railcard is off my list.

Apply for a 16-25 Railcard (Otherwise known as Young Persons Railcard) If:

  • You are aged between 16-25 or a full time student
  • You have a UK passport or Driving Licence
  • You have a passport-sized photograph of yourself

My Railcard

I’m not 60+ either, so I cannot purchase a senior railcard.

Apply for a Senior Railcard online or at the station if:

  • you are aged 60 or above
  • you want to get 30% off your off-peak train travel
  • you have a UK passport or Driving Licence
  • you can procure a passport-sized photograph of yourself
  • you have internet access or access to a train station ticket hall

I have not produced a family so far, so I won’t be getting a Family & Friends Railcard.

Apply for a Family & Friends Railcard if:

  • You and one other adult can be named on the card to get a discount on any two to four adults travelling together when one of them travelling is named on the card and at least one child (and up to four) is travelling too
  • You want to get a 30% discount on your tickets when the above is the case
  • You and the other adult you want named on the card have valid UK passports or driving licences
  • You and the other adult you want named on the card have passport-sized photos of your smiley faces
  • You and the other adult you want named on the card have access to the internet or to a train station ticket hall

Hurrah, everyone can get a Network railcard so I’ll have one of those bad boys.

Apply for a Network Railcard if:

  • You regularly make journeys within the Network Rail Area after 10am in the morning & before 4pm or after 7pm (off-peak)
  • You want to save 30% on the off-peak journeys you make within the Network Rail Area
  • You want to take up to four kids on trips within the Network Rail Area and save 60% on their fares
  • You have a valid UK passport or driving licence
  • You have access to the internet or train station ticket hall

The Network rail area covers routes out of London, to a point. On my London to Bristol route, for example, the area extends to Reading. This means I could potentially buy a ticket to Reading with my card then change to the standard fare from Reading to Bristol. The Network Rail area map can be found here.

Network Rail Map

Network Rail Map

To apply for either the 16-25 (and full time student) Railcard, Senior Railcard or Family & Friends Railcard, you will need to have on you:

  • A valid UK Passport
  • A passport-sized photo
  • Internet access or access to a train station ticket hall ( but not a London Underground ticket hall or Heathrow ticket hall)

To Purchase a Network Railcard, you will need to download the application form, fill it in, and take it to a train station ticket hall with your recognised form of ID and photo, or pick up a form at the station and do it all there.

Use your common sense when working out which card you are eligible for and when to use it. The 16-25 Railcard, Senior Railcard and Family & Friends Railcard can be used on all off-peak journeys that are not exclusively within the Network Rail Area – for which you would use a Network Railcard.

It is SO worth having one. You’ll save the amount you spent on the card in just a few journeys.

Royal Baby on Track as Prince Charles Visits NRM

The Royal Baby is on track and has finally arrived. A boy. Earlier, Prince Charles was in York visiting the National Railway Museum. The NRM must be thrilled at the extra coverage of Prince Charles’ visit. He visited the Mallard train, celebrating the 75th anniversary of its steam locomotive world speed record.

On 3rd July 1938 the Mallard set a new steam locomotive world speed record which remains unbroken to this day. Prince Charles is patron of the Mallard.

Thoughts of whether the royal baby will love trains as much as Prince Charles has told a boy he does today are on everyone’s minds. Seriously, that is what everyone is thinking about. Who cares about the Lido Wing live coverage. Royal baby boy’s first train ride is what some of us look forward to most.

Prince Charles visiting the museum on such a momentous day is to be celebrated also, as there were reports a month ago that the National Railway Museum may face closure if the Science Museum Group, which runs it, suffers from budget cuts.

Stephenson's Rocket at NRM

Stephenson’s Rocket at NRM

Getting to the National Railway Museum from London is easy, and if you book in advance, while you may not arrive as glamourously as Charles did on a steam train, you can get trains to York from £13 one way from the East Coast Trains website. Book in advance to get the best deals. Discounts are also offered on group travel, and if you have a Railcard you get a third off. Trains leave from London King’s Cross station, where you will also find Platform 9 3/4.

On Track at NRM

On Track at NRM

Sophie Collard on Google+

Trains, Traverse 2013 and Marmalade in the Face of Adversity

This weekend saw the first edition of the best conference I’ve ever attended. Traverse 2013 was put together by lovely blokes Paul Dow and Michael Ball. They really excelled themselves with a programme of talks that were actually useful, sponsors that (over)fed and watered the delegates, and sunshine, which perhaps weather2travel brought with them.

On arrival in Brighton it was only appropriate to take advantage of the mighty fine weather and ride the oldest electric railway in the world…

photo (49) photo (53) Volks Railway Ticket

And have a Mr. Whippy…

photo (55)

Before heading to the pub, then the bar on the seafront where Michael and Paul had arranged drinks.

The next day, the conference began. Michael said hello…

photo (57)Then speakers spoke, pros conducted one-to-one sessions at pro bars, and sponsors laid on food. My favourite speaker was Adrian Land from My Destination, who spoke about SEO. Not only was his talk very comprehensive and well-informed, he also posted a couple of links to valuable resources – The Beginners Guide to SEO and an SEO Starter Guide, by Google.

photo (58)

After an excellent night that followed an excellent conference, the March for England thought they’d try and rain on the parade by, er, parading along the seafront shouting stuff. Most people couldn’t understand what they were shouting because it sounds a bit like a group of drunk people going, ‘wooaahh wooaahh, wooaahh, wooaahh… wooaahh.’ But I’m sure they were trying to make some kind of point. Happily, the people of Brighton made a louder and clearer point – “racist scum, off our streets.” Indeed. I made an audioboo. I wish it had captured the amazing sounds of Lady Marmalade which followed the March for England from a sound system as they marched, but it gives you an idea of who was louder.

Sophie Collard on Google+

Back to Back Package, How Holidays Cost the Same as Living in London

Today, I looked at the Directline Holidays late deals page. Thought it would be interesting, as a vagabond, to see whether joining up back to back package holidays would cost the same as moving house within London and renting. Thus far I’ve successfully (and somewhat painfully) moved my stuff into a locker in London. Aside from clothes, a laptop, and a strangely vast number of plugs, which I didn’t have time to untangle and imbue with meaning.

In some cases you could probably pay just over £1,000 to join up four back to back package holidays. If we take a typical houseshare rent + bills in London at approximately £550-£700 + £80 travel + £80 a month for food + £55 for gym + £120 a month for any pub visits and other luxuries (don’t mention the daily chocolate bar budget) we get £885 for cheap London living each month or £1,035 for those with slightly higher rents. As a freelancer, this means that a choice between back to back package holidays and just living in London actually exists.

Office in the sun - Image provided by Tourism Thailand

Office in the sun – Image provided by Tourism Thailand

Obviously, given my penchant for all things train-related and my dislike of planes and package holidays, it’s not for me. But isn’t that crazy? Isn’t that slap-me-in-the-face-because-I-can’t-bloody-believe-it ridiculous?

Having perched myself in Bristol over the last weekend and become familiar with booking coaches and phoning lovely friends with space to stay, I’m wondering when and how we’re going to sort out the housing mess that is London. Does the government seriously think the answer is for people to become freelancers to help the economy only to move into someone’s spare room and pay their bedroom tax for them? What a monumentally bizarre country we do live in.

At this stage – it means ultimately giving up the freelance lifestyle and returning to the world of full time employment. But I’m incredibly lucky to have that option, I had a good education and writing is a skill people need.

This post was brought to you by Directline Holidays. Clearly.

Sophie Collard on Google+

On Running Away to India

‘You know, I rather like winter when I know it’s only going to last two weeks,’ I said to my mother when she visited last week.

I’ve been working in the travel industry for two years now, all the while living in London.

I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned all about some people embracing the internet and social media to sell their stories to the world (or at least, to each other) and about people who are upset that the internet and the e-reader might replace printed articles and books and that maybe we are about to drown in a deluge of poor quality writing. I’ve also learned that I don’t really care that much. I’m tired of moaning. And this is coming from the mouth of a top quality moaner, seriously – ask my oldest friends.

I’ve lost count of the times people have asked me what I do and I’ve replied that I’m a travel writer whilst feeling like I’m telling the most enormous lie. The trouble is that they often ask this rather annoying follow up question, ‘so do you get to travel all over the world and get paid for it?’

I avoid eye contact.

‘Er no,’ I reply. And I want to say, ‘no, there isn’t much place for modesty in London. It doesn’t pay to say what you think quietly on a blog with a very small audience. It doesn’t matter if you have done some good things (see my previous post) or met some big people. If you can’t sell yourself, you won’t have very much money.’

I have met more people who haven’t really done all that much, but think enough of themselves to say they have, in London than anywhere else I’ve ever lived or visited. I’m terrified of seeing what people are like in New York. And some of these are the people being paid to look after social media accounts and write for great publications. Which is great. But I think I’ve lost my trumpet. So, as the old cliche goes, I’m running away to India to try and find it.

I’d like to share something with you. It’s Brene Brown talking. If you aren’t already watching TED talks, you’re missing out. And thisamericanlife.org, if you haven’t listened to that – have a wade through the archives. I promise there’s some really great stuff there. Obviously this is coming from someone who fears she loves her LoveFilm subscription more than going to parties, and spent this morning watching Curly Sue and crying all the way through it, but there you go.

Sophie Collard on Google+

The First Virgin Conspiracy Escalates

Today the Government have announced that they are scrapping the West Coast Mainline FirstGroup deal. To be honest, everything about the deal felt dodgy in the first place, as I pointed out in an earlier post.

Without trying to be too sensationalist, like the Daily Mail or someone, I’ll skim over the fact that the DfT were the ones who:

a) had a thing against Richard Branson, that went back to when he initially won the contact all those years ago and…

b) the DfT are the ones who made so many ‘technical errors’ in the bidding process that the whole thing has been scrapped.

A rushed job gone wrong? Or something darker…

Just what is the DfT’s ulterior motive here? What do they want? Branson out, indebted First in? Branson out, the DfT in (that’s what is having to happen in the interim after all)?

Surely the simple answer isn’t that they were just that stupid.

There are 15 more rail franchises to be looked at before the next election, the BBC has reported.

And you can watch this video on the BBC and attempt to work out what the hell is going on. There are far too many intelligent people working in government for this to be simply a monumental ****up. Who is playing who? I’m no detective but it’ll be interesting to see how this all plays out.

#firstvirgin #winning

Sophie Collard on Google+

Social Media Week London 2012

This week (this very one happening right now) is Social Media Week London 2012. Somehow, having had a gross cold (come find me later at the Closing Party) I missed a lot of the social good events, and ended up in the corporate ones. But I’ve taken away at least one interesting thing from each. From Unilever, I learned they are moving towards a way of working which means their employees can work from anywhere. This immediately made me think of Netmums users. In Unilever’s new offices you probably won’t get your own desk. It’s all highly progressive stuff. From Nokia and Kraft I learned that I could probably help them with a thing or two on the social media front but probably wouldn’t because I don’t want to work at Nokia or Kraft.

Today I got to see the founder of Social Media Week talking about the 10 Commandments of social media. Or the 10 Principles. Or something. Here they are anyway:

I came away with two book recommendations, which is nice. They were, Macrowikinomics by Don Tapscott, and The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. If anyone has a copy they can lend me tweet me.

Finally, I was glad Toby (said founder) mentioned trains. I like trains:

He explained:

Sophie Collard on Google+