1.8 Ticket formats
1.8.1 Paper tickets
Most train tickets are printed on credit-card sized orange stock. Tickets may come in more than one part e.g. a return ticket will have an outward and a return portion and an Advance ticket will come with one ticket covering the journey and one or more reservation coupons.
Rarely you may come across ‘airline-sized’ tickets which are much longer. These are being phased out. However, if you are booking a domestic train journey to connect with Eurostar from Eurostar themselves, you may find that you get one of these tickets.
1.8.2 Smart cards
A smart card
is a contactless card that is a way of storing tickets or credit. Some smart cards can be topped up for Pay as you Go (PAYG) use, like you would with a PAYG mobile phone. Alternatively, you can store products on it by purchasing them in advance e.g. season tickets and travelcards.
The most popular type of smart card used on the railways is the Oyster card. With the Oyster card you can store Travelcard season tickets
or credit to be used as Pay as you Go
More and more operators are introducing smart cards to some of their services, mainly as part of new franchise requirements.
Although not every train operator along a route where smart cards can be used may equip conductors with a smart card reader, the ticket is just as valid as it would be in the form of a paper ticket, unless additional restrictions say otherwise.
1.8.3 Print @ Home
Some operators offer Print @ Home tickets. This is when you buy your tickets online, as normal, but instead of having the tickets sent home or collecting them at the station, you can print off a PDF on a sheet of A4 paper which is your ticket.
Print @ Home is currently only available in this country for Advance tickets, where you are restricted to specific trains. Also, Print @ Home is generally restricted to Advance tickets where you are travelling on one operator only e.g. East Coast or Virgin. So if you have an Advance ticket with a connection on another operator e.g. Virgin with a connection on Greater Anglia, then chances are you won’t be able to get a Print @ Home ticket.
When travelling on a Print @ Home ticket, you need to specify the name of the lead traveller and choose a form of identification that you must show on the train to prove they are travelling e.g. credit card.
You’ll need to book with the operator you are travelling with to get the Print @ Home option.
Advantages of Print @ Home:
• If you lose your ticket, you can always print off another one.
• There is no worry of tickets getting lost in the post or queues at self-service ticket machines before you travel.
• If you don’t have a self-service ticket machine at your local station and are booking Advance tickets with less than a week to travel, then it is too late to have your tickets sent to you free of charge, so this is the cheapest way to get them.
Disadvantages of Print @ Home:
• You’ll need to have access to a printer to use Print @ Home.
• The lead passenger who was specified at the time of booking needs to travel.
• The lead passenger needs to remember to carry the ID specified when booking the tickets.
Most train companies have their own apps for mobile phones such as iPhone, Windows Phone, Android and Blackberry. These apps are often very similar as they are produced by the same company, Masabi. With these apps you can purchase tickets. Often you’ll be asked to collect your ticket from a self-service ticket machine at the station, but sometimes you’ll be sold an m-ticket.
M-ticket stands for mobile ticket i.e. a 'virtual' ticket which is on your phone. M-tickets come in two parts: Travel details and a barcode. The travel details contain information about your journey, so you can make sure you are travelling on the correct trains. The barcode can be scanned by a member of staff on a train or at a station to check you have a valid ticket. You’ll need to activate your m-ticket on the day of travel before travelling.
Despite many apps being very similar, you’ll generally need to book tickets from the app of the train company you are travelling with to take advantage of m-tickets. Also, generally only Advance tickets are available as m-tickets.
Advantages of m-tickets:
• Can be easily booked ‘on the go’ on your phone.
• As long as you have your phone on you, you have your ticket on you, so less chance of forgetting it.
Disadvantages of m-tickets:
• If your phone runs out of battery, you won’t be able to show your ticket, which could lead to you needing to purchase a new ticket.
• If you lose your phone, it may be complicated to retrieve any m-tickets you have purchased but not used yet, so you may have to buy a new ticket.
• You’ll need the phone with the ticket on and the card that was used to pay for the ticket, so you can’t really buy tickets for other people, unless they are travelling with you or have the phone and the card.