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East Coast vs Trainline vs NRE

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New Member
13 Apr 2016
When I travel by train I usually book ticket online by comparing with east coast, thetrainline, Red Spotted Hanky, and NRE (national rail enquiries).

I noticed in most occasions the fares are all the same but in some occasion it’s different in one or more of the website.

Do you guys know of any journeys that brings different results on east coast, train line or NRE? Thinking to put together an online list for chest fare based on the journey
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Forum Staff
Staff Member
7 Aug 2005
All websites charge the same price for the same ticket on the same train.

However. Here are some examples as to why prices may APPEAR to be different:

1. Different booking engines interpret rules differently from each other.
A few years ago I had a ticket from Manchester to London via Warrington that was very cheap. When I looked this journey up on WebTis (this is the system that powers websites such as Redspottedhanky, East Coast, Transpennine Express, Hull Trains and Chiltern) I was offered a ticket priced by East Midlands Trains (EMT& Connect[ions]). When I looked this journey up on trainline (this is not just theTrainline but powers websites like East Midlands Trains, Greater Anglia and Virgin Trains) it offered a ticket priced by Virgin Trains (VWC &Connections). In short, theTrainline didn't consider the East Midlands Trains ticket to be valid whereas WebTis did, so I bought the cheaper ticket from WebTis even though the trains travelled on were exactly the same.

2. Different booking engines may suggest you change at a different station.
Take a journey from Plymouth to Manchester Piccadilly on June 28th, with a Railcard. The Southern website (the same software is used on the Southeastern, Thameslink, Great Northern and London Midland websites) offers an itinerary departing at 09.25 and arriving in Manchester at 14.59. The East Coast (WebTis) website offers the same departure and arrival times. Southern says to change trains at Birmingham, whereas East Coast says to change trains at Newton Abbot. Southern are charging £92.05, whereas East Coast are only charging £48.85. A massive difference in price for travelling on the exact same two trains, departing and arriving at the same time. The reason for this is that the first train doesn't have the cheaper tier tickets available for some point in the journey between Newton Abbot and Birmingham, but the second train does. But the Southern booking engine is programmed differently and tells me to change in Birmingham, which means the system won't allow it to sell the cheaper ticket, as it is deemed that at some point whilst on that train, it should cost more. theTrainline is also telling me to change in Birmingham, and charging the same price as Southern.

3. Different booking engines may offer a totally different itinerary.
Same example as above. You may be thinking after having nearly gotten stung for £92.05 that you won't go anywhere near the Southern website. However, if you depart just over an hour earlier, the Southern website will offer you a ticket for a bargain £24.40 which East Coast doesn't even mention! It involves getting the 08.09 Great Western service to Newport, then changing for the Arriva Trains Wales service to Manchester, arriving 15.15.

4. Different booking engines recommend different tickets for the same itinerary.
It shouldn't be the case, in my opinion, but there are occasions when a more flexible ticket can cost less than the restricted Advance ticket, for the exact same itinerary. Take for instance a journey from Bristol Parkway to London Paddington on Sunday. theTrainline clearly highlights the cheapest ticket, which on most trains for Sunday is a Super Off-peak Single. The Southern website offers this ticket by default; you don't even have to scroll. However, WebTis has an inviting box suggesting fares are available from £28. I click it and it gives me a price by a list of trains. That £28 fare is available on a train that's a bit too early for me. But it says it's only £38 on the 14.01 train. However the Super Off-peak Single is only £32.50. It's easy to see how people have been mislead into buying these more expensive tickets.

5. Some booking engines are more customisable.
Only for more advanced users really, but a play on points 2 and 3. Some booking engines allow you to choose multiple via/avoid points, specify extended interchange times if you have to change trains and even specify the station at which you change trains. This allows you to get a different itinerary and potentially save money. The National Rail website is very customisable but it doesn't sell tickets; so you might see a price you like and it redirects you to a website that does sell tickets, but the ticket is impossible to buy from the site it refers you to!

6. Some booking engines have special offers.
This is the only "official" difference the operators publicise. Simply put, some operators offer a discount for booking on their own website. East Coast used to do this but it was abolished by Virgin last year. Examples include East Midlands Trains going to/from London; a journey from Sheffield to London on a random date next month costs me £31 on East Coast but only £30 on the East Midlands Website. There's a Special Offers Discussion thread sticky where forum members have tried to keep on top of these offers.

A: Booking fees.
Some websites, like theTrainline, add booking fees so the end result is that you always end up paying more (unless you can get in on some cashback deal or something). These sites are best avoided for this reason.

B: Errors.
And on a final note, sometimes the programmers just get things plain wrong. The Southern/London Midland/Thameslink/Great Northern/Southeastern websites were overcharging for Virgin Trains Advance tickets on certain trains until a few weeks ago. It's rare, but sometimes these things just happen.


Veteran Member
28 Aug 2011
Different booking engines recommend different tickets for the same itinerary...
Trainline-powered websites are good for this as there is usually a 'Cheaper tickets for slower trains' (or similar) link that shows all the tickets it thinks are valid for the journey. So you can go through and try each one individually. More than once I've gotten a cheaper ticket that way for exactly (or very nearly) the same itinerary as the initial search result.


Established Member
14 Apr 2008
During the recent 10/11 day engineering blockade at Manchester Victoria (buses in every direction), a certain popular third party website was offering advance fares on direct rail services between Victoria and various Yorkshire stations. I wouldn't ever recommend that fee charging website.
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