London to Cornwall

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the_prof

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Hi all. This is most probably a very typical question, but I'd like to check with those in the know just-in-case.

My wife and I are visiting some family for a few days in St Ives in July (4th to the 9th). I thought I'd try to grab a bargain and get an advance ticket as soon as they became available. So, I logged onto the usual sites (thetrainline.com, FGW, etc), and was a bit surprised at how expensive it was to get down there.

I was a bit shocked at the fares that were coming back after my initial query. If I'm really not fussy about the times of day I travel, the minimum I can pick a return for two adults up for (including a gold-card discount) is £226 Standard Class.

I wasn't expecting to pick them up for £20 or anything, but it just struck me as rather a lot for such a seemingly long and slow journey, especially when I am totally flexible about the travel times. I am 6ft7, and I most certainly don't relish the thought of sitting in cattle class for six long hours, and neither do I feel that paying more than double is reasonable for a first class seat.

I have considered the sleeper train, but that adds another £120 to the standard-class fare. If it's a lot more comfortable, though, I can see it might be money well spent.

From a quick search, I discovered that I can get two return flights for just £12 more than the standard class tickets (with luggage), and that will get me to Newquay in just over an hour.

I could also hire a car for 6 days, and pay the fuel both ways for about £220 (I'd drive my own car, but just making a point).

In fact, I could drive there, stay in a decent hotel or B&B half way on the way down, and still have change from the £220.

So, this is my rather long-winded way of asking if this really is the cheapest fare available? Is there some trick to splitting the journey to reduce the ticket price, or is it really that expensive?

Assuming I did opt for the standard-class tickets, what are the carriages like? Would there be a chance of having a table seat to ourselves? Is there plenty of legroom, or is it like those horrible Virgin trains which have 5 completely empty first-class carriages, and 5 packed standard-class carriages with very little legroom?

I must confess, I am a little peturbed by this. I managed to get a cheap first-class fare a few years ago (about £200 for two adults) - what happened to all that?

Any feedback or advice very gratefully received.
 
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Daz28

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Advance tickets are not available for your dates yet, it is too early.

It should be possible to get tickets for £26 each way per person, £104 inclusive for two. First class should be possible for £66 each way, £264 return for 2.

Try dates a month earlier to see what will be available when advance tickets are released.
 

jopsuk

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Advance (cheap) tickets are not yet available for your travel date yet- this not very well publicised page shows when the furthest ahead you can book is. You'd be travelling with FGW (On one of their HSTs) so the 27th June is the current horizon.

Some companies (such as East Coast) allow you to sign up for email alerts to let you know when they release their cheap tickets, but I don't think FGW offer this service. You've rather got to keep on checking.

However that £12 flight, if that's really all that it will cost (including luggage, card fees, oxygen supplement, use of the stairs etc) is a superb bargain; train travel will not be that cheap! Of course, you need to factor in travel from Newquay airport to St Ives, whilst by train you'll be able to travel right there.
 

wintonian

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Advance (cheap) tickets are not yet available for your travel date yet- this not very well publicised page shows when the furthest ahead you can book is. You'd be travelling with FGW (On one of their HSTs) so the 27th June is the current horizon.

Some companies (such as East Coast) allow you to sign up for email alerts to let you know when they release their cheap tickets, but I don't think FGW offer this service. You've rather got to keep on checking.

However that £12 flight, if that's really all that it will cost (including luggage, card fees, oxygen supplement, use of the stairs etc) is a superb bargain; train travel will not be that cheap! Of course, you need to factor in travel from Newquay airport to St Ives, whilst by train you'll be able to travel right there.
I think the flight was £12 more than the train not a £12 (exclusive of optional extras like oxygen) flight. ;)

A gold card discount is not valid to St Ives as it is outside the Network area.

A quick look shows turn up and buy on the day fares of £94 each valid as follows for your trip assuming you travel direct from Paddington to Penzance:

RETURN TRAVEL:

Available on the following
trains and all later services:

From:
Penzance________________0640
St Erth 0650
Hayle___________________0655
Camborne________________0700
Redruth_________________0710
Truro___________________0720
St Austell______________0740
Par_____________________0745
Lostwithiel_____________0750
Bodmin Parkway__________0800
Liskeard________________0810
Menheniot_______________0815

...

OUTWARD TRAVEL:
Available:

OUTWARD TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS
apply_from the stations listed
below. Tickets are valid:

On services timed to depart
London Paddington between 1003
and 1510, and from 1901.
Splitting at Exeter traveling from Waterloo and changing trains there (as the gold card is not valid from Bedwyn to Exeter) and using your gold card to Exeter gives you £42.95 off peak and a £35.50 off-peak ticket (total £78.45) each, but note the restrictions will be different to those above.

Gold card discounts are not valid until 10:00 and as long as you are not traveling on part of the route coverd by your season then you can buy a first class upgrade for £5 each per day, but you would only be able to use it untill Exeter, the coast first class from Exeter to St Ives is £90 each.

Advance tickets will be cheaper assuming the cheaper ones haven’t sold out when you buy them.
 
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the_prof

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Thanks all - very useful information. When I looked for the advance tickets, I was looking at dates exactly 3 months from now, which I now realise is probably why things were looking so expensive. I'll try the 12-week thing and see how I get on.

The flight was £12 more expensive than the price I originally got (yes, not £12). When I originally looked for flights a couple of months ago, they were only £80 each including taxes and luggage, which is extremely reasonable, given the fact it only takes 1h05 to get from Gatwick to Newquay (shorter travel time the better for a person of my dimensions)

Again, thanks for the responses. Can anyone tell me what the Standard Class carriages are like for this journey? If it's roomy and sparsely populated in the middle of the day, I'd definitely consider it. The first class tickets seemed totally out of the question, but if they can be snapped up for around the £250 mark, I'm sold.
 
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jopsuk

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don't forget that if they don't come up at exactly 12 weeks, check with the booking horizons page (I'd advise bookmarking it as it is well hidden!)
 

dzug2

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don't forget that if they don't come up at exactly 12 weeks, check with the booking horizons page (I'd advise bookmarking it as it is well hidden!)
That horizons page can be a few days out of date - it is not updated daily
 

the_prof

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Ok, from your tips I've got a much better deal. From the site Jopsuk referenced, I found that the advance tickets for 4th July became available today (I think I tried too early in the morning before), and managed to get hold of two single sleeper tickets for £119, which is much more like it. With any luck, I should be able to get a similar deal on the return leg on Wednesday next week.

I'm very glad I asked. Thanks very much for your help everyone.
 

wintonian

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Ok, from your tips I've got a much better deal. From the site Jopsuk referenced, I found that the advance tickets for 4th July became available today (I think I tried too early in the morning before), and managed to get hold of two single sleeper tickets for £119, which is much more like it. With any luck, I should be able to get a similar deal on the return leg on Wednesday next week.

I'm very glad I asked. Thanks very much for your help everyone.
The sleeper is a good choice, you can board at Paddington from 22:30 but will will have to alight pretty much on arrival at Penzance.
 

wintonian

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but it doesnt arrive penzance until almost 9am
I thought it was 08:00?

Either way it doesn’t stop some people thinking it's like a hotel where you get woken up on arrival, spend half the day putting your face on have breakfast and then check out. Mind you its normally just the same people who act surprised when they are told there are no showers on board and you ave to walk down the carriage to the toilet. ;)
 

richw

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yes sorry my error, forgot i started work at 8 this week, passed it each morning on my train commute from hayle to truro, and was thinking i was on 9 oclock starts.
 

brillopad

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The sleeper is a good choice, you can board at Paddington from 22:30 but will will have to alight pretty much on arrival at Penzance.
Usually a pax for St Ives would alight at St Erth for the branch line but it is acceptable to double back.
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
The usual arrival time is 0752. The schedules are available on Open Train Times.
Anticipated arrival more like - I've watched it go through St Erth between 8-8:30 quite often.
 

wintonian

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Usually a pax for St Ives would alight at St Erth for the branch line but it is acceptable to double back.
True I tend to forget that.

IIRC when comming off the sleeper it is less hanging arround (and more convenient I would say) to change at Penzance and you end up on the same train anyway - ofcourse I could be wrong.
 

the_prof

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Thanks for the tips!

My wife is actually quite excited about our trip on the sleeper - should be quite novel. I was aware of the lack of 'en-suite' facilities (seriously, what do people expect!)

So, to summarise, you're saying that it'd be best to alight at Penzance, and get the connections from there?
 

wintonian

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Thanks for the tips!

My wife is actually quite excited about our trip on the sleeper - should be quite novel. I was aware of the lack of 'en-suite' facilities (seriously, what do people expect!)

So, to summarise, you're saying that it'd be best to alight at Penzance, and get the connections from there?
Ignore me I was talking utter rubbish.

Sleeper arrives into St Erth 07:40

Dep St Erth 08:01
Arr St Ives 08:14

Changing at Penzance would work out like this

Arr Penzance 07:53
Dep 08:57
Arr St Ives 09:19

So I would change at St Erth.
 

richw

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Ignore me I was talking utter rubbish.

Sleeper arrives into St Erth 07:40

Dep St Erth 08:01
Arr St Ives 08:14

Changing at Penzance would work out like this

Arr Penzance 07:53
Dep 08:57
Arr St Ives 09:19

So I would change at St Erth.
but take into account the night riviera seems to be late more often than on time!
 

IanD

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I would change at Penzance for the extra "free" 11.5 miles and to use one of the few St Ives trains that doesn't use the bay at St Erth. :D
 

Sleepy

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Thanks for the tips!

My wife is actually quite excited about our trip on the sleeper - should be quite novel. I was aware of the lack of 'en-suite' facilities (seriously, what do people expect!)

So, to summarise, you're saying that it'd be best to alight at Penzance, and get the connections from there?
Depends on if you want breakfast in Penzance rather than turn up early in St Ives ?
 
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