National Rail & East Coast Ticket Sales (Oxford-Stirling in August)

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route:oxford

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Looking for tickets last night from Oxford to Stirling, I was disappointed about the level of manipulation I had to engage in, in order to find the right ticket.

My first port-of-call was National Rail Enquiries, where I found that the cheapest single from Oxford to Stirling was £128.50. However, the system only reported services routing via Banbury.

I then amended, the routing as "via Kings Cross", to find that the cheapest single fare became £47.00 taking the 10:01 service from Oxford.

So, off to EastCoast.co.uk to buy the ticket.

Unfortunately, East Coast didn't put me on the direct 10:01 service to London, but the later 10:08 changing onto the 10:29 from Didcot, arriving into London at 11:16 for onward circle routing to Kings Cross. This ticket came with advance reservations on the 10:29 from Didcot.

44 minutes is technically perfectly adequate for getting from Paddington to Kings Cross, but I'd prefer a more generous connection.

As far as I can find, however, the main dashboard for East Coast doesn't have the option to allow more time for connections. So try the "Shaw Trust Approved" text only version. It allows me to choose more time - but finds no tickets. Try a few time, but finds no tickets. I guess that there must be down-time on the booking service and wait half an hour.

So half an hour later, go back through the eastcoast text based booking system, choose a longer connetion time, and get myself on the 09:31 service from Oxford to London (no seat reservation), connecting with the 12:00 Highland Chieftan, all for around £44.00. A good price I think.

I didn't do anything odd or peculiar to get the right ticket, no breaking journeys, partial use of tickets, multiple tickets-but I still had to manipulate the system excessively to get a fairly "normal" ticket that should really have been on NRE at the first enquiry and available on the headline dashboard of EastCoast.
 
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Indigo2

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http://takethetrain.co.uk/ is quite a good booking website to use for this sort of thing. It seems to make more effort than the standard booking engines to find good value fares rather than just the fastest journey times, and shows "overtaken" trains with a little dagger sign in its search results - somewhat confusingly though, as I used to think it meant the journey was via London!

It does come up with the option of joining the Highland Chieftain at King's Cross (without having to put in any via points, so scores better than NRE on that point), but not the option of leaving Oxford a bit earlier and avoiding the change at Didcot. I guess it's not programmed to make more than one "compromise" - it's quicker to take a CrossCountry service and join the Highland Chieftain at somewhere like York or Darlington, so the additional compromise of leaving Oxford even earlier to go direct to Paddington must be being ruled out.
 
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