Megatrain offers very low cost train travel to some of the UK's most popular visitor destinations. You could travel to Bath, Salisbury and a clutch of other selected cities for as little as £1 plus a 50p booking fee. That's less than it costs to cross London on the London Underground.
Tickets can be booked, on line or by telephone, up to 45 days in advance and until 3a.m. on the day of travel. And don't worry about being shoved in some kind of "steerage purgatory." Passengers sit in normal, standard class seats on regularly scheduled services operated by East Midlands, South West or Virgin Trains. Trains operate in coordination with coach services offered by Megabus and Megabus-plus.
So What's The Catch?With such great prices, there have to be a few sacrifices, naturally. But if you plan ahead and you are organized, the limitations aren't that onerous. Here's what to expect:
- Limited schedule Such budget travel is only possible because the train operators that participate have surplus capacity on some lightly traveled services or routes. So the special fares may only be offered on one or two trains per day on the selected routes. And those may change depending upon the day of the week. Just because you can travel to your chosen destination at 7 p.m. on Monday doesn't mean the same service is available on Tuesday. You may have to travel very early - or late, or at a time you would not ordinarily have chosen, to get the lowest fare.
- You have to stick with your chosen destination On a normal train service, you can usually get off the train before your stop or, by paying an excess fare, stay on a bit longer. Not with Megatrain. Because of the way these low fares are handled at the station, you must leave the train at the booked stop. If you get off sooner, your ticket will be considered an unpaid fare. This policy, by the way, is not unique to Megatrain. It has recently been implemented on most of the lowest priced, advance tickets. It may not seem fair, but if you decide to travel earlier or later than your specially booked ticket specifies, you will probably have to pay the full, standard fare.
That can be considerable. I recently traveled to Birmingham from London for £23 when the standard fare would have been more than £140.
- Fares are hard to find Some fares are really as low as £1 and some may be £15 or £20. The trouble is, you have to start the booking process, by selecting your journey, to find out. The good news is, whatever the fare, it will be an enormous saving compared to standard available fares. But, if you can't find the exact journey you want, it's worth having a look at National Rail Enquiries and requesting the "Lowest Available Fare" - you could be lucky and find a special promotional fare that's cheaper.
Where Do These Trains Go?Megatrain services don't cover the whole of the UK but, where they do operate, they've made an effort to offer a pretty comprehensive schedule. Megatrain and Megabus operate a seamless combination of coach and train services to 85 destinations around the UK. Yorkshire,Lincolnshire and London are served by Megabus-plus a combination of bus and train service that is the first of its kind in the UK. On Megabus-plus journeys the super bargain fare of £1.50 covers both the bus and train parts of the trip. Areas not covered include most of Wales except for the southeast corner, Kent and the part of England's southeast known as the home counties.
How to Book and TravelBook online at the Megatrain website or by telephoning +44 (0)900 160 0900 between 7a.m. and 10p.m.
Once you've booked your journey, print out your confirmation and take it with you when you travel. At stations with automatic ticket barriers, you'll need to show it to the barrier staff. They'll have a list of Megatrain passengers and reference numbers to check it against. Make sure to arrive a bit early to allow time for this. You'll also have to show it to the conductor who collects tickets, so hang on to it until all your travel is completed.