|In November 2012, ScotRail changed how you buy bargain berth tickets, so the advice in this particular post is out of date. I’ve written a more recent post that explains (to the best of my understanding) how things have changed and how to now hunt the bargain berth fares.|
Since I wrote a recent post about attempting to get the cheapest bargain berths between Inverness and London, I’ve noticed I’ve been getting quite a few hits on my blog for people searching for terms related to those infamously elusive £19-£49 tickets between Scottish stations and London. That earlier post was a bit of a rambling narrative and probably not quite so easy for someone looking for tips about bargain berths to find what they’re looking for.
So I’m tidying up my tips into a neat, manageable and hopefully useful list, with a more search-engine friendly title.
- Mark the Friday twelve weeks before your date of travel. ScotRail releases pretty much all their tickets twelve weeks beforehand. Prior to this you cannot make reservations or buy bargain berths; after this they go very quickly if they’re popular (which the bargain berths obviously are).
- Be quick on the day of release. There are only about four tickets at each price level (£19, £29, £39 and £49) on each route, so once you have the date in the diary, make sure you’re free around 9am with a good internet connection (or two) as they are released. The ScotRail site slows right down once the fares go live, but do persist. You can also follow ScotRail on Twitter to see when they announce the releases, though sometimes this is a minute or two before the tweet goes live, so you’re best just following the website.
- Bookmark the precise page and do a practice run the week before. This, for instance, this is the current page for Inverness-London. If you check prior to your intended purchase date you can see how sales are going. And just in case…
- Check the page regularly – as this comment on my other post says, sometimes and quite without warning tickets can go on sale at other times of the week.
- Travel midweek if you can. Not only are tickets less sought-after (people more often tend to seek the weekend get-away) but for some unfathomable reason the Friday dates particularly are unreliable. Maybe it’s just the sleepers between Inverness and London, but the Friday dates seem to be released anything up to twelve hours later meaning it’s hard to pounce on the very cheapest ones. Don’t bother querying ScotRail about this; I’ve tried tweeting them about this and they’ve replied by simply stating that the fares have been released (when quite obviously they haven’t), so it must be something computery that takes a while to automatically update.
- Split your ticket if need be – for instance, if you want to go to Inverness and the tickets are all sold out, maybe there are still some bargain berths available to Glasgow, Edinburgh or Aberdeen and you can change on to an early morning train from there which itself might only be about £15 single or less. Not ideal, but still probably cheaper than a regular sleeper berth.
Do your experiences match up to this? I’m not actually that regular a sleeper traveller, and I know of some folk who do it most weeks, so I wonder how they cope with getting the best fares. So if you have any tips in addition to these, do please share them in the comments section below.