revised 20/1/20, -things change frequently, contact travelman please with any amendments.
WHERE TO BOOK YOUR TICKET
You can book your ticket at any staffed station at the ticket office if it is open, or from the ticket machines. But this does not meet everyone’s needs.
You can book rail tickets with any rail company in England Wales or Scotland, for any journey. So you can book a journey from Lewes to Brighton, with Scotrail. If you are booking on line or on the phone you should not necessarily use your local company (Govia Thameslink)/Southern. Their web site is not one of the easiest to manage.
You can also book through ticket agencies like Trainline, but these will almost always charge a service fee on top of the fare.
Some agencies will also offer coach tickets for the same journey. But they will generally only offer the fares of one coach company, even when there are two companies operating on the route.
Travelman usually reckons that the company which is providing the trains for the bulk of your journey will give you the best price. If you start at national rail enquiries then, after you have selected your trains, the site will normally pass you to this company when you click on “buy” but if you do not want to use this company have a look just above the “buy” button. You have the option to select a different company
IF YOU WANT TO BOOK ON THE PHONE
There are a number of reasons why you might want to book on the phone. You might want a real person to advise you but not want to hold up the queue. You might want to book your bike as part of the journey. You might want to discuss options with a real person. Railway companies are retreating behind their web sites. Southern and Thameslink will not sell you a ticket on the phone at all. But you can phone at least the following companies (and possibly more)
Hull trains 03450 710 222 (very helpful)
South West Trains 0345 6000 650 (long waits, I gave up)
Chiltern Trains 03456 005 165 (do not book bikes or seat reservations)
Great Western o345 700o125. (if you want to take the bike you will have to wrestle with them. Tickets are handled by the sales centre, bike reservations by Customer services. Do not part with your credit card details for a train until they have put you through to customer services to make your bike reservation)
Trans Pennine Express. 0345 600 1671. Company is part of the First Group, like Great Western and, like them, asks customer services to deal with cycle reservations, as opposed to Sales, so probably the same issue, but I gave up after a long wait.
Virgin West coast 08719 774222 (premium)
Beware of premium numbers. Raileasy charges over £1 per minute.
Travelman would be pleased if you were able to give feedback on calling these numbers and on any other company phone booking services you may have used.
if you want your ticket posted to you.
Railway companies would much rather you collected your ticket at the station and some railway companies will only offer this form of delivery.
This is no good if you are worried about turning up at the station and the machine not working or you do not live near a station and want a plusbus ticket to get to the station.
Others will post tickets but make a charge. £1 is typical, although Southern charges £1.50.
If you book through these railway companies they will post out tickets without charge ( in early 2019)
C2C, Chiltern Trains, Hull Trains, South Western Trains, South Eastern, Transpennine. (Most of these are companies that will let you book your bicycle online too).
Some companies say that if they post out tickets and you do not receive them this is not their responsibility. This is illegal. A trader is always responsible for getting goods to you.
If you want your ticket on your phone
An increasing number of operators are offering the option of sending your ticket to your phone. RailEurope will only do this or have you pick up the ticket at a station ticket machine.
Apart from the issue of your phone running down, there is also the problem that these tickets are not valid on the underground. So if you are travelling through London they are not for you. You will not be able to use the automatic barriers at Lewes or other stations yet, if this matters to you.
But it does mean that you do not have the problem of picking up your tickets. Travelman has not tried adding plusbus or cycle reservation to phone tickets.