UK: With the government continuing to fund many train operators, it has announced the ‘Great British Rail Sale’ which will see a limited number of advance tickets on selected routes at Department for Transport franchised train operators in England made available at a discount of up to 50%.

Discounted tickets for travel between April 25 and May 27 are being sold from April 19 until May 2. Sales are online only, and purchases must be made up to the day before travel. Where a participating train company does not offer advance tickets, off-peak tickets may be offered as an alternative. With the offer described as covering ‘more than one million tickets’, it is likely that the allocation will be used earlier than the cut-off date.

There is no restriction on how many tickets an individual can purchase, but tickets will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Railcard discounts will be applied to the discounted fares, and tickets are available to and from Scotland and Wales.

LNER said it would have ‘at least 75 000’ tickets available for travel on its trains on Monday – Thursday from April 25 to May 26, excluding May 2. East Midlands Railway and Greater Anglia each said they would have more than 90 000 discounted advance tickets available. GWR said 80 000 seats would be available, and May 2 would be excluded.

Avanti West Coast has 75 000 seats available, with exclusions from April 29 to May 3 across all its services and on May 14 and May 22 from London Euston to Liverpool and Manchester.

TfW Rail is running a separate but similar offer, with half price tickets available online, through the TfW app, at ticket offices and at participating Payzone retailers. 

ScotRail has also announced a sale, with 50% off all weekday off-peak services between any two stations in Scotland. Tickets can be booked between May 9 and 15 inclusive, for outward travel from May 9 to 31 and return travel by June 30. 


DfT said the sale would ‘encourage people to visit different places, connect with friends and loved ones, and get out and about around the country’.

It added that ‘the government is listening to people’s concerns about rising costs’ and ‘offering half-price rail tickets is one of the ways the government is further supporting families with the cost of living’. It also said ‘reforms to the rail sector through the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail mean that network-wide sales of tickets can occur more easily in the future’.

Rail Delivery Group CEO Jacqueline Starr commented that ‘we want everyone to be able to benefit from travelling by train because it’s more than just a journey; it’s a way to connect everyone to the people, places and things they love’.

Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary Louise Haigh said ‘this temporary respite will be small comfort to passengers who had thousands taken out of their pockets from soaring fares since 2010. And the decision to end the sale just before half-term will mean many families face the same punishing costs over the holidays.’

General Secretary of the TSSA trade union Manuel Cortes said ‘government and the rail industry should be doing everything possible to incentivise rail travel and make it the go-to option for both commuting and leisure travel. Discounting fares is welcome, but if it only lasts a month then it is a gimmick that will not bring the travel changes we need.’

Great British Rail Sale

Participating operators

Southeastern, LNER, Avanti West Coast, Greater Anglia (excluding Stansted Express), South Western Railway, GWR, Northern, c2c, Chiltern Railways, London Northwestern Railway/West Midlands Railway, CrossCountry, East Midlands Railway, Govia Thameslink Railway (excluding Gatwick Express), TransPennine Express, Grand Central and Hull Trains.

Not participating

London Overground, TfL Rail, Merseyrail, Lumo, Heathrow Express, Caledonian Sleeper, ScotRail (separate offer available) and TfW Rail (separate offer available).