diamond geezer

 Thursday, July 23, 2015

How much does it cost to travel by train from St Pancras to Stratford?

I ask because
a) it's more than you think
b) it's changing
c) it's complicated
d) it's so complicated I've had to rewrite some of this since breakfast time

If you go by tube it's simple, but it takes a while.

PeakOff peakPeakOff peak

A return costs twice as much as a single, because that's how tube fares work. And the journey, via Liverpool Street, takes about 20 minutes.

If you want to go faster you ride the Highspeed line instead. This runs to Stratford International (which we'll pretend is Stratford proper), and takes only six minutes. Unfortunately it also costs more. This is one of the very few train rides in London you can't do with Oyster or a Travelcard because Southeastern treat it as a premium service. Until next week, that is, when (hurrah!) after more than five years of waiting, Highspeed services will finally accept Oyster/contactless/whatever.

This isn't proper acceptance. Highspeed is still an added extra, not part of your main journey cap, a bit like taking a trip on a riverboat or a ride on the cablecar. But you will at last be able to swipe through the gates without having to stop and buy a paper ticket, which should increase uptake on this express shortcut no end. Except there's a premium cost.

PeakOff peakPeakOff peak
Paper ticket£6.00£6.00£10.80£7.60

Things to notice. If you have Oyster, then travelling by Highspeed always costs more than by tube, especially off-peak. An Oyster return costs twice as much as a single, because the system charges you for one journey at a time. If you don't have Oyster and have to buy a ticket on the day, a return is always cheaper than two singles (an off-peak return is cheaper by almost £5).

Let's throw an added complication into the mix. Southeastern are currently offering a special online discount for buying your ticket via their website. It applies to any off-peak train between now and August 24th, and is potentially a bargain if you know your day of travel in advance. You'll have to stop off at the ticket machine first, which'll slow you down, but it seems you can buy these tickets even an hour before you travel.

PeakOff peakPeakOff peak
Online discount-£4.45-£5.65

For a six minute train journey this is all terribly complicated, so let me attempt to summarise with a single table. The cheapest Highspeed fare in each column is highlighted in yellow, and I've added the tube fare in blue on the bottom row for comparison.

St Pancras-StratfordSINGLERETURN
PeakOff peakPeakOff peak
Paper ticket£6.00£6.00£10.80£7.60
Online discount-£4.45-£5.65
Oyster (tube)£3.30£2.80£6.60£5.60

So, in summary...
a) For a single journey on Highspeed, swiping through with your Oyster or contactless card is always cheaper than buying a paper ticket.
b) For a return journey on Highspeed, swiping through with your Oyster or contactless card costs the same as buying a paper ticket.
c) BUT if you're planning a return trip entirely within the off-peak period before 24th August, the online discount ticket is about £2 cheaper.
d) The tube is always cheaper than a Highspeed train, if you don't mind your journey taking quarter of an hour longer.
e) Off-peak the tube is a pound cheaper than Highspeed, while at peak times it's about TWO pounds cheaper. That's per journey.
f) BUT if you have a travelcard covering Zones 1-3, NEVER waste pounds on the Highspeed because the tube's free.

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