Cheap peak rail fares to London (and the West Midlands!) from Cambridge

March 10th, 2014

I have to go to Coventry in a few weeks to go to a trade fair. I looked up the rail fares and discovered that they can be astonishingly cheap – typically around £12 each way, provided that you book in advance. However, some of these fares take you via London and therefore provide for a cost-effective way to travel to London at peak times if you can book in advance. Simply search for fares from Cambridge to Coventry and specify “via London King’s Cross”, and you’ll often find you can travel on the 0715 or 0815 to Kings Cross for £12, and likewise return on the 1745 or 1843 for £12, which would normally attract a full fare of £38.60 return, saving you £12.60. You do have to travel on those specific trains though! If you have a nationally-valid railcard (i.e. not a Network Card) you can get a third off the already-discounted price, too. The trick also works in First Class, where you can pay £34 each way on that same routeing.

If the Coventry fares have sold out, you can also try booking to Rugby, which is technically a different ticket but is charged at the same price.

Electrification details

March 2nd, 2014

Last week’s Rail Magazine has a big feature on rail electrification projects in England, concentrating mostly on the “Electric Spine” project to provide an electric route between the Midlands and south Yorkshire and Southampton Docks. The article explains that there is programme funding for electrification work over at least a decade, and that it’s likely that various additional “infill” electrification projects will happen alongside the main “spine” that was announced in 2012. Network Rail have been asked to look at “connectivity to ports and airports” in general, and specifically to consider an electric route between Felixtowe and the West Midlands. This is exciting from a Cambridge perspective because it offers the prospect of much-improved connectivity across the Fens – there’s potential for electric services between Ely and Ipswich, as well as an all-electric service from Ely to Peterborough via March. The latter will make the Cambridge route into an electrified loop off the East Coast Main Line, which opens up potential for direct electric services between Cambridge and North East England.

The article also mentions the Oxford-Bletchley-Bedford East West Rail project, saying that the priority is to open the Oxford-Bletchley section in the spring of 2019 – suggesting that the EWR project is either already running late or will open in 2017 as planned with a more limited diesel-powered service. The Bedford-Bletchley electrification is apparently proving quite challenging and may well be put back beyond 2019. Likewise, the Oxford-Coventry electrification is likely to take place well after 2019 as it’s deemed less of a priority.

Whilst the delays to EWR are a little demoralising, I’m encouraged that Network Rail are being encouraged to look at electrification a lot more widely, and that opens up a lot of new opportunities for rail services.