Ticket options between Brighton and London
Rail ticketing in Great Britain is so complicated that, there are multiple confusing ticketing options between Brighton and London:
- Brighton to London Terminals, any permitted
- Brighton to London Terminals, Thameslink only
- Brighton to London Thameslink, not Underground
- Brighton to London Victoria, any permitted
- Brighton to London Blackfriars, any permitted
- Brighton to London Bridge, any permitted
- Brighton to City Thameslink, any permitted
- Brighton to Farringdon, not Underground
- Brighton to London St Pancras, not Underground
Really confusing? That’s how train ticketing works and if you choose the wrong one, a penalty fare is waiting for you. The one to London Terminals allows travel to all southern terminals by rail, including Victoria, Charing Cross, Waterloo, Waterloo East, Blackfriars, City Thameslink, Cannon Street and London Bridge, but not crossing London via Farringdon to St Pancras. The one to London Thameslink allows travel to Elephant & Castle, London Bridge, Blackfriars, City Thameslink, Farringdon and St Pancras but not Victoria, Charing Cross or Cannon Street. Among these tickets, the cheapest ones are to London Terminals, Thameslink only, to London Thameslink, not Underground, and to Blackfriars, City Thameslink, Farringdon and St Pancras as these tickets are priced by Thameslink rather than Southern.
As the one to London Terminals, Thameslink only restricts travelling only on Thameslink trains, it can’t be used to anywhere where Thameslink trains don’t serve such as Waterloo or Victoria, and also not to Farringdon or St Pancras as they are beyond London Terminals from the south, but the ones to London Thameslink and St Pancras is routed not Underground so you are free to use any trains on the line of route, and is the preferred choice of many commuters looking to max out the coverage of the season ticket.
The unexpected cheap ticket
Travelling via East Croydon and Clapham Junction between Brighton and London is a long standing route which is not disputed by anyone, however, tickets between Brighton and Clapham Junction are more expensive than tickets between Brighton and London St Pancras. As break is journey is permitted, I can use it to break the journey at Clapham Junction as I wish on the way between Brighton and London St Pancras. I can then use another ticket to travel to Victoria. If one of the tickets is a season ticket, the train doesn’t even need to stop there for the combination to be valid.
Computer says no on Gatwick Express
I have bought a Travelcard and loaded it into an Oyster card. If I tap in in the zones covered, the card won’t be charged even if I don’t touch out, such that it can be used in combination of an extension ticket for travelling outside the zones. My Travelcard covers zone 1 and 2, which means, if I have a suitable extension ticket, I can touch in at Victoria and travel through to Brighton without deducting a fare from my Oyster card even if I don’t have a chance to touch out during the journey. As the train leaves zone 2 at Clapham Junction, I’ll need a ticket valid from there to Brighton, and the train doesn’t need to stop there for the combination to be valid.
However, on Monday to Saturday, trains between Victoria and Brighton are operated by Gatwick Express. It is considered a premium service in the Oyster system outside the zones, like the Heathrow Express and HS1 where caps don’t apply and a special fare is charged. Therefore, if I touch my Oyster card at the Gatwick Express gateline at Victoria, a fare will be charged despite Travelcards with a suitable extension being valid on Gatwick Express on paper.
I posted a thread on RailUK Forums and a fare expert advised me to contact customer service on how to use my zone 1-2 Travelcard and a St Pancras – Brighton ticket on a Gatwick Express service, switching the tickets at Clapham Junction. The initial response was that I would need zone 3 on my Travelcard for the combination to be valid. Then I explained the routing I wanted on the extension ticket, which was via Waterloo and Clapham Junction. The reply I got was that it was not intended to be valid this way, which was totally unexpected as it was a long standing route to travel between London and Brighton via Clapham Junction and there was nothing creative on this route.
As the route mentioned was neither a direct train nor the shortest route (which is via Herne Hill) between London St Pancras and Brighton, the legality of the route came from the Routeing Guide which contained a mapped route between London and Brighton via Clapham Junction.
There is a section called easements in the Routeing Guide, which can be used to add additional permitted routes (positive easement) or remove permitted routes (negative easement). The following has recently been added to block the use of this long-standing permitted route:
701118 (Circuitous Route) Customer travelling with tickets priced on route (00208) NOT VALID ON UNDERGROUND are not permitted to travel from London Bridge, Elephant & Castle, London Blackfriars, City Thameslink, Farringdon and London St Pancras Intl, to stations on the Brighton Mainline between East Croydon and Brighton via London Waterloo, Clapham Junction, London Victoria, London Charing Cross, Waterloo East and London Cannon Street. This circuitous route easement applies in both directions
Which means the use of a Brighton – London St Pancras, not Underground ticket is blocked via Clapham Junction and Waterloo. To conclude, by asking how to use a valid combination of tickets when the system isn’t set up to allow it due to technical limitation, the combination becomes invalid.
What’s still left?
For Super Off-Peak Day Return tickets, unfortunately all the applicable tickets at the same price as the London St Pancras – Brighton one have been blocked, and the best alternative is a West Hampstead Stations – Brighton, + any permitted ticket which allows the use from all three West Hampstead stations to Brighton, including travelling by Underground to any of Victoria, Waterloo, Charing Cross, London Bridge, London Blackfriars or Cannon Street, by Overground to Clapham Junction, or by Thameslink to cross London to pick up a train to Brighton.
For Off-Peak Day Return tickets, there are still some tickets at the same price not blocked by the easement and can be used at Clapham Junction, but they are not valid at St Pancras or Farringdon.
For season ticket holders between Brighton and St Pancras wanting to make one-off journeys to another terminal, a ticket from Streatham Common is now required as the train to Victoria leaves all the remaining permitted routes there. Similarly, Streatham Common is in zone 3 so a London Travelcard season ticket holder needs to have zone 3 in it in order to use a St Pancras – Brighton ticket to extend it travelling from Victoria, mentioned in the initial reply from the customer service.