You may not be old enough to remember that advertising slogan, or if you are you may not believe that it can. But I have spent 28 years promoting the joys of going to the theatre by train, so theatre breaks by rail make complete and utter sense to me!
30 Years ago there was a travel club that would bring you down from York for less than £20 – I know, I wrote the tickets! And prompted by the news of the spectre of yet more parking charges in London I recently have been looking into exactly what it takes to get down to London now – and I was pleasantly surprised – not only by the speed but also by the cost.
Personally I have always enjoyed train travel and starting a theatre break by rail has always seemed a sensible idea. Yes you can drive down, but London is becoming less and less car friendly, although since the congestion charge was introduced, traffic levels have er… levelled off!
But not many hotels have their own car parking and those that do, charge NCP rates.
To come down to London by rail, unlike flying down, delivers you right into the heart of London and, unlike coach travel, is quick – despite the jokes! In fact, no matter where you are coming from you could be sitting in your theatre seat within 30 minutes of your arrival in London!
Of course I would recommend checking into your hotel first, having a shower and getting spruced up and only then heading out to a restaurant for a spot of pre-theatre dinner, before arriving at the theatre in time to order interval drinks, peruse the programme and crack open the maltesers! But the point still stands.
So just how long, and more importantly, how much?
I’ve picked a few milestones for you. Apologies if this doesn’t help you but if you want to play the game from your local station there is a good site at http://www.transportdirect.info/Web2/JourneyPlanning/FindTrainInput.aspx
As you can see, from most places in Britain you can leave your town of choice and be down in London by lunch time and, as most hotels will not have your rooms ready until 2pm, that is more than enough time.
So for the prices. The prices are the rail supplements available for Theatre Breaks customers as sold through www.theatrebreaks.co.uk and that are available as of today (14 December). There are a whole slew of other prices but these tend to be as good as it gets (see note on Peterborough below). As most theatre breaks take place at the weekend, these are the prices I have chosen – a Saturday in January to be precise – but there are great savings to be had in the middle of the week too! All prices are for return tickets.
Again apologies if you are travelling from different places or on different days – the booking system will help you out wherever you are travelling from.
Now have you noticed something? It only costs £16 more to travel from Newcastle as it does from Peterborough. And pay £7 more than the Peterborough fare and you will get to London from York. BUT for only an extra £17 per person you can travel from Peterborough to London and back in first class! OOOH!
So, like many things in life, rail travel doesn’t seem quite fair (sorry!), but for most of us it is – and even the poor souls of Peterborough, if they feel hard done by can shop around a bit. If they book early enough and don’t mind nailing their colours to one particular train they can save tenner by going to www.thetrainline.com. But for most of us, buying our rail travel as part of the package is the best way to do it.
And if you are confused you can always give us a call and we will talk you through it. Unfortunately we can’t say the same if you’ve decided to drive down and are stuck in traffic around Trafalgar Square – then you are on your own.
When you book your theatre break with us, and you have chosen your seats and your hotel and your rail tickets (and even if you driving down) you get the chance of adding an Oyster Card to your package: READ THIS FIRST!
Unless you are staying for three days or more it is very unlikely you will use the £15 of credit on the Oyster Cards sold online. DO buy an Oyster card, it gives you unrivalled prices on underground, bus and Light Dockland Railways – even some of the ferries on the Thames take it! It is a “must have” if you are travelling round London. But A tenner should be fine, and if you find yourself a bit short you can top it up with a quid or whatever.
SO wait until you get to London, go to the ticket office at the station and buy it from the ticket office before your first journey.
ALSO pay by cash if you can. This will allow you to get a refund of the £3 they charge you to buy the card at the ticket office, rather than having to go through the phaff of posting it off to them.