* Prices may differ from that shown
tried booking a ticket in october, the website gave me a message saying ther had been an error. i got NO ticket, but they took the £12.00 from my bank. over a month later i am still trying to get hold of somebody to help me, i have not had one email back! and the phone number does not work. worst website i have ever used.
Need to travel? Want to save some wonga while you do it? Megatrain is the slight diversification of that famous budget coach travel company, Megabus.
Running low-cost train services on Virgin, East Midlands and South West routes, Megatrain have bounced into the train market as a genuine competitor to the usual service providers.
How does it work?
Well, you see the thing is, Megatrain have not bought any trains, or taken on running any services. The very clever little chaps have just acquired the right to sell tickets on some rail franchises' routes. These should be cheaper than the rail operators own fares, and can be considerably cheaper.
You book on-line or over the phone and their site will come up if googled. You have to book a specific time as well as location and there are some terms and conditions attached. For example, you must go from and to the precise locations on your ticket. You couldn't change your mind and get on or off a stop later, for example. But not many people want to muck about like that anyway. You don't get an actual ticket but an email with a reference number. Print this out and take it with you to get through the ticket barriers and for checking on the train.
There isn't national coverage (yet) but they do cover a surprisingly large percentage of England. If they don't have your location as an option, it's worth experimenting with getting part of the journey through Megatrain, and part through the usual provider, as that can still save you a lot of money.
They have big promotions of £1 tickets, but like all those promotions, availability was limited. Generally you'll still save a few bob. For example, on my last journey from London to Devon, I saved just over £20 on the fare national rail/sw trains were going to charge me.
One thing that has concerned me is that the terms also state that there will be a special Megatrain carriage that you must find and sit in. Not only did my imagination run riot with imagining extra rows of seats being forced into every angle (like cattle class cheap airlines) but when I went to the train I went up and down 3 times trying to find it. In the end I gave up and sat anywhere, and that turned out to be fine, there isn't always a separate carriage. And if there were, it would be a perfectly nice one apparently.
A student put me on to this, but it isn't restricted at all agewise - it's just a normal train service anyone can book.
Update: I see they are now offering routes to Europe too.
If it does your route you are a fool not to try Megatrain! Same trains, same service, same route, same everything...just a smaller price. It's the sort of thing it's easy to be suspicious of but rest assured this is a completely respectable and responsible company! You are throwing money away if you don't check it out.
For anyone who knows about and uses megabus, the same company have been slowly expanding the megatrain arm of their business, offering a similar service, only this time with trains. Go figure! In order to offer such cheap travel megabus had to sacrifice a number of comforts, in order that they could offer such cheap tickets. Obviously having to travel by bus also meant the journey took a lot longer, but thanks to megatrains a lot of these issues have vanished.
The concept is more or less the same as megabus, but to summarise, megatrain are basically a company who specialises in pre booked travel to and from various major cities in the UK via train, that can offer huge discounts compared to that of your normal train companies / train ticket websites.
The tickets can be purchased for rock bottom prices and tend to start at £1. So provided that you can book in advance and can be flexible with the time in the day that you travel (which tend to involve getting up early, or arriving late), then you can save an absolute fortune on train travel.
The best thing about megatrains is that the trains being used are just normal public services. Therefore it takes exactly the same amount of time for a megatrain customer to travel somewhere, as all the unfortunate people who are on the same train as you, going to the same place, but have just paid 50 times more for their ticket.
Unfortunately the megatrain network is somewhat limited at the moment, however it does seem to be slowly expanding. The link below gives you a map of the UK and highlights where the services can be used <http://www.megatrain.com/uk/timetables/index_megatrain.php>
As you will see from the links there are currently only 3 train companies who have this agreement with megatrains for the use of their services, namely Virgin, East Midlands & South West, meaning you can't get everywhere in the UK via megatrains. However it is worth noting that even through you might not be able to get everywhere in the UK, it is often cheaper to book part of the journey through megatrains and then the final leg via a normal train company. For example a trip from London to Leeds would usually be around £70, however booking some cheap tickets to Sheffield, and then a normal ticket from Sheffield to Leeds could save you around £50.
The ticket booking process is reasonably straight forward and the megabus and megatrain tickets are all booked through the same website. (It is worth bearing in mind if you are specifically wanting to travel by train you will need to make sure you have selected this option.) The website will allow you to choose your dates of travel and will then show you any options you have and the cost of the ticket. There is an additional 50p charged at the end of the booking process for admin costs, and credit cards are charged a transaction fee.
Obviously, as you would expect, in order to offer such cheap tickets there are a few sacrifices that you have to make, however these seem to pale in comparison to the savings. The main drawbacks I noted were as follows:
1) You can only get on and off and the noted destinations. This shouldn't be a massive problem to anyone, but is worth mentioning in case you did have a change of plans and wanted to get off halfway along the journey. They state that the guards will not let you out of the station until you have paid a penalty fare, so bear this in mind!
2) Some of the train companies designate a specific coach which you must sit in. This means that seats might be limited as more people are crammed in a particular coach. I have travelled via East Midlands trains a couple of times and have been able to sit anywhere on the whole train so I'm not sure how busy the carriages can get. (I believe Virgin and SW trains operate this one coach policy).
3) You do not get an actual ticket and have to produce a reference number to train staff. The slight downside of this is partly that you have to get to the platform a bit earlier to get in the queue to "check in", and partly that it does give you a general sense of unease when you are sat on the train without a ticket. However I can assure you when the conductor comes along he will be expecting 50 people thrusting reference numbers at him instead of tickets - so don't worry!
So as you can see the negatives are pretty limited certainly when you consider the saving. I bought a ticket from London to East Midlands parkway (near Derby) which cost £10 for a return. The same ticket purchased on the day would have been £67. I have no idea how its so much cheaper, and how so few people seem to be aware of this company. Finally I can enjoy public transport feeling I'm getting value for money.
Most people are familiar with the Scottish based budget travel company Megabus, run by Stagecoach. The brightly coloured blue and yellow buses are road travel's answer to Ryanair and Easyjet - offering no frills trips at silly prices.
However, Stagecoach's more recent foray into the realm of budget train travel is less well known. I would usually use thetrainline.com to buy train tickets (or preferably southwesttrains.co.uk - who do not charge a booking fee) but recently I was buying tickets for a day trip to London and the cheapest price I was quoted, booking well ahead, was well over £100 for 2 people, returning the same day. In desperation I scoured the internet and came up with Megatrain.
Megatrain's price for the same journey, on the same day, was £32. For 2 people. It seemed too good to be true! Megatrain operate on a ticket-less basis in the same way as some budget airlines do. I was sent an email confirmation with Reservation codes - to print out and carry with us on the day.
We arrived at Exeter railway station and were advised which carriage of the train we should sit in. Megatrain is operated by South West Trains in the south of England and the train was a normal one, with megatrain posters in the windows of one carriage. The seats were not reserved, but there was plenty of room. (In fact I can't remember the last time I got on a train that wasn't packed!) As we sped towards Waterloo, other non-megatrain passengers joined us. It felt strange to know that most had paid at least 3 times as much as we had.
After an uneventful journey we arrived on time, and the return journey passed in a similar way. The guard checked our reservation code in the same way as tickets are checked. The whole procedure was very smooth, I can't recommend it enough! I don't often have cause to compliment South West Trains, or any train service operator, but this was one of the most pleasant rail journeys I have had.
Megatrain offer city travel, so not all routes are covered. From Exeter, for example, there is a choice of London, Plymouth or Newquay. However, most cities have some routes available and from London you can go almost anywhere across the country. Tickets are sold as singles, and prices vary. By experimenting with dates and times on the booking page on the website you can achieve the cheapest prices, especially if you have flexible travel times. (Our outbound journeys cost £10 each, for example, whilst the returns were only £6 each.)
I'm thinking about booking another day trip to London very soon. My advice - try this budget option and save yourself some money! It is the same train and the same route - what do you have to lose?