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The Independent Online

Eurostar’s most ambitious venture yet - a direct train from the Thames to the Med - has been selling strongly. Passengers can board at London St Pancras and travel through the Channel Tunnel to Lyon, Avignon and Marseille, avoiding all the airport stress (though the inbound journey requires a stop in Lille, with passport control and a security check).

Domestically, CrossCountry is the first franchisee to offer Advance tickets just minutes before departure that offer big savings on “walk-up” tickets - for example, a Manchester-Bristol trip for £41 one-way, half the price of an off-peak open single.

If you are prepared to commit a week or more in advance, though, Abellio Greater Anglia, is now offering cheap tickets to and from Stansted airport from London. And Grand Central consistently offers lower fares on the East Coast main line, with fast, comfortable trains non-stop between King's Cross and York - where its new competitor is Virgin Trains East Coast. On the West Coast, the original Virgin Trains has launched the “Escapes” concept, offering short-break packages using its route network between London Euston, the West Midlands, the north-west and Scotland.

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