Generally fares on the Cumbrian coast line are fairly low compared with some other parts of the country. Northern and most other fares increased on 2 January 2019 generally by about 3.1%. Because of rounding the examples below vary from 1.7% to 4.3% increases. In January 2020 regulated fares will go up by 2.8%.
There are no advance fares available on the Cumbrian coast line but they are often available for longer journeys at significantly cheaper rates but limited to one timed train. They are available between Carlisle and certain stations to Newcastle and Leeds and Bradford and between Barrow and Manchester Airport. Buying two single tickets is sometimes cheaper than a return. Virgin and TransPennine Express sell advance tickets up to six months in advance rather than the usual 12 weeks and Caledonian Sleeper a year in advance.
Season tickets for a week are generally the same as four day returns.
Ranger and rover tickets can be cheaper than standard tickets particularly if you are taking multiple journeys or travelling on two or more days in any eight days.
There are a number of day ranger tickets available at any time for as many journeys as you wish which are sometimes cheaper and with reductions for children and railcard holders (2018 prices):
Cumbria day ranger (bounded by Dumfries, Lockerbie, Haltwhistle, Skipton, Preston, Heysham and Morecambe including the Cumbrian coast line, Furness line, Lakes line and part of the Settle and Carlisle line) £44.50
Cumbrian coast day ranger (Carlisle to Barrow) £20.20
Cumbria round robin (Cumbrian coast line, Furness and Lakes lines and West coast main line Lancaster to Carlisle) £31 for any number of journeys in any direction
Lakes day ranger (Workington to Barrow and Lancaster, Morecambe and Heysham, Lakes line and West coast main line Lancaster to Penrith together with Stagecoach buses in Cumbria and Windermere Lake Cruises £23.80 (£46.60 for two with or without one or two children)
Hadrian’s Wall country line day ranger (Whitehaven-Carlisle-Newcastle-Sunderland) £2170 only available after 0845 Monday to Friday but any time weekends and bank holidays
Not covering the coast line, the Settle-Carlisle line day ranger (Carlisle to Leeds or Bradford Forster Square) £31
Rover tickets cover a number of days and can often be cheaper if you are making two or three journeys in a short time.
North West Rover (from Dumfries, Lockerbie, Carlisle and Hexham in the north to Leeds, Manchester, Stockport and Chester in the south including all of the Settle and Carlisle, Cumbrian coast and Furness lines) £74 for any four days in an eight day period or £89 for seven consecutive days available after 0845 Monday to Friday and any time weekends but also on the Cumbrian coast line at any time
North Country Rover (from Carlisle and Newcastle in the north to Preston and Hull in the south and stretches to both coasts including all of the Settle and Carlisle, Cumbrian coast and Furness lines) £93 for any four days in an eight day period available after 0845 Monday to Friday and any time weekends but also on the Cumbrian coast line at any time
The All-line Rail Rover covers the whole of Britain for seven days for £483 standard class and £731 first class or for 14 days for £731 standard class or £1117 first class.
Generally you should buy your ticket before you travel if you can – there are ticket offices at Carlisle, Workington, Whitehaven, Millom and Barrow and ticket machines (card only) are being installed at all stations on the line except for Braystones and Nethertown. Virgin staff on stations can also sell tickets. You can also buy tickets online at the Northern Rail site including mobile tickets or from any other train operator and either collect them from one of the ticket machines above or have them posted to you. Commercial sites are also available but charge a fee. Unless you are paying with cash conductors may charge you a higher fare if you have not bought a ticket before getting on where there is an open ticket office or working machine.
Sometime in 2019 Northern will be introducing penalty fares. Then (except for Nethertown and Braystones) you will either need to buy a ticket before getting on the train or get a permit to travel from the machine if it does not issue the ticket you want or if you want to pay in cash.
Ticket offices generally offer a very good service and are bound to sell you the cheapest ticket for the journey you describe. However sometimes it is cheaper to split a journey into two or more tickets. Staff are not able to suggest splits. You don’t then need to book tickets through these sites but can used an operator’s site or ticket office. For example, starting from Whitehaven single splits are often possible on journeys to London and Birmingham at Penrith or Grange over Sands, Lancaster and Wigan or multiple splits to Birmingham at Wigton, Preston, Wigan, Crewe and Wolverhampton. For Scottish journeys Carlisle, Edinburgh and Glasgow are obvious splits but Kirkcaldy, Dundee, Dunkeld, Inverkeithing and Perth all feature in splits. Bristol is common for the west country. You can use these sites but they tend to give different answers and you may be able to find your own route, always remembering that the train has to stop at stations where you split. However if you can book ahead and are flexible on times it is frequently possible to get an advance ticket more cheaply than any split.
If you are travelling from a station where you can’t buy a ticket either because it is unstaffed, the ticket office is closed or there is no working ticket machine you can buy any ticket except advance fares from the conductor on the train. In practice the conductor may sell you a ticket even if you could have bought it before you got on but they could charge you a higher fare eg not giving discounts for railcards.
Railcards generally give a 34% discount on almost all fares for young people (16-25 and all full time students), 26-30s (downloaded to a smartphone), older people (60+), people with disabilities (including a friend), families and friends (when travelling with children), forces and two together (any two people who regularly share the same journey) and half-price travel for 16 and 17 year olds with the 16-17 Saver.. They mostly cost £30 a year or £70 for three years (£20 for the disabled railcard or £54 for three years). You can sometimes save the cost of the railcard on a single journey. Note that digital railcards are acceptable to be shown on a phone or tablet device but not a photograph of a paper railcard. There is also a 16-17 railcard which will give 50% discount.
My Cumbria cards https://mycumbriacard.co.uk/ give a 34% discount on tickets after 0900 Monday to Friday and all day at weekends and holidays on all Northern journeys within Cumbria and as far as Lancaster using off peak single and off peak day return tickets. Cards cost £20 a year – useful if other discounts are not available..
Delayed journeysClaim compensation for delays of 15 minutes or more by Northern trains (25% for 15 minutes or more, 50% for 30 minutes or 100% for 60 minutes or more with the alternative of one or more free tickets on Northern services if the delay is 30 minutes or more). Similar refunds are available for delays caused by other operators though the minimum delay varies – you should claim if you arrive at your destination at least 15 minutes late and from the operator which caused the delay eg if a Virgin train was ten minutes late into Carlisle and you missed the connection along the coast you would claim from Virgin Trains.