It drives me crazy that hardly anyone will tell you this. It seems to be almost a secret. I asked a train guard at Tottenham Hale when he thought the first off-peak train would be, and he couldn’t tell me.
The problem is that the system is far too obtuse. The basics are as follows…
An off-peak train into London is one that will not arrive before 10am. Thus, if your journey in is 45 minutes, a train departing before 09.15 will be peak time. If it’s after that it’ll be off-peak. It all depends on your journey time.
When leaving London, any train departing before 16.29 is off-peak. You then have a peak period until 18.34, after which it is off-peak again. There are some exceptions to this, depending on your route. I normally travel home from Liverpool street on the Cambridge/Stansted line. Those heading to Braintree don’t have the peak moment, apparently. Same goes for those in Hatfield Peverel.
So, if you are at Tottenham Hale, having travelled by tube to get there, and board a train at 18.40 to go north, it will be a peak time train. You need to wait 11 minutes after 18.34 to count as an off-peak train, because it takes a train 11 minutes to get from London Liverpool Street to Tottenham Hale… your earliest off-peak train is thus 18.45 from Tottenham Hale.
See? It’s not exactly simple is it! I thought there was a move to simplify this nonsense? Instead it just seems to have become ever more complex. And don’t start me on day ranger train tickets, advance single, or any other ridiculously complicated fare structures. It really shouldn’t be so difficult.