Child take train alone?

(48 Posts)
CURIOUSMIND Wed 16-Oct-13 13:36:36

Is there a legal age for this?
If there is not a legal age, how old do you think is old enough for them to take train alone?
The regular journey I am thinking about will last about 2 hours and 20 mins, including one stop.
What is the best discount card for a child alone?

Many thanks.

Periwinkle007 Wed 16-Oct-13 13:41:53

I am not sure if there is a legal age. I caught the train to school on my own from 10 but that was only 20 minutes. For a journey that length I would be inclined to say older though. A lot can happen in nearly 2.5hrs and if there was an accident or illness then it would be a long time before a parent/known adult to get to them. I couldn't imagine putting my kids on a train to London unaccompanied (that would be about 2 hrs from us) until they were at least teenagers

Periwinkle007 Wed 16-Oct-13 13:45:25

National Express say minimum age is 14.
train companies say 12

LIZS Wed 16-Oct-13 13:46:45

I doubt there is a legal age but that is some ask of a young child ie . under 13. They pay a child fare between 5 and 16 whether accompanied or not. Don't think there is a specific railcard.

LifeIsBetterInFlipFlops Wed 16-Oct-13 13:46:49

How old is your child?
I can't imagine letting DS travel alone on a train until secondary school.
Over two hours is a very long time.

sassytheFIRST Wed 16-Oct-13 13:48:46

That's too long IMO - my dd is 11 and I could just about put her on a half hour train journey if she were being collected off the train at the far end.

Unexpected Wed 16-Oct-13 13:53:27

Are you considering putting a primary age child on a train to school (i.e. each day) for 2 hours 20 mins? I'd like to be sure what we are talking about here before I say what I think of that idea! grin

Ladymuck Wed 16-Oct-13 14:03:49

Ds took the train from 11, but not for a journey that long.

I'm assuming that this isn't a twice a day journey? I wouldn't do that length of commute even as an adult!

The situations that the child would face would include delays, missing their connection, losing their ticket, and dealing with unwanted attention from other people or animals on the train (ds still remember the day a pigeon flew into his carriage!). At the end of the school day that journey will be in the dark too.

mummytime Wed 16-Oct-13 14:05:49

Periwinkle007 - well that can't hold around here as a very large number of children commute to school by train from 11. (Up to an hour is normal - but there are lots of other children commuting and even "train buddies" for some schools).

By one stop do you mean one change of train?

Have they done the journey before? Do they have a mobile? How confident do they feel? How busy is the train?

Periwinkle007 Wed 16-Oct-13 14:10:06

thats what I thought mummytime but on a quick google I have found it stated for 3 different rail companies. As I say I did it from the age of 10 and I thought it was very common from start of yr7. I would think it is at the discretion of the guards to be honest but no guard will want to take responsibility for a young child and shouldn't be expected to. School children from 11ish seems a bit different.

moldingsunbeams Wed 16-Oct-13 14:26:23

Depends on train company, a year six child caught train alone when we did the school journey but it was on 5 - 10 minutes.

moldingsunbeams Wed 16-Oct-13 14:28:52

2 hours 20 minutes is the same as train from Manchester to London, I don't think I would be happy with that until mid teens, especially is a change is involved.

bigTillyMint Wed 16-Oct-13 14:35:31

I wasn't aware there was a minimum age. My two have taken the train (about an hours journey) on their own aged 11 and 13 - put on by me and met by in-laws.

insanityscratching Wed 16-Oct-13 14:43:26

Dd from 14 has regularly traveled two hour plus journeys with changes along the way with her friends. At 11 I was only happy with her traveling half an hour or so unaccompanied. I can't imagine tagging a two hour plus commute onto a school day, won't they be exhausted?

Periwinkle007 Wed 16-Oct-13 14:46:58

I was reading it more like they would be doing the journey a couple of times a week, weekly boarding or to visit other parent/grandparent rather than a daily trip. daily would be insanity.

mummytime Wed 16-Oct-13 17:49:06

Well this is the advice British Transport police give for unaccompanied children on trains. C2C do say a child has to be 12, but that isn't in the Rail Guidelines - and I guess you would just have to use the tube instead. East Coast give the normal UK type advice of when they are mature enough to travel safely. Chiltern also state 12 as a minimium. However plenty of other lines don't list an age at all.

DalmationDots Wed 16-Oct-13 18:06:23

I'd say from when they are in secondary school. But depends, DCs schools both had hundreds of pupils catching the same trains and then walking to the school together.

HmmAnOxfordComma Wed 16-Oct-13 18:08:37

If it is a legal minimum age of 12 it's quite hilarious that the County Council give out train passes for those 11 year olds in our area who require transport to secondary school and for whom the most direct route is a train!

CURIOUSMIND Wed 16-Oct-13 20:28:28

Thank you so much for all your input!
My child is in year 5 now, but this possible plan is for secondary school, weekly boarding, very likely. Not sure about the travel safety and cost , so lots to think about.
Thank you!

Xochiquetzal Wed 16-Oct-13 20:48:38

My sister has been doing the hour and a half journey (with 1 change) to my house alone since she was 10 but I met her off the train til she was 13, lots of her friends have got the train as far to school everyday since year 7 with no one to meet them, but then theres a group of them all going to the same place whereas she was coming over on saturdays/during school holidays, so I think it depends if there are other children getting the same train regularly (or if you have more than one child that would be doing the journey) and if anyone is meeting them the other end.

difficultpickle Wed 16-Oct-13 20:54:12

That's a long journey to do twice every weekend bearing in mind they probably won't be able to leave school before Saturday lunchtime at the earliest or later on Saturday if they have matches and will usually have to be back Sunday evening. I would check that carefully as that is a lot of travelling to do every week for not much time at home.

outtolunchagain Thu 17-Oct-13 08:38:54

The other problem is that Sunday travel is rarely trouble free with frequent bus service replacements etc which can make it more complex

lagerlout Thu 17-Oct-13 09:06:49

I think people create problems and scenarios that may happen but certainly not a regular occurrence. It depends on your child and their maturity, how do they feel it and can they handle it? If so I think being given responsibility is a good thing and they will grow into a more independent teenager who can problem solve and think for themselves. Kids today are wrapped on cotton wool to the point that they reach the ages of 16 or even 18 and mums and dads are holding their hands taking them into town for work experience/job interviews etc. Madness to me. I had a four hour round trip on the tube every day from the age of 11, I coped just fine with the travelling/tiredness, delays, train changes, dealing with strangers and keeping up with school work. Often I did the journey on a weekend too so I could meet up with school friends in a town local to where they all lived. My parents quickly learnt they could trust me at a young age and didn't have to spend years taking pigeon steps with me. Kids are not stupid, if you teach them right. Whenever topics like this come up I never understand why in some peoples minds a certain age is going to endow a child with the knowledge to handle something because I don't think there is a right age you could make excuses until they are an adult by which point you have built it into something scary for them.

DowntonTrout Thu 17-Oct-13 09:11:52

My DD is 11. She does a 2 hour train journey Monday and Friday (weekly boarding.)

She is unaccompanied, but travels with others doing the same journey. We parents all book the same train and seats so that they sit together. We book up seats as far in advance as possible to get the advance fares. There is no railcard for a child under 16 as they are already child (half) price.

If an over 16 was travelling there is a 16-24 railcard or family and friends railcard. Also with East Coast they have a 3 together fare if there are 3 or more travelling together.

They also have a 4 stop tube journey at the other end. Things can, and do, go wrong. Delayed/cancelled trains etc. if they miss their booked train it is very costly. Do you mean one stop or one change? how will your DC get from station to school?

I have been doing the journey with her for a number of months to prepare her for doing it without me. Another parent is currently accompanying her child so DD travels with them. Last week did both journeys by herself though as the others were not travelling. it is working for us but many will think it crazy. Only you know your child and whether they are mature /sensible enough.

DowntonTrout Thu 17-Oct-13 09:15:35

And yes to outtolunch Sunday travel is a nightmare. Hence we do early, very early, Monday mornings. DD then gets a full weekend at home. She copes with the early start just fine.

ChippingInNeedsSleepAndCoffee Thu 17-Oct-13 09:19:10

I would be happy to do it occasionally from about 10 if the child is sensible and if they have a phone - say to stay with a parent/grandparent etc but I would not expect a child to do it every weekend (no matter what age) for weekly boarding - it's too much, especially (as others have said) if your DC can't leave until Saturday lunchtime and has to return on a Sunday when lots of disruptions are probable.

ChippingInNeedsSleepAndCoffee Thu 17-Oct-13 09:23:45

Downton - does DD mind doing it? (not so much the 'safely' aspect but the time it takes). If there were others doing it and the child had friends to talk to and didn''t mind doing it, I'd be happy for them to do it. I was more picturing the OP's child doing it alone every weekend. I used to do it myself (as an adult, for work) and it got old quickly - especially when the train was full and you had to stand a lot of the time. (I couldn't book in advance as due to the job I could never be certain I'd get that specific train). I felt half my weekend was wasted commuting - and I like trains!

EldonAve Thu 17-Oct-13 09:36:04

I'd say 10 years and up

In London 5-10 year olds can ride the train/bus/tram/tube alone

difficultpickle Thu 17-Oct-13 09:39:43

Eldon how many 5 year olds do you see on the tube/buses in London on their own? I work in London and I can honestly say I have never seen this. Plenty of secondary aged dcs but not year 1s!

EldonAve Thu 17-Oct-13 09:41:00

There are probably a fair few on the buses

CaptainSweatPants Thu 17-Oct-13 09:42:54

Why don't you post in secondary schools rather than primary ?

difficultpickle Thu 17-Oct-13 09:45:58

Really? I work near primary schools in south London and see plenty of aged 5-10 on the buses accompanied by adults. I've just never seen them alone without an adult.

DowntonTrout Thu 17-Oct-13 10:03:50

Chippingin no she doesn't mind it- so far. It was the trade off for her to go to this school. And believe me, if there had been something similar in our area, we would have gone there, but there isn't.

There are children travelling every day from Kent, Essex, Oxford etc- many commute 3 hours a day to get there, so conversely her 4 hours a week is relatively minor. Had she gone to one of the grammar schools in this area (locally) we would have had to leave the house at 7am to get her to the bus.

Now it isn't ideal. I won't pretend it is. There is a fairly high turnover of DCs who start the school and can't cope with their journeys. I suspect that in winter a 5am start on a Monday morning will get very wearing. She has got on the wrong tube once. Realised what she had done, got off at the next stop and changed. There were delays on one line so she just took a different route. But like I said, I spent months training her.

ChippingInNeedsSleepAndCoffee Thu 17-Oct-13 10:49:10

Downton - is it a school for something specific? (ie Dance)

I am very impressed with her navigation of the tube - well done her smile

Bonsoir Thu 17-Oct-13 10:50:36

Eurostar lets children take it on their own as of their 12th birthday. So I think a national journey on the train ought to be within their capabilities. I was certainly taking the train from Kent to London (an hour's journey) on my own by the age of 10.

DowntonTrout Thu 17-Oct-13 11:01:47

Yes. Well known theatre school. So she does the journey or doesn't go. Her choice. It breaks my heart actually but that's another story.

VinegarDrinker Thu 17-Oct-13 11:12:13

I did 2 trains (with a change) and a 20 minute walk - total 1-1.5 hours each way, daily from y7 (when I was aged 11 and 2 days!)

ChippingInNeedsSleepAndCoffee Thu 17-Oct-13 11:49:05

Downton - I can imagine flowers You are lovely to let her do it, even though it's not what you would prefer.

rubyflipper Thu 17-Oct-13 11:59:21

Hi Downton, I guessed this might be a performing arts school.
Is there no way you could take her yourself?
Do the school have any suggestions? I don't think your dilemma will be unique

DowntonTrout Thu 17-Oct-13 12:21:34

We did a term of Saturday school at first, with me taking her every week. That was last year. Then I moved to London for 7 months and we both travelled home at weekends. That's when she learnt about the tubes, buses, safety etc.

This was all preparation for this term when she started boarding. Yes I could continue doing the travelling with her on Monday's/Fridays but actually we have spent the best part of a year building up to it and as most of the time she has company, she really doesn't need or want me to do it. There was a new starter in September and DD showed her what to do and where to go. She negotiates all that with a suitcase too. Hand on heart I think she is safer travelling from kings x at busy times on the tube than she would be going through our local bus station and wandering around the town centre. it's not like she's wandering round back streets and she would never get into an empty carriage.

BUT, and it's a big but, I know most other people wouldn't be comfortable with it. It is not ideal but it is the norm for many at her school. She takes it in her stride.

friday16 Thu 17-Oct-13 12:23:38

There are children travelling every day from Kent, Essex, Oxford etc- many commute 3 hours a day to get there

In case anyone still thinks that abusive parenting is unique to the feckless underclass, we present "obsessive parents and the things they put their kids through so they can brag about it on Facebook".

There is no conceivable educational advantage that will justify spending the equivalent of 35 days a year (assuming eight hours sleep and 190 school days) on public transport. Over the course of a seven year secondary career, they will have spent eight solid months (16 hours a day for 249 days = 3984 hours, 3 hours a day for 190 days per year for 7 years = 3990 hours) travelling. FFS.

DowntonTrout Thu 17-Oct-13 12:33:53

I'm not sure what you're getting at Friday

DDs commute is 4 hours a week, plus a 10 minute tube each way.

Most children around here have a much longer journey across the whole of the week. Lots and lots of children everywhere have a 30-60 minute bus journey to school every day.

Are you calling that abuse?

ChippingInNeedsSleepAndCoffee Thu 17-Oct-13 12:45:01

Downton - don't get dragged down. Some people are just trouble & as thick as mince grin What you did for/with DD was above & beyond to enable her to follow her dreams, especially when you wouldn't have chosen this for her yourself. I suspect she is better prepared to handle her 'commute' than most kids who walk to the local senior school!

DowntonTrout Thu 17-Oct-13 13:02:56

Thank you grin

Anyway, I've answered the OP. some DCs can cope with a journey like that. Prepare them for it and if they have travelling companions it makes it so much easier. The journey becomes part of their social time and if they are smart they will use it to get homework done. DD buys a Starbucks, chills out and watches Eastenders on her iPad. wink

Bonsoir Thu 17-Oct-13 14:59:06

There's a great film just out in France called Sur Le Chemin de l'Ecole about children in Argentina, Morocco, India and Kenya travelling long distances on foot or horse across deserts/mountains/other inhospitable nature to get to school.

I don't think two hours on a UK commuter train twice a week is much to put up with!

moldingsunbeams Thu 17-Oct-13 17:04:45

I think I would be tempted in this situation to do full boarding during term time and go and pick them up and spend time with them near school at the weekend than them do the journey.

CURIOUSMIND Fri 18-Oct-13 17:45:11

Other possibility about the plan is going home every three weeks. Children can leave on Friday 3 pm, and they are supposed to come back on Sunday afternoon. Train station is right next to the school. I will always pick up. School staff can walk children to train station, not sure whether they can pick up, I don't think so. I am also thinking about practice the journey with him couple of times, then see what's next. My Ds1 is very mature for his age, very confident person.
Thank you to all again. I learned a lot , such as Sunday nightmare etc.You are very helpful!

Magrug Fri 18-Oct-13 18:36:53

One of mine has come back from boarding school alone since the age of 13. It involves 2.5-3 hours of travel although usually just one change. We've had a couple of missed connections and once a missed stop, but these are all good learning experiences IMO.

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