Rail passengers can now buy cheaper advance train tickets as little as 10 minutes before they travel on many more routes.

Advance fares are now available on the day for Grand Central, Greater Anglia, Northern, TransPennine Express, Virgin Trains East and West Coast and Caledonian Sleeper routes, as long as you're travelling long-distance and tickets are still available.

Until now, advance fares – which are for a specific date and time – have usually only been available up until the day before travel, meaning passengers who left things to the last minute faced paying a lot more.

Also, travellers will now be told when there are only a few advance fares left, to ensure they don't miss out.

CrossCountry has allowed customers to buy advance fares up to 15 minutes before travel since 2015, and more than one million of these have been bought on the day.

Just because it's an advance ticket doesn't mean it's cheap

Buying an advance ticket on the day will often be cheaper than buying a standard ticket – but that doesn't mean you should leave booking your train to the last minute. Booking further in advance is still likely to be much cheaper than leaving it till close to your departure.

Just because a ticket is labelled as 'advance' doesn't mean it's a bargain, especially if you're travelling at peak times – it just means it's likely to be cheaper than the most expensive 'walk-up' tickets. Here are some examples we've found today:

Examples of train ticket pricing

Train company Time Advance price for travel today Advance price for travel on 2 August Walk-up price
Virgin Trains 3.20pm (peak) £142 £38 £169 (anytime fare)
Virgin Trains 2.40pm (off-peak) £60 £11 (in the sale) £82.90 (off-peak)

Advance tickets tend to be released about 12 weeks ahead, and you can sign up for alerts for when they go on sale. See our Cheap Train Tickets guide for more information.

Why are the changes being made?

Today's announcement is one of a series of changes promised in a 12-month action plan to make buying tickets easier and simpler for passengers. See our Improvements to help rail passengers find cheaper tickets MSE News story for more info.

The change to advance ticketing was aimed at cutting what passengers pay on long-distance routes, where there can be vast price differences. It's not yet clear whether advance tickets will be available 10 minutes before travel on any other route – we're checking and will update this story when we know more.

Jacqueline Starr, managing director of customer experience at the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train companies, said: "Not everyone can plan journeys in advance and now more people can buy cheaper tickets on the day, even on their way to the station.

"We want customers to get the best possible deal whenever they travel. With 97% of your fare going back into running and improving the railway, investment is driving quicker improvement, more choice and greater freedom."