Train fares can be expensive, and prices seem to increase year on year. Here, we share some tips and tricks for getting the cheapest ticket possible.
The new year saw the average rail fare increase by 3.1% in the UK. Whether you’re a regular commuter or just hop on trains for the occasional day out, the likelihood is you’ll be one of the millions affected by the price hike.
There is some good news, though. We have uncovered some tried-and-tested ways of securing cheaper deals on train tickets, from booking in advance to splitting your journey. Read on for our top tips.
Book in advance
As a general rule, train tickets are at their cheapest 12 weeks in advance, when the fares are released. If you’re super organised and have a trip planned, watch out for fares coinciding with your dates to be released to get the best deals.
Bear in mind that the 12 week rule is a general guide, and some train companies release fares earlier than this. London North Eastern Railway, for example, release their tickets 24 weeks in advance. Caledonian Sleeper tickets from London to Scotland can be booked as far as 12 months ahead of the journey.
If you have a specific journey in mind, try the Trainline ticket alert system. Just enter your journey details, and you’ll be notified when advance tickets for your trip go on sale.
Consider a railcard
It may surprise you how many different railcards are available – and they can save you up to a third on rail fares. There are some sneaky tips to get the most out of your railcard. Take the 16-25 railcard for example. The three year railcard is available online for £70, but if you buy it the day before your 24th birthday, (or if you buy a one year railcard the day before you turn 26), you could keep using your 16-25 railcard until you are almost 27. Genius!
Calling all commuters! If you are paying your train fare daily, you’re missing a trick. Consider a monthly or annual season ticket to save the most money on your commute. Use National Rail’s Season Ticket Calculator to see which one will work best for you.
This one is a little fiddly, but totally worth it. By splitting the tickets – not the journey – you could make big savings on your rail fare. You could even stay in the same seat for your whole journey.
This may sound dodgy but it’s completely compliant with the National Rail Conditions of Travel. The only rule is that the train must call at all the stations you have tickets for.
How does it work? If, for example, you are travelling from Manchester to London and your train goes through Stoke-on-Trent, by booking tickets from Manchester to Stoke-on-Trent, and then Stoke-on-Trent to London, you could potentially save money.
Don’t forget to claim
It’s extremely annoying when your train is delayed, but if you’re not in a rush, a substantial delay could be in your favour when it comes to saving money. If your train is over 30 minutes late, you could potentially make a claim to get back up to 100% of the cost of your ticket.