Ten ways to find cheaper train tickets

29 December 2016

Looking to get the best deal on train tickets? Our surveys tell us that more than half of passengers feel they are not getting value for money. The annual fare rises are not helping either.

Here, Anthony Smith, chief executive of the independent watchdog Transport Focus, tells passengers how they can get the best deal.

1. Beat the fare rise

  • Most fares increase in January, although revisions can take place in May and September. If you buy a season ticket, especially an annual, start it before 1 January to get it at the previous rate.

2. Check offers and discounts on the train company website

  • Sometimes train companies offer discounts on their routes, so it might be worth checking with them before you buy. Click here
  • Most operators’ websites do not charge booking fees, and some will let you set email reminders when the tickets are released.
  • Sign up to email alerts – from time to time, they might send you offers

3. Book in advance

  • Booking an Advance ticket can save you money. Companies start selling tickets up to 12 weeks before the journey.
  • If you miss the first batch of cheap tickets on the travel date you want, don’t give up, keep looking. They sometimes release more later on.

4. ‘Split’ your journey

  • If you are travelling long distance, it might be cheaper to buy two separate tickets to your destination. For example, if you wanted to travel from A to C, you could see if buying tickets from A to B and B to C was cheaper than one ticket from A to C. (Note: If you want to do this, you’ll need to do this yourself as staff at ticket offices are not required to search for the cheapest ticket).
  • If you do this, remember to check what restrictions apply. For example, if your service is delayed and your connection is time-specific then you may have to pay extra. The train you are travelling on must stop at station B when you change between tickets or they are not valid.

 5. Railcards

  • You can make big savings if you use a Railcard when buying tickets. There are different ones to choose from. For example, there are national and regional railcards. National Railcards include:
16-25 Railcard Family & Friends Railcard Senior Railcard
Network Railcard Disabled Persons Railcard HM Forces Railcard
Two Together Railcard

Ensure that the Railcard you buy is valid for the journey you want to make. And make sure you take your Railcard with you when you travel!

6. Three may be a group

  • Three or more travellers may be classed as a group. Remember to check for a group option as you could save up to a third. Ten or more is always a group.

7. Other routes/operators

  • See if other operators or routes are available. They may be cheaper than the ‘main’ obvious operators.

8. Go single

  • When booking a return journey, check whether it’s cheaper to buy two Singles or a Return.

9. Demand cheaper tickets

  • If you are flexible about the time of travel use the “best fare” or “cheapest fare” finder. An alternative journey, where you travel earlier or later, might be cheaper.

10. Get a ticket for train and bus

  • PLUSBUS is a travelcard that you can buy with your train ticket. It gives you bus travel to & from the station and around the area of the town or city that’s at the start or end of your train journey.
  • Adding this onto your train ticket could help you save if you’re going to make a journey on the bus. You can hop-on and off buses as much as you like all day making travelling around easier and cheaper.

And, lastly, don’t forget to claim compensation if you are delayed more than 30 minutes on most train services, but 15 minutes on GTR (Southern, Thameslink, Great Northern and Gatwick Express) services! And if you are a monthly or annual season ticket holder on ScotRail, you can qualify for a free week next year. Southern are giving a month’s compensation to their season ticket holders next year too.

How will passengers be affected by the fare rise?

Our range of example fares demonstrating the fare rise can be found here.
Find out more on https://www.transportfocus.org.uk




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