Train ticket prices rose 5.9 percent last Sunday as rising inflation hit passengers’ wallets.
The increase in regulated fares, which covers season tickets and many off-peak and ‘anytime’ tickets, is the biggest in 11 years.
But there are some easy ways to get around this latest cost-of-living price spike. Here’s how to build a buffer against rising rail costs.
A rail card can take at least a third of the ticket’s original sales price, with most costing just £30 (file image)
Advance rates typically cut standard prices in half. Most operators put tickets on sale between 10 and 12 weeks before the trip (archive image)
Use a travel card
Cut a third of fares by purchasing a rail card. Most are £30 a year, so spending just £90 on tickets effectively repays the cost.
With such a wide range to choose from, chances are good that most people will qualify for at least one. Those available include 16-25, 26-30, Family and Friends, Two Together, Seniors and Disabled.
Discounts apply to most advance and walk-in rates.
Use Tesco Clubcard points to buy a rail card for just £10 worth of vouchers as points are triple their value for these.
A Saver 16-17 rail card, also costing £30, offers a hefty 50 per cent discount on fares.
If you’re traveling in London, link your Railcard to an Oyster card at a TfL station to get a third off off-peak tube travel.
Don’t forget regional rail cards, which typically save between 33 and 50 percent, if you’re traveling in one of these rural regions: Cambrian, Cotswold Line, Dales, Devon & Cornwall, Esk Valley, Heart of Wales, Highland, Pembrokeshire and Valleys (for seniors).
book in advance
Advance rates typically cut standard prices in half. Most operators put tickets on sale 10-12 weeks before travel, but LNER allows you to buy some seats 24 weeks in advance.
If you know you’ll be traveling on set dates in a few months’ time, sign up for email alerts with the supplier or trainline.co.uk to be notified the moment seats become available, which means you can get prices from bargain.
Being flexible on travel times helps to secure the best deals. Many railway companies have tools on their websites to find the cheapest fares.
But don’t think you’ve missed a cheap ticket if you leave it late. Due to changes introduced during the pandemic, many operators allow you to buy cheap “advance” tickets on the day of travel, even up to five minutes before departure.
When traveling at peak times, such as in the morning or at night, most travelers need to buy a ticket at any time (stock image)
Avoid rush hour trains to take full advantage of low or super low season fares – the savings can be huge.
When traveling at peak times, such as in the morning or at night, most travelers need to buy a ticket at any time, unless they have planned in advance.
Research for which? shows an anytime ticket from London to Swansea leaving at 18:18 costs £147, but you can get the 18:48 ticket for just £80, which arrives in Swansea just 14 minutes later.
If you wait until 7:18pm you can get a ticket for £57.50, a saving of £89.50 compared to peak prices.
Buy two singles, not a return
Two advance singles are usually much cheaper than buying a standard return.
The situation where customers were forced to buy an expensive standard return fare because a section of the route did not have a cheap single ticket available is about to disappear.
In fact, LNER has gotten rid of refunds on most of its services and now only sells single tickets at about half the price of a return. It is believed that other companies may also follow suit.
This little-known gem cuts fares by a third for groups of three to nine adults traveling together on a host of rail companies.
Nobody needs a train card; look for the Groupsave option when booking, but it only applies to off-peak tickets.
The benefit is offered by c2c, Chiltern, Gatwick Express, Great Northern, Great Western, Greater Anglia, London Northwestern, South Western, Southeastern, Southern, Stansted Express, Thameslink and West Midlands Railway.
Flexible season ticket
Workers who now travel just two or three days a week can save with a monthly pass, which typically allows eight-day trips every four weeks.
If you’re traveling two days a week, the new ‘flexi’ offer is almost always cheaper than traditional daily rates or annual passes. For those who travel three days a week, the flexible ticket is cheaper six times out of ten.
The MoneySavingExpert website says: “Some may save £100 a year, but others will save little or even worse.”
split your ticket
Operators often have fare promotions, including tickets that allow all-day travel on one company’s services (file image)
Some trips can be much cheaper if you break them up into several shorter hops between stations on the route.
For example, which one? he found that Ipswich to Sheffield costs £94 on a ticket at any time, but only £45 when he buys single tickets from Ipswich to Peterborough, then Doncaster, then Sheffield; you just have to show the conductor the corresponding ticket for the section you are on.
Check out websites like trainsplit.com, splitticketing.co.uk and trainline.co.uk, which take the hassle out of buying individual tickets.
Operators often have fare promotions, including tickets that allow all-day travel on one company’s services (like Southern’s DaySave), kids for a pound, and free upgrades to first class for pregnant women.
Search carrier websites or sign up for their mailing lists.
Avoid administrative costs and postage by booking with railway companies directly, not through third-party websites, and by choosing e-tickets if possible.
Earn rebates or points
Topcashback.co.uk gives a 5.25 per cent cashback on new customer purchases through trainline.co.uk. Quidco.com gives a 1.6 per cent discount on all raileasy.co.uk expenses.
The websites of some railway companies give customers points to pay for future trips. The LNER Perks scheme awards a two per cent credit.
Claim compensation for delay
Delay Repay schemes see many operators refund at least part of your fee if your service is delayed by at least 15 minutes, but you often have to ask for it.
Keep your ticket and claim at the signing site. You normally need to do this within 28 days.
Since there are delays every week, maybe set a time once a month to send them all. You can see if the trains were late on sites like ontimetrains.co.uk; You will need this information for your claims.
Use a bus or a car
Check National Express rate promotions or, if you’re driving, find the cheapest garage to refuel at petrolprices.com.