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How to save money on train fares

Esther Shaw / 21 September 2020

Some hints and tips to reduce the costs of travelling by train.

Train
Save money on train travel

If you’re a regular train traveller, the latest fare increases may be weighing heavy on your wallet.

Train tickets were hiked up at the start of 2020, by an average of 2.7%. This, coupled with timetable chaos and frequent delays, means travellers have had a tough time of late.

The good news is, there are lots of simple steps you can take to save money on train travel. Here’s our guide to cutting costs where you can.

Make big savings by booking in advance

One of the best ways to save on the cost of train travel is by being organised and booking early. The cheapest tickets – ‘Advance Fares’ – are released 12 weeks ahead of travel.

But you do need to act quickly, as there are limited numbers of this type of ticket available, and these can get snapped up pretty quickly. The key is to start looking around at least 10 weeks – and ideally 12 weeks – before you plan to make your journey. The earlier you book, the less you’ll pay for your ticket.

Sign up to the ‘ticket alert’ tool

If you want to be ahead of the pack, then sign up to Trainline’s ticket alert system. You will then get an email notifying you when advance tickets for that particular journey go on sale.

According to Trainline, this could save you 61% on average versus ‘Anytime’ fares on the day.

Check if advance tickets are still available

While booking early is always advisable, some firms will now let you buy advance tickets on the day of travel – if any are still available.

That said, you can vastly improve your chances by not leaving things until the very last minute, as many more companies will allow you to buy advance tickets the day before.

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Look into buying two single tickets

This may sound counter-intuitive, but on occasions, purchasing two single tickets can work out cheaper than a return. With this in mind, check out both single and return fares when booking online.

Try ‘splitting’ tickets

You may be able to save money by ‘splitting’ your journey’ and buying separate tickets for different stages of your journey.

With this trick, you don’t need to change trains, and may not even have to change seats – the train simply needs to make a stop at the ‘split ticket’ station along the way.

Trainline has a new app feature, SplitSave, which saves you money by ‘splitting’ your trip into multiple tickets with no change to your journey. According to Trainline, you could potentially save almost £80 on a journey between Edinburgh Waverley and London King’s Cross.

Other useful tools for ‘splitting’ your journey include Mytrainpal.com, Traintickets.com, Ticketysplit.co.uk and Splitmyfare.co.uk.

Opt for a cheaper route

If you’re not in a hurry to reach your destination, you may find that a slightly longer route works out cheaper than the more direct route.

Do a bit of research to see if you can save a bit of cash by using a different route or taking more stops.

Take advantage of discounts for older travellers

If you’re aged over 60, then it’s well worth investing in a Senior Railcard, as there are some serious savings up for grabs.

One of these cards will cost you just £30 for a year (or £70 for three years), and entitles you to a third off rail fares. This includes standard Anytime, Off-Peak, Advance and First Class tickets. According to National Rail, average savings are around £125 a year.

Other railcards you might want to check out include Two Together, Disabled Person, and Family and Friends. For more on these and other cards, visit Railcard.co.uk.

Save money with a season ticket

If you’re a regular rail commuter or frequent train traveller, it’s worth looking at an annual season ticket. While this will involve you having to stump up a big sum of cash at the outset, you should find this investment will soon pay off in terms of the savings you make. Check out National Rail’s Season Ticket Calculator tool.

Make use of other money-saving websites

As well as Trainline.com, other useful sites that can help you keep costs down when buying tickets include Redspottedhanky.com and Raileasy.co.uk.

Be warned though, that some sites charge booking fees, so remember to factor these in, as this could impact on the amount you actually end up saving.

Grab a bargain basement Megatrain deal

Megatrain fares cost from as little as just a few pounds, plus a £1 booking fee. Megatrain is operated by East Midlands Railway and, unlike the Megabus, you will be on the same service as travellers who booked their tickets elsewhere.

Routes include those between London and Derby, Leicester and Sheffield. For more information, the Megabus website.

Don’t forget to claim compensation for late trains

Most train operators will pay out for delays of 30 minutes or more, while some will pay out if your train is delayed by just 15 minutes.

Under the ‘Delay Repay’ policy (used by many firms), you could get compensation of 50% of the fare, no matter what caused the hold-up.

With the cost of train travel on the up, make sure you claim the money you are entitled to. This will help put a little bit of cash back in your wallet.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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