Travel Insurance

5 tips for cheaper train travel

If you're a regular on the railways, you may be wondering how you can save money on train travel. In this article, NimbleFins explores 5 ways to cut the cost of train fares.

Train fares in England rose by as much as 5.9% back in March.

Not only are we in the midst of a cost of a living crisis, of course, but service levels provided on our national rail network sometimes leaves a lot to be desired!

While we can't do much about ticket hikes - that's the Government's responsibility - what we can do is tell you some nifty ways on how you can save money on train travel. From buying the right type of ticket, to buying multiple tickets for the same journey, keep on reading to discover how you can cut the cost of travelling by train.

How to save money on UK train travel

If you're a frequent traveller on the railways, you'll know that rail fares can be pricey to say the least. Thankfully, however, there are a number of ways to cut costs if you play your cards right. Let's explore...

1. Book your tickets in advance.

If you're able to plan ahead, and you know exactly the date or dates you plan to travel, then booking in advance is a 'no-brainer.' Train companies up and down the country release their 'advance' tickets typically between 10-12 weeks before the date of travel. These are the very cheapest ticket types available, though the trade-off is they aren't flexible. With advance tickets you must travel on a specific train at a specific time on a specific day - no ifs or buts!

However, if you're happy with this restriction then you should always look to book advance tickets as soon as they go on sale. When it comes to train travel, the rule of thumb is that tickets only ever get more expensive. Also, advance tickets often sell out, so this is another reason to act as soon as you can.

2. Consider a season ticket.

If you travel on the same journey regularly, perhaps for work purposes, then an annual season ticket could be for you. Traditional season tickets allow unlimited travel between two stations and could save you a tonne compared with buying normal return tickets.

Only in the office 2 or 3 days a week? Since the covid-19 pandemic, the concept of working from home has exploded as companies are beginning to appreciate that employees can be just as productive at home than they are at work. Thanks to this changing trend, it's now possible to buy 'flexi' season tickets. These offer 8 days of travel in 28 day period which could be ideal if you work part-time in the office.

The National Rail website has a helpful season ticket calculator that can help you work out how much a season ticket could save you.

3. Look at splitting your journey.

'Split ticketing' is quite ridiculous if you think about it. It refers to buying multiple tickets for a single journey to save money. It shouldn't be a 'thing' but thanks to the inefficient rail booking systems we have in the UK, engaging in it can save you big.

Here's an example of how split ticketing works: When we looked on 20 January 2023, a single fare journey from Crewe to Edinburgh at 7.08am on Friday cost £42.60. Yet buying a ticket for Crewe to Oxenholme Lake District at 7.08am, and then another ticket for Oxenholme Lake District to Edinburgh cost just £35.25. That's a 19% saving, just for buying two separate tickets instead of one. Plus, there'd be no need to leave the train.

There are many other examples too. To find split ticketing fares, it's worth using a dedicated ticket splitting website or app. MyTrainPal and SplitMyFare are two popular options.

Travelling short - a word of warning. Split ticketing is perfectly within conditions of of traveling by rail. However, 'travelling short' is not. This is where you buy a ticket between two destinations, with the intention of leaving your train at an earlier stop. While it's possible to save money by doing this, it isn't allowed and you could be fined. Also, if you decide to travel short then you may not be allowed through the exit barriers at your desired destination.

4. Consider a railcard.

There are numerous railcards available with some offering a discount of up to 33% on off-peak fares. So whether you're aged between 18 and 30, a senior person, disabled, or a veteran - chances are, there's a railcard for you.

If you want a railcard a £30 charge will typically apply, but most will make up this saving pretty fast. Also, if you're a Tesco Clubcard collector, you can get hold of a 16-25, 26-30, Family & Friends', Senior or Two Together Railcard for just £10 in Clubcard points. If you qualify for a disabled persons railcard, then you can buy one for just £7 in Clubcard points.

As an added boon, if you travel on the London Underground, it's possible to link your railcard to your Oyster card. This can allow you to enjoy a third off tube fares. Take a look at the railcard website for a full list of railcards available, including eligibility requirements.

5. Book on sites that don't charge a fee.

There are an abundance of train booking websites out there. However, many will charge a fee when booking a train ticket through them. Thankfully however, you can often avoid this fee if you book directly through the train company you're traveling with.

Also, London Northern Eastern Railway and Avanti are two companies that allow you to book train tickets on their website without having to pay a fee, including tickets for other providers.

What can I do if my train's late or I'm unhappy with the level of service?

If your train is delayed, then getting compensation should be straightforward if you contact the train company you traveled with. Generally the longer the delay, the higher the amount you'll be entitled to. However, if your delay is less than 15 minutes, any claim is unlikely to be successful.

If you've received a poor level of service, then the first action to take is to complain directly to your train company. If you're not happy with their response, and you've received a 'final response' or 40 working days have passed, then you can take your case to the free and independent Rail Ombudsman.

To learn more about making a complaint, you may wish to visit the National Rail website.

Karl Talbot

Karl is a personal finance expert who specialises in writing about savings accounts, credit cards and cheap personal loans. Karl has worked for a number of personal finance publications including The Motley Fool and MoneySavingExpert.


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