Travelling by train has become increasingly expensive in recent years, but there are ways to keep the costs down. Whether you are travelling a five minute short journey like Cambridge to Cambridge North or a day-long trip from London to Inverness, significant savings can be made if you choose the right deal and buy well in advance.
Buy a railcard
There are various railcards you can choose from, but in general they will offer a third off fares for a year for around £30. So if you spend more than £90 in an average year on trains tickets, which for many people would be just one return trip, then a railcard is a cost-effective way to reduce your costs. Most railcards also give you a 33% discount on off-peak rail and tube travel in London on either Oyster pay-as-you-go or travelcards, so those living in London get an even better deal.
The new 16-17 Saver Railcard offers teens up to 50% off tickets, whilst the 16-25 Railcard and new 26-30 Railcard will offer young people a third off fares. Meanwhile, the Two Together card will give couples of any age a third off fares when booked and travelling together, and there are various other cards on offer for seniors, families, and veterans – all available on the Railcard website or via the official app.
Book 10-12 weeks ahead for the lowest fares
In general, the earlier you book your tickets the more likely you are to be able to find a cheap fare. Rail companies are required to set their timetables 12 weeks in advance, and most will offer their lowest fares shortly afterwards. And with only very limited numbers of cheap fares available on each service, it is worth looking for your tickets 10-12 weeks before travel.
However, even if you cannot book that far in advance, the earlier you book the more chance you have of picking up a cheaper ticket. Some train companies will still offer cheaper Advance tickets up to 10 minutes before departure.
Split your tickets
Instead of buying a ticket for a whole journey as a single ticket, significant savings can often be made by buying multiple tickets for every section of your route. Train companies tend not to make finding split tickets easy, but services like TrainPal and Rail Europe will do the hard work for you and let you know if there are savings to be made.
For example, if you wanted to travel from London to Edinburgh, then strangely you may be able to save by booking singles between London and York and then York to Edinburgh instead of just buying a single ticket. And you can still stay in the same seat on the same train for the whole trip.