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Your ticket to beating the biggest rail fares rise in over a decade: From flexible passes to avoiding peak trains, how to build a buffer against the latest cost-of-living price hike

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Train ticket prices leapt by 5.9 per cent last Sunday as rising inflation walloped passengers’ wallets. 

The regulated fares increase, which covers season tickets and many off-peak and ‘anytime’ tickets, is the biggest for 11 years.

But there are some simple ways to beat this latest cost-of-living price hike. Here we show you how to build a buffer against rising rail costs.

A railcard can cut at least one third from the original sale price of the ticket - and most are just £30 (file image)

A railcard can cut at least one third from the original sale price of the ticket – and most are just £30 (file image)

Advance fares typically cut standard prices by half. Most operators put tickets on sale ten to 12 weeks before travel (file image)

Advance fares typically cut standard prices by half. Most operators put tickets on sale ten to 12 weeks before travel (file image)

Use a railcard

Cut a third off fares by snapping up a railcard. The majority are £30 a year, so spending just £90 on tickets effectively reimburses the cost.

With a wide range to choose from, there’s a good chance most people qualify for at least one. Those available include 16-25, 26-30, Family & Friends, Two Together, Senior and Disabled Persons.

Discounts apply to most advance and walk-up fares.

Use Tesco Clubcard points to bag a railcard for just £10 in vouchers, as points give treble their value for these.

A 16-17 Saver railcard, which also costs £30, offers a hefty 50 per cent off fares.

If travelling in London, link your Railcard to an Oyster card at a TfL station to get a third off off-peak Tube journeys.

Don’t forget regional railcards – which generally save between 33 and 50 per cent – if travelling 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 fares typically cut standard prices by half. Most operators put tickets on sale ten to 12 weeks before travel, but LNER lets you buy some seats 24 weeks ahead.

If you know you will travel on set dates a few months ahead, sign up for email alerts with the provider or trainline.co.uk to be notified the moment seats are available, meaning you can scoop bargain-basement prices.

Being flexible on travel times helps secure the best deals. Many rail firms 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. Since changes brought in during the pandemic, many operators allow you to buy cheap ‘advance’ tickets on the day of travel, even up to five minutes before departure.

Go off-peak

When travelling at peak times, such as mornings or evenings, commuters mostly need to buy an anytime ticket (file image)

When travelling at peak times, such as mornings or evenings, commuters mostly need to buy an anytime ticket (file image)

Avoid rush-hour trains to make the most of off-peak or super off-peak fares – the savings can be huge.

When travelling at peak times, such as mornings or evenings, commuters mostly need to buy an anytime ticket, unless they have planned ahead. 

Research by Which? shows an anytime ticket from London to Swansea departing at 6.18pm costs £147, but you could get the 6.48pm for just £80, which gets into 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 with peak prices.

Buy two singles, not a return

Two advance singles are usually much cheaper than buying one standard return.

The situation where customers were forced into buying a pricey standard return fare – because one leg of the route didn’t have a cheap single available – is on the way out.

In fact, LNER has ditched returns on most of its services and now only sell single tickets at about half the price of a return. It is thought other firms may also follow suit.

Groupsave

This little-known gem cuts a third off fares for groups of three to nine adults travelling together on a host of rail companies. 

No one needs a railcard – look for the Groupsave option when booking – but it applies to off-peak tickets only.

The perk 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 commute only two or three days a week can save with a monthly pass, typically allowing trips on eight days every four-week period.

If you travel two days a week, the new ‘flexi’ deal is almost always cheaper than daily fares or traditional annual season tickets. For those travelling three days a week, the flexible ticket is cheaper six out of ten times.

The MoneySavingExpert website says: ‘Some can save £100s a year, but others will save little or even be worse off.’

Split your ticket

Operators often have fare promotions, including tickets allowing all-day travel on a firm’s services (file image)

Operators often have fare promotions, including tickets allowing all-day travel on a firm’s services (file image)

Some journeys can be much cheaper if you split them into a number of shorter jumps between stations on the route.

For example, Which? found that Ipswich to Sheffield costs £94 on an anytime ticket, but just £45 when buying singles from Ipswich to Peterborough, then Doncaster, then Sheffield – you just have to show the conductor the relevant ticket for the leg you’re on.

Check websites such as trainsplit.com, splitticketing.co.uk, and trainline.co.uk, which take away the hassle of buying individual tickets.

Promotions

Operators often have fare promotions, including tickets allowing all-day travel on a firm’s services (such as Southern’s DaySave), kids for a quid and free first-class upgrades for pregnant women.

Search on operators’ websites or sign up to their mailing lists.

Dodge fees

Avoid admin costs and postage by booking with rail firms directly, not via third-party websites, and choosing electronic tickets if possible.

Earn cashback or points

Topcashback.co.uk gives 5.25 per cent cashback on new customer purchases via trainline.co.uk. Quidco.com gives 1.6 per cent off all raileasy.co.uk spending.

Some rail firms’ websites give customers points to pay towards future journeys. LNER’s Perks scheme gives two per cent credit.

Claim delay compensation

Delay Repay schemes see many operators refund at least part of your fare if your service is at least 15 minutes late – but you often have to ask for it.

Keep your ticket and claim on the firm’s site. You normally need to do this within 28 days.

As there are delays every week, perhaps set a time once a month to submit them all. You can see if trains were late on sites such as ontimetrains.co.uk – you will need this information for your claims.

Use a coach or car

Check National Express’s fare promotions, or if taking the car, find the cheapest garage to fill up at petrolprices.com.

Source: Daily Mail UK

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