How to cut the cost of train travel

Andy Webb

They’re a constant cause of stress and yet many of us rely on trains to get us from A to B. Here are our top tips to save money when you travel

Delays, cancellations and overcrowding are enough to put many off travelling by train, but the price of a ticket can often be the final straw. Even so it’s often the easiest or only way to get from A to B. Fortunately it is possible to reduce how much you pay with the following tricks…

 

Book in advance

Buying at the ticket office just before you travel is usually the most expensive option. Instead you should be getting an advance ticket. The cheapest are usually available 12 weeks before you travel and can be purchased online or at the station. Sometimes there’s limited availability so the closer you get to travel the smaller your saving—if you save at all. But even if you’re booking the day before and—sometimes—a few hours ahead, it’s worth seeing if you can still pick up a slightly cheaper ticket.

 

Travel off-peak

Rush-hour trains will cost more, so if you can avoid them you’ll find your journey costs less. If you have to travel during these peak hours, it’s worth seeing if splitting your ticket will save you cash, particularly on long journeys. This involves buying a ticket for the part of your journey at rush hour, then buying a separate ticket for the leg which is out of those hours. Do it right and you won’t even have to change trains.

 

Take the slow train

If you’re not in a rush, then some trips will have trains which stop at more stations or go via longer route to your destination. These are often cheaper than the fast train. You might even be able to save by departing from or arriving in a different nearby station.

 

Check the price of two singles

Sometimes, purchasing two single tickets works out cheaper than buying a return. Most train booking websites will help you here, but not always. It’s worth checking the price of First Class too, as these sometimes work out cheaper if regular advance fares have already sold out.

 

Use a railcard

The Senior Railcard is available to anyone over 60 and offers a third off most fares. It costs £30 a year, or you can buy a three-year card for £70. If you’re not yet 60 then there are other railcards to consider, including the Two Together, Disabled, Family and Friends, and Network Railcard. If you live in London you can also get a 60+ Oyster card which will give you free travel on trains in and around London, as well as on the tube and buses. Once you reach state pension age you can then claim a Freedom Pass which offers the same benefits.

 

Claim for delays and cancellations

If you do find your journey disrupted, don’t forget to try to get some of your money back. If you decide not to travel due to a cancellation or delay you should be able to get all of the fare returned to you. If you are on a train which isn’t going to arrive on time then how much you could get usually depends on the length of the delay. For many operators, you’ll be offered half your single fare back if the train is 30 minutes late, and the full whack if it’s an hour behind.