Cut the cost of your train fare
A few sneaky tricks could secure you cut-price fares. We share them with you.
If you're fed up with paying through the nose every time you travel by train, make sure you check out these top tips to slash the cost!
1) Book in advance
Perhaps the easiest way to slash your train fare is to book your ticket 12 weeks in advance. National Rail sets the timetable 12 weeks in advance, so this is when most super-cheap advance deals start to get released.
And whether you want to think about it or not, this actually means that if you're planning to travel anywhere at Christmas, the time to book your tickets is NOW.
2) Try 'split-ticketing'
Canny travellers have for several years been making use of a simple technique known as 'split-ticketing'. What it means in essence is that instead of buying a single ticket to your destination, you break the journey down into two or three parts and buy separate tickets for each constituent part. It sounds like hard work - but it can help cut the price of your ticket by as much as half.
The reason you can save is thanks to the bewildering number of operators running Britain's rail network. For example, although the Manchester-Carlisle route is run by Virgin who set the direct fares, local trains from Carlisle to Preston are run by Trans Pennine, while the local section from Preston to Manchester is run by Northern - each with their own system of tariffs. And often, these separate routes are cheaper than direct passenger ones.
The only rule connected with the use combination tickets (other than the fact the tickets must be valid, of course) is that the train must stop at the place where the tickets join, although you do not have to alight from the train or exit the station.
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The technique is perfectly legal because, as rail watchdog Passenger Focus points out, it is the customer's right to ask for any combination of tickets. Yet be aware that it is also the ticket vendor's duty not to advertise them, should he or she know they exist. That means you need to know in advance whether breaking your journey into constituent parts will save you money - here's how that's done.
Split-ticketing in action
To calculate whether you can save on your chosen route, you need to look up the cheapest price for your standard single journey on either the journey planner on the National Rail Enquires website or online ticket outlet The TrainLine.com. Then you need to look up where the train stops using the timetables section of the national rail website. After that, you can start saving.
Using unofficial consumer website Splityourticket.co.uk, we had a look at how much you could save on a journey between Birmingham and Bath Spa. The cheapest ticket for travelling direct from Birmingham to Bath Spa was £40.40 (saver return), but splitting that ticket between Birmingham and Cheltenham Spa, and then Cheltenham Spa to Bath Spa, brought the cost down to £26 - a saving of £14.40. And the savings get even greater if you're on a longer journey because you can split your ticket several times!
Of course, split-ticketing isn't the only way to save on train fares. Here are five more!
Check if you're eligible for a Family & Friends Railcard, 16-25 Railcard, Senior Railcard: or Disabled Persons Railcard . Additionally, if you live in London or the South East, a £25 Network Railcard offers ticket reductions of up to a third on most rail routes.
4) Avoid fees
5) Find bargain fares
6) Check the prices for singles
Two singles for each leg of your journey can often work out cheaper than the headline fare - so always check the prices both ways.
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7) Get help from lovemoney.com
Get other lovemoney.com members to help you figure out how to cut the cost of your journey. Post your question on Q&A to get tips and advice on how to save on your train fare. Or take a look at our Travel and Holiday group.
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This is a classic article which has recently been updated.