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Six top tips on how to save money when booking train tickets

Fred Isaac

Fred Isaac
Sep 21, 2016


On September 22 cities across the planet celebrate World Car-Free Day.

Residents ditch cars and travel to work on buses, bikes, trams and trains. 

It's all about raising awareness of the increasing problem of pollution.

It's a worthwhile cause, and a clever way of putting pressure on town planners and politicians to give priority to cycling, walking and public transport.

But trains are expensive, and commuters taking part in the campaign face have to pay through the nose to get to work. 

British workers already spend a staggering 17% of their wages on tickets, according to pressure group Action for Rail. 

So we’ve prepared six top tips that will help you save money when booking trains.

Hopefully some of these tips may mean taking part in World Car-Free Day won't cost you the earth. 

 

Buy direct

Cut out the middle man.

In general it is best to pay no attention to websites such as thetrainline.com, who slap a booking fee on top of your train ticket.

Instead, go direct to the train company’s website.

Although the sites are sometimes fiddly, they will often have their own reductions for fares that are not available on third-party services.

 

Buy in advance

As the old saying goes, the early bird catches the worm.

It’s common knowledge that if you book early you will get cheaper fares, but the magic figure to remember here is 12 weeks.

Why?

Because National Rail states: “Advance tickets are generally not available earlier than 12 weeks before the date of travel”.

This means the timetable will be released 12 weeks before the train’s departure time.

Now is the time to start looking as rail companies will be flogging cheaper advance tickets.

To make sure you’re first in the queue, sign up to thetrainline.com’s ticket alert system to receive an email when a ticket goes on sale for the route you want.

 

Group travel

Travelling in a herd is safer… and cheaper.

Most train companies have signed up to the ‘GroupSave’ promotion, which offers parties of three to nine adults 1/3 off when buying off-peak tickets.

Before you book, check if the train company you’re using is participating in the initiative – it could save you money!

Arriva Trains Wales runs a similar scheme called Small Group Day, offering a 25% discount for three to nine people travelling together.

 

Split ticketing

This is a classic money-saving technique. 

Split ticketing is when you buy several tickets to cover separate parts of your trip.

Different train companies have different prices for various legs of the journey.

There are a number of tools to help you use split ticketing. We like raileasy.co.uk.

Top Tip: National Rail allows split ticketing provided the train stops at the station you buy tickets for. Staff are not allowed to advise you to use split ticketing, but must sell them if asked.

 

Season tickets and railcards

Forget counting the pennies, this is where the big savings lie.

Check if you’re eligible for a railcard by visiting the National Rail website.

They’re worth more than their weight in gold.

The big ones are the 16-25 and senior railcards, but there are plenty of regional railcards on offer as well. Usually these offer around 30% off.

If you’re a commuter, season tickets are the way to go.

Use National Rail’s season ticket calculator to make sure you’re getting the right deal for you.

It could save you hundreds of pounds a year.

 

Know your refund rights

As any hardened commuter will tell you: things go wrong ALL the time.

Just ask Simon Jeffries, who posted his complaint about First Great Western on A Spokesman Said: 

"Almost every single day, trains are delayed or cancelled, causing customers to be late to work, miss connecting trains, and be late home after work".

It’s important you know exactly where you stand when a delay or cancellation leaves you out of pocket.

The big rule: if a delay or cancellation is the fault of the train operator you may be eligible for compensation.

Most train companies will offer partial refunds for delays over 30 minutes, but the amount varies so you need to check with the operator.  

When a train is cancelled you’re entitled to a full refund. End of.

Remember, you have to apply for compensation within 28 days.

Make sure you keep your tickets as these will be crucial in getting what you’re owed.

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