Cheaper fares get snapped up quickly. Hence, it is best to book early. Specifically, 12 weeks early, as Network Rail must keep timetables for journeys 12 weeks in advance.
Check if advance tickets are available
Sometimes, booking early isn’t possible. Call the train company the night before before 6pm to see if there are any advance tickets spare, as this can be cheaper than booking at the station.
Know your railcards
There are many types of railcard that can give you cheaper fares by a third, but always check that the railcard is applicable for the journey. Railcards cost £28 per year or £65 for three years, with the exception of the Disabled Railcard (£20 for one year or £54 for three years, and can be used for a companion on the trip, too). 16 – 25 Railcards are not only available for people between 16 and 25, but also for full-time students of any age. Senior Railcards are available to anyone over 60, with some councils giving discounts on the price of the railcard itself. The Family & Friends Railcard, where a adult and a child can save one-third and 60% on a rail ticket respectively.
There is also the Network Railcard, specifically for the south-east of England. Up to three adults and four children can travel with you and claim the discount, again saving one-third and 60% respectively. Also, if you have an annual season ticket for the south-east of England, it may be worth signing up to the “gold card” scheme, which gives you discounts not only on rail journeys but also journeys that use your Oyster card.
Tesco Reward Points
Check out the Tesco Clubcard Rewards brochure and use your reward points for travel. What’s more, the value of the points is doubled, tripled or sometimes quadrupled. Redspottedhanky is the main one to look out for.
Don’t be afraid to reclaim on your journey
If the train is late (around 20-40 minutes, depending on provider and journey), pick up a reclaim form from the station.
Train tickets can be bought in advance for as little as £1 plus 50p booking fee through Megatrain on certain journeys.
Singles & splitting
Shop around, and you may well find that two singles can sometimes be cheaper than a return. This is an even better trick to use if you are flexible concerning time.
Splitting journeys means buying different tickets for different parts of the journey. As long as the train calls at the stations you’ve bought tickets for, this does not breach any rules. For example, a train ticket directly to Penzance from London is considerably more expensive than buying a ticket from London to Plymouth and then Plymouth to Penzance, even though you’re on the same train. Splitting tickets can be tricky to plan sometimes, but worth it. Two separate season tickets for different parts of the route can be cheaper than one season ticket covering the entire route. Splitting tickets can be a very useful money-saving trick on commuter-heavy routes.
Learn how to use the National Rail’s Season Ticket Calculator
This can help you compare prices and help plan the splitting of tickets. A very useful tool.
Don’t Use National Rail’s 0845 number
Use 0121 634 2040 instead.