Out and About – How To Save Money on Train Fares

Every year, train fares rise and rise, despite grumbles from the public. For people who travel often, such as commuters for work or frequent visitors to friends and families, each January brings sighs of despair as ticket prices rise and rise. I myself have seen prices rise year after year by over two pounds each time, and I tend to take the train a lot:

So what can we do to save money on journeys that may be our only option?

Railcards

My own 16-25 railcard surrounded by tickets

For students who wish to travel, a 16-25 railcard is a must. It can shave off around one third of the price for train tickets, which as anyone can guess is a welcome break. Take my travels from Lincoln (my university city) to Norwich (my home city), it’s only a 100 mile journey by road but requires about two to three trains and up to four hours of travelling by train. Due to all of this, tickets can be somewhat expensive. According to National Rail Enquiries, an off peak return ticket on a weekend costs £52.50, but if you add a 16-25 railcard, it becomes £34.65, which is £17.50 (and equates to exactly a third off).

When it comes to buying a 16-25 railcard, there is more than one option; the first is buying a one year card either online or at a train station ticket office, which costs £28. The second is the option that I took, buying a three year card online, costing £65. Buying a card that is valid for three years saves you around £19 overall, as you do not have to renew every year. Believe me when I say that this railcard pays for itself very quickly from the fares that are saved.

For those who are over 25, other railcards include Family & FriendSeniorDisabled and Network (which is only available on Southern Trains) – the details for all railcards can be found here.

Book in Advance

Started university yet? Well you may want to think about how you’e going to get home for Christmas. This may sound slightly crazy but let me explain. National Rail has to list its train journeys 12 weeks in advance, which can mean that for some tickets, the price is reduced for a short time, which means that some money can be saved by thinking (slightly far) ahead.

Night Before Buying

It’s commonly known that if you buy a train ticket on the day of travel, the price tends to be the maximum that it can possibly be. But an interesting fact is that for some journeys, the price is dropped the night before as an advance buy. So it’s a good idea to check just in case.

Stay Off Peak

On Peak times tend to be working travel hours (so between 7-9am and 5-7pm), and these are best avoided, especially if you’re travelling on a popular commuter route. I have been in the unfortunate position where I’ve had an open return rail ticket, only to find that the barriers refuse to let me through due to it being 8am and a peak travel time, costing me an extra £8 to pass through with a new ticket to get back to university.

Sometimes, however, you can be lucky if there’s an employee at the barriers who lets you through anyway! Trust me, it has happened.

Mix and Match

While it is a general rule that a return ticket can be cheaper than two singles, always be sure that you have done some investigating for train times and fares. Also, if you have a journey that involves changing onto different trains, then also look into buying single tickets for each individual trains. An example of this is once again from Lincoln to Norwich (which I’ll demonstrate as a one way journey).

One single ticket from Lincoln, leaving at 11:10 am with one change at Peterborough and arriving in Norwich at 14:13pm, costs £29.35 with a 16-25 railcard. If I were to purchase two single tickets (Lincoln to Peterborough and then Peterborough to Norwich), the overall amount would come to £16.25, which once again amounts to big savings.

To sum up this blog post, don’t be tricked into buying expensive train tickets when you don’t necessarily have to. With a combination of these tips, you can save yourself a large amount of money, which for everyone in general, including students, is always a great relief.

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