Rail bosses have admitted travellers are better off buying two separate tickets for some single journeys instead of a bog-standard return and have promised to reform the confusing system.
As a result, a consultation will be launched next month and run until September to find the best solution. In the meantime, it’s worth making the most of those cheap single fares. If you’re all about saving cash this summer, here are some other ways to travel by train on the cheap. Thank us later.
1. Split your fare
As mentioned, buying a couple of single tickets and changing trains can impact the price of your ticket. For example, an anytime return from London to Telford (where I’m from) could set you back £201. But savvy shoppers could buy a standard single ticket from London Euston to Birmingham New Street for £25.50, a ticket from New Street to Telford Central for £10.80 - and then repeat the process for the way back. This would come to a total of £72.60, saving you around £128.
2. Travel off-peak or super off-peak
If you’re able to travel outside of peak hours, you could save a fortune. A super off-peak return from London Marylebone to Telford would cost £35.50 and allows you to return within a month. An off-peak return costs £53, while an anytime return costs more than double: £113.
3. Switch up stations
Travelling from Euston to Telford will cost £59.20 on Virgin Trains for an off-peak return, whereas a super off-peak ticket from Marylebone (just down the road) will cost £35. For a saving of more than £20, it’s certainly worth switching up stations if you’re able to - but remember to factor in the cost of getting to either station in the first place.
4. Buy in advance
Getting your tickets in advance is one of the simplest ways to save money. If you know you’re going to be travelling in a few months time, book tickets online. According to National Rail, fares are sold in limited numbers and are subject to availability. “In general, the further ahead you book, the cheaper the Advance fare will be,” they said. “You can mix and match Advance fares for a return journey.” For example, if you wanted to travel in June, you could get a single fare from Euston to Telford for as little as £16.
5. Get a railcard
For frequent travellers, especially those who travel long distances across the UK, railcards can mean mega savings:
:: The Two Together railcard, which costs £30 a year, is perfect for couples or friends who regularly travel together. The average annual saving is £128.
:: There’s also the 16-25 railcard for those aged 16-25, which has an annual saving of £192. It costs £30 a year to buy.
:: The Network railcard for people travelling in the South East offers an average annual saving of £184 and, again, costs £30 a year.
:: The Family and Friends railcard, where up to four adults and four children can travel on one card and children aged 5-15 get 60% discount, costs £30 a year. The average annual saving is £137.
:: The Senior railcard, for people aged 60 and over, offers an annual saving of £119 and costs £30 a year.
:: The Disabled Persons railcard, which costs £20 a year and offers a third off rail fares, provides an average annual saving of £125.
:: The newest railcard that’s being trialled is the 26-30 ‘Millennial’ railcard which is valid for those aged 26-30 and offers savings of one third on train tickets.
6. Sign up for email alerts
If you regularly travel with a specific train operator - for example, Southeastern trains or CrossCountry - sign up to their email newsletter so you can have discounts and offers sent straight to your inbox. If you are already signed up, it might be worth checking your emails as with the new GDPR guidelines which come into play later this month, you will need to opt in to receive future emails from these companies.
7. Buy a season ticket
For regular commuters, season tickets are a great way to save - and sometimes companies will help foot the upfront payments and take it from your salary each month as a manageable way to pay if off.
With a season ticket you could get a weekly ticket from London to Telford for £335.50 which allows you to travel via any permitted route and during peak times. To remind you, an anytime return from London to Telford could set you back £201 - so it’s worth signing up. You can figure out how much you’d save with the Trainline’s season ticket calculator.
8. Book a midweek break
If you’ve got some extra annual leave to use up, you can buy cheap Eurostar tickets on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. You can also travel for cheap between midday and midnight on Mondays and Saturdays. If you can’t get a ticket to Paris, why not opt to venture to a different station in France instead? It could save you some pennies.
9. Sign up for a free Interrail pass if you turn 18 before July
Teens who turn 18 before July have been given the chance to travel Europe with free train tickets that are worth up to £400. Any EU citizen who turns 18 before July can apply for the pilot DiscoverEU scheme and those who are chosen will be able to travel for up to 30 days to four EU countries.
The first application round for 15,000 tickets will take place between 12 June and 26 June. According to The Guardian, roughly 1,900 tickets have been allocated for British applicants - although this is subject to change.