Money tip #71 – How to slash the cost of train travel

4 min Read Published: 02 Jun 2010

The '10 second' tricks to slash train travel costs

Get a railcard

There's an array of railcards available including those aimed at young people, the over 60s, families etc that can save you up to 1/3 off rail fares. Just pay a one-off cost of £28 for the railcard and start saving. The chances are that you will save more than that the first time you use it!

Book in advance

Perhaps the biggest money saving comes from booking in advance. All the train adverts you see boasting about how you can get from London to Edinburgh for next to nothing only relate to advanced bookings. So get organised and save a fortune.

Check whether two singles are cheaper than a return ticket

Surprisingly this can often be the case.

Be flexible

If you can travel off-peak, which includes weekends, then doing so will save you a lot of money.

To illustrate my point a return journey from London to Liverpool Lime Street will cost you a staggering £245 on a standard anytime return. But, if you follow the above tips the exact same journey would cost you just £22. A saving of £225! While the latter option does specify the trains you have to catch during each leg of your journey, on the plus side you are guaranteed a seat. The alternative is to pay £225 for the same journey and run the gauntlet of standing all the way from Liverpool to London.

The really good news is that thetrainline.com have a tool which will do all of the above for you and find the cheapest ticket. Simply click here to use it.

The more advanced tricks

There are a couple of more cunning and ingenious way of saving money on train tickets particularly if you haven’t booked in advance and secured a cheap fare.

Split ticketing

This is where rather than buying a ticket for your entire journey you instead buy tickets for its constituent parts. Interestingly you don’t even have to change trains and its perfectly legal. Money-saving supermarket gives the following example:

For London to Penzance return the cheapest ticket is an anytime day return at £257. This train stops in Plymouth and by instead buying four singles…

  • Outbound: London to Plymouth
  • Outbound: Plymouth to Penzance
  • Return: Penzance to Plymouth
  • Return: Plymouth to London

the total cost for those tickets is just £50, a saving of £207.

Working out the split ticketing permutations can be time-consuming, there is no online tool which can do the job for you, but it is certainly worth making the effort. Again, your best bet is to use thetrainline.com and work out a) where your train stops and b) the possible separate fares.

Advanced Split ticketing – obviously when splitting up the journey make sure you only pay-off peak fares for the ‘legs’ which span off-peak hours.

And for the Commuters……..

Buy in bulk

Bulk buying also works for trains tickets and the more you buy (i.e. weekly, monthly or yearly) the more you save in the long run. For example, if you buy an annual season ticket you will get around 10 months travel for the price of 12. So for someone in Gillingham (Kent) commuting to London everyday an annual ticket would save them £547.60pa.  And before you balk at the idea of shelling out for a year’s travel in advance check whether your employer offers interest-free travel loans. That way you can still spread the cost of an annual season ticket over the year.

Looking for a financial adviser near you?

Do you need financial advice? An independent financial adviser can show you how to make the most
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Alternatively, Hargreaves Lansdown, one of the UK’s largest firms providing restricted financial advice, is offering a £200 John Lewis voucher* to new clients.