The cost of train tickets has risen again this year, but customer satisfaction isn’t going up in line with prices. Have you found any successful ways to beat the system and bag yourself a better deal when travelling by train?
Train tickets have increased by an average of 3.4% this year, so it’s no wonder train passengers are looking for cheaper options.
Prices go up, satisfaction doesn’t
Not only are ticket prices going up, but train companies aren’t keeping their customers happy either, according to the results of our latest survey on train companies.
One in 10 commuters tell us that the service they receive has got worse, this is despite a whopping £925 million of private investment.
Comparing for a better deal
We also found that often where there is a choice of train companies on a certain route they are more highly rated. For example, the best-rated commuter company, Grand Central, which competes on the line up to the North East with Virgin Trains East Coast, scored 68% in our overall train satisfaction survey.
Unfortunately, it’s often cheaper to fly to Edinburgh from London than catch the train if you don’t book far enough in advance, which sounds ludicrous, but it’s true. With sad examples like this to watch out for, it’s important that we learn to play the game and get the best price whatever train company we use.
How to get cheaper train tickets
Here are some tactics we like to use to make sure we’re getting the best train fare where possible, despite complex ticket machines and clunky websites.
1. Split your ticket
Ticket-splitting sites such as raileasy.co.uk, splitticketing.com, or trainsplit.com divide your journey to give the best fare. You just need to make sure you go via the stations named on the tickets, but you don’t need to get off the train.
2. Travel off peak
Provided you can be flexible on timing, travelling off-peak or super off-peak (such as travelling after 10am and before 5pm) can save you money. Booking these fares in advance will almost always mean cheaper train tickets – they’re usually available from 12 weeks before you travel.
3. Use an online tool
National Rail’s cheapest fare tool selects the best-priced journeys for the days you want to go. You’ll need to be flexible on times as you have to travel on a specific service, but this can save you plenty of money.
4. Get a railcard
Railcards, such as Family & Friends, Senior and 16-25 cost just £30 a year and save a third off most fares (Senior Railcard holders, for example, save an average of £120 per year). There are also regional railcards to help you get cheaper train tickets in tourist hotspots such as Devon and Cornwall.
5. Shop the sales
If you’re not eligible for a railcard, you can still bag a bargain in the sales. Virgin West Coast, Virgin East Coast, East Midlands Trains and Great Western Railway run seasonal discounts.
By using these fare-busting tips, we got a return ticket from Leeds to London down from £244 to £21.10 – an impressive 90% saving.
Share your top tips
Do you get frustrated that the cost of your train ticket doesn’t reflect the service you receive? We’re keen to hear if you have tried these tips and whether they have worked for you? If not, how do you save money on train tickets?