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Train tickets are not cheap, but The Times uncovered how rail companies hide the best value fares.

Riding the rails – Seven ways to save on train fares

Bad news for train passengers. Rail fares are set to go up by 3.6% from January 2018.

Commuters will be worst hit by the increase, according to passenger groups, which is based on July’s Retail Price Index measure of inflation.

If you travel regularly during peak times, or are a season ticket holder, there is little you can do to get around the increase. But, if you travel off-peak or can book in advance, there are still some ways you can save money.

1. Plan ahead

Booking in advance is the best way to get a good deal. It can sometimes even be cheaper to buy a first class ticket in advance than a standard class ticket closer to the time.

The number of discounted tickets available are very limited, so you will need to be quick off the mark, but they do offer great value if you can get one.

A number of train operators even allow you to buy cheaper advance tickets up until ten minutes before departure.

2. Time your travel

If you want the best price, don’t travel during peak times or the rush hour. While this is certainly true, you might be surprised to find out you might not have to wait long to get an off-peak fare.

Travelling just 20 minutes earlier can save you around 50% on an afternoon train from London to Manchester. 

3. Don’t trust the machines

A common criticism of train services are the confusing self-service ticket machines at stations.

Since 2015, operators have been required to put signs on the machines telling customers that they only offer a limited range of ticket options. However, at many stations this is being ignored.

You might be able to get a cheaper fare by going to a manned ticket office.

4. Split tickets

Trains go from A to B, so you need a train ticket that takes you from where you are to your destination. Wrong. In fact, you can make huge savings by ticket splitting at a destination along the route.

For example, analysis by The Times newspaper last year discovered you could save £85 on your journey from Penzance to Birmingham, just by saying you were going via Totnes. You didn’t even have to change trains!To find out if you can save by doing this visit or use’s tickety split tool.

5. Book as separate journeys

Getting a return fare should always be the cheapest way to arrange a trip right? Wrong.

In a similar way to splitting your tickets, it is sometimes cheaper to book two single journeys.

6. Don’t be in such a rush

Train companies often push you towards the more expensive express services.

While these might seem like the quickest and most efficient options, you can often save huge amounts of money by travelling on a stopping service and not take that much longer to get to your destination. 

7. Railcard

Sometimes you don’t even have to beat the system to get the best price.

If you are aged 16 to 25, over 60, travel with your kids, or as a couple, you can get discounts by applying for a railcard

If you’re a commuter, your workplace might offer a season ticket loan. While this might not save you completely from fare increases, it can at least put it off for a while. 

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