Financial Planning

Rising Rail Fares: Is There a Way to Cut Costs?

Rising Rail Fares: Is There a Way to Cut Costs?

Few things are as frustrating at the moment for commuters than the recent announcement that railway fares have risen by 3.2% from 2nd January 2019.

This rise is due to the fact that railway fares – along with other fares regulated by the government (e.g. season tickets) – are linked to the retail prices index (RPI). Since inflation stood at 3.2% in July 2018, this is the percentage increase also applies to rail fares.

Britain already faces the highest rail fares in Europe. UK prices currently stand at around 50p per mile, whilst in France, the price stands at 31p. In Germany it is 19p, whilst for Italy and Poland, the costs are 15p and 9p respectively.

Naturally, the rise in fares has caused a lot of anger and worry for people who already face high commuting costs. In 2004, for instance, a rail ticket for the month would have cost around £200 but today it stands at over £350 due to the RPI factor.

Given this state of affairs, is there anything that you can do to reduce costs on your rail fares? Here are some options you might want to consider.


#1 Investigate slower routes

Different rail services often use the same route but might offer a slower journey. By choosing the latter instead of the faster option, you can sometimes find some decent savings.

For instance, we conducted one search and found that one service (no stops) offered just shy of £20 for a single anytime fare from London Victoria and Gatwick Airport. However, another service with a handful of stops on the way offered the same journey for just over £16.


#2 Jump on railcards

A range of railcards currently exist for people to take advantage of, and these really can often be worth the investment. For instance, the 16-25 Railcard is £30 for the year and will deliver over 30% off a range of railway fares including single, return and advance. The 26-30 Railcard is also set to offer very similar savings to those in this age bracket.

So if your usual monthly rail fare without one of these railcards is around £350, then buying one would mean that your ticket for the month would actually be closer to £230. When you factor in both the cost of the ticket and the railcard, you have already saved about £90.

When you look at this across several months or even for the year, it quickly becomes clear that a railcard can save you hundreds of pounds. Maybe even over a thousand.

Other railcards exist for people who fall outside of the 16-25 age bracket. The Two Together Railcard, for instance, also costs about £30 to cover 12 months but gives you around 33% off advance, off-peak and anytime fares. The conditions are that the tickets must be bought for two people travelling together, and you must travel after 9:30 am on weekdays.

Some other options to be aware of include the Senior, Family & Friends, HM Forces and Disabled Persons railcards. These provide some savings to account holders, but savings do not usually apply to season tickets.


#3 Hunt for deals

With the proliferation of the internet, it is now arguably easier to buy rail tickets today than at any other time in history. You simply go online, type your journey into the search bar, and select from a range of options that come up.

The trouble is, certain websites, platforms and apps will charge more for certain journeys and tickets. So hunting around for a good deal can offer a good route to make some decent savings on your rail fare.

For instance, one website we found will add £2 to the total cost of your journey – that is, £1 for the booking fee and another £1 to post the tickets to you. Another, widely-used ticketing site will charge £1.50 depending on whether you use their app or website.

On the other hand, if you book tickets directly on the service provider’s website you can often save money on these areas. Moreover, when you go directly to the websites of train firms you can sometimes find discounts and sales on tickets which are not available through other sites.


#4 Look at splitting your ticket

The bizarre and complex state of our railway system is perhaps best encapsulated by this odd fact: it is often cheaper to buy the constituent parts of your train journey, rather than a ticket for the entire trip.

Buying individual tickets for each stage of your journey does not necessarily mean that you need to switch trains, either. For instance, suppose you are going from London to Durham. If the train stops at York, you might save money if you buy a ticket from London to York as well as a separate ticket from York to Durham, instead of a single ticket for the whole trip!

The tricky part of all this is knowing how to find the areas where, and when, this tactic works. Of course, you can try sifting through different tickets and service providers one by one in an attempt to find the best deals, but this is likely to get tiresome and take up a lot of time.

Instead, consider trying a tool like TrainSplit or TicketClever to do your research. However, rather than buying through these websites (which can factor in some of your fare savings into their costs), consider buying the ticket(s) directly through the train provider’s website once you’ve found a decent deal.

Posted on
Posted in Financial Planning