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Martin Lewis: 5 tips for saving on train tickets

PUBLISHED: 16:05 21 April 2017 | UPDATED: 16:37 21 April 2017

A train ticket, money and a railway timetable. Picture: PA Wire.

A train ticket, money and a railway timetable. Picture: PA Wire.

The only way to find the cheapest rail ticket is to throw all logic out of the window.

If you ask for the cheapest tickets on your journey, you can’t always rely on the answer - in many cases there are far cheaper options than the answer given.

Things are improving a touch. Some train firms have announced simplification trials from May so you don’t pay more for travelling ‘any permitted route’ and ‘airline-style’ mix-and-match ticketing.

Yet even this won’t guarantee you’ll get the cheapest price. So here are my key tips.

1. Try splitting your tickets

Split-ticketing is where instead of buying one ticket for the journey, you buy multiple tickets for different parts of the same journey, which perversely often works out cheaper.

The best example I’ve seen was London to Penzance when an anytime day return cost £250.

Yet the train stops at Plymouth, so buy London to Plymouth, Plymouth to Penzance and the same for the return journey and the total was just £50. It’s the same train, same time, even the same seat, just £200 cheaper.

Savings aren’t always that high, but I checked while writing this, and a Durham to London single travelling was £131.50, but splitting at Peterborough made it £97, a saving of around £35. The only rule is the train must call at the stations you buy tickets for.

See www.mse.me/ticketysplit

2. Book 12 weeks early for cheaper fares

Most people know if you book early you’ll get cheaper train tickets.

But the key time to look is 12 weeks before you want to travel, as that’s when the time table is set so most operators start to launch their advance tickets then – meaning you get the best availability on cheap fares.

Don’t forget to check if advance tickets are still available right up until the last minute.

3. Get a (discounted) railcard

Annual national railcards usually reduce the bill by a third, so as they normally cost £30, if you’re spending over £90, even on a one-off trip it’s worth it.

The main cards include Family & Friends Railcard (for adults travelling with children), 2TogetherRailcard (two people travelling together), Senior Railcard (a third off for over-60s), 16-25 Railcard (a third off at any time), and Disabled Persons Railcard (a third off for you and an adult companion at any time).

4. Train delayed? Get your money back

Usually if you’re delayed over 30 minutes (it varies by firm) most companies operate a ‘Delay Repay scheme’, which if you ask pays out at least 50% of the fare regardless of whether the delay was its fault or not (though some now pay 25% for 15 minute delays). You can get this as cash or cheque, not just in rail vouchers as it used to be.

If you’ve a season ticket, you can sometimes claim per delay, for a cluster of delays, or not at all.

5. Paid for your season ticket on a credit card?

Recently American Express refunded one traveller half the cost of his Southern Rail season ticket back (around £2,400), due to the fact that 50% of his journeys had been delayed or cancelled.

This is due to Section 75 rules, which mean if you part-pay for something on a credit card for something that costs between £100-£30,000, even if it was just a penny, then the credit card company is JOINTLY liable along with retailers (in this case Southern Rail) for making sure customers receive the goods or services they paid for.

Martin Lewis is the founder and chair of MoneySavingExpert.com.

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