Eight clever hacks to save a fortune on train tickets from price alerts to advance booking

TRAIN passengers could be clobbered with a brutal rise of nearly five per cent on their ticket prices – the largest price hike in a decade.

But with clever planning you could cut the cost of your trip.

Sun Consumer reporters Tara Evans and Lucy Alderson reveal our top booking secrets.

BOOK IN ADVANCE

YOU should book your tickets up to 12 weeks in advance to get the cheapest prices.

Train companies will release the best value tickets in batches, so you need to be organised.

For example, buy a train ticket from London to Manchester today and you could be forking out £66 for it.

But the same ticket in a month’s time costs just £35.90.

Some advance tickets are available online 10 minutes before. Double check before you travel.

SPLIT TICKETS

INSTEAD of buying a ticket that goes directly to your destination, you could save money by splitting your journey up.

There are websites and apps that can help you to do this, such as TrainPal, Split Ticketing and Trainsplit.

These websites will show how much you could save by buying separate tickets for each leg of the journey, instead of direct tickets.

For example, a train from Bournemouth to Milton Keynes Central costs £32 instead of £100.90 – saving you £68.90.

BUY A SINGLE NOT A RETURN

BOOKING two single tickets can actually work out a lot cheaper than booking a return jourey.

You can save £9.40 by doing this on a return trip to Manchester, or £8.60 on a rail journey from Manchester to Oxford.

Money-saving blogger Jordon Cox, dubbed Britain’s Coupon Kid, said: “Have a look around at single fares each way, to see if you can grab a bargain instead.”

Jordon is best known for travelling from Sheffield to Essex via Berlin, saving £7.72 and getting a free mini break on his way back.

Price hikes on train fares

Rail expenditure 2019-20 was £17.4bn
Income in the same period was £17.1bn
of which 30% was funding from the Government
and 70% was from ticket sales

Increase in 2010 was just 1.1%
England and Wales fares have already risen by 2.6% in March this year
London to Manchester anytime return is £369.40

GET CASH BACK

YOU can get FREE money by using cashback websites to book your tickets.

The sites work by agreeing offers with companies which they pass on to customers so you can get money back on your shopping.

You need to set up an account and log in, then click through to the offer to buy your tickets.

New customers can get 5.25per cent back on Trainline.com via TopCash-back, while Quidco is offering 3.5per cent on Chiltern Railways.

Always check terms and conditions before signing up.

RAILCARD DISCOUNTS

BUYING a railcard could save you hundreds of pounds a year.

In total there are nine types of railcard available – you can check them all out on railcard.co.uk’s website.

With the 16-25s and 26-30s, and a Family & Friends railcard you can save a third on your fares.

They cost £30 each.

Work out if they will save you money based on your annual train fare spend.

As a rule of thumb, if you’re spending over £90 a year then they should be worth the up-front cash.

Money.co.uk senior personal finance editor James Andrews said to ask your employer if you can claim one through work – as you can still use it for your own personal travel.

“Even if you’re not able to claim the cost back, it’s still a worthwhile investment and could save you an average of £142 each year,” he said.

SET UP PRICE ALERTS

TICKET booking websites often have alerts you can sign up which can help you track when to buy fares at the cheapest price.

Trainline’s ticket alert tool is free and claims to save 61 per cent on your tickets when you book ahead instead of buying them on the day.

MoneySavingExpert’s Oli Townsend said: “There’s also a cunning way to check when cheap tickets are likely to jump in price or sell out.

“Trainline has a free Price Prediction tool in its app, which can give predictions for specific routes, dates and times based on data from billions of journeys.”

However, he warned customers to check fees before booking.

CLAIM CASH FOR DELAYS

YOU can get at least 25 per cent of your fare back if your train is delayed by 15 minutes or more under the nationwide “delay repay” scheme.

The amount of money you can get back depends on how long your train was delayed by – but you’ll get a full refund if your train was delayed by 120 minutes or longer.

Ask for a Delay Repay claim form from your train operator if you think you’re eligible. The details will also be on their website.

CHEAP FIRST CLASS TICKETS

IF you are someone who avoids booking first-class tickets because of the cost, then think again.

But it’s often the same price – or in some cases even cheaper – to upgrade from standard class.

Be sure to double check before you book. But if you do fancy travelling with a bit more comfort and leg room, apps like Seatfrog allow you to bid for an upgrade on your seat.

You need to add your booking reference to the app, then you can see how many first-class tickets are available.

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