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Five: ways to cut your rail fare
Train tickets are set to rise by more than double inflation in the New Year. Here are five ways you can help bring down the cost.
by Victoria Bischoff on Aug 17, 2012 at 07:31Follow @VBischoff
If you aren’t restricted to travelling at a specific time of day, off-peak tickets are much cheaper than ‘anytime’ tickets. And as the name suggests, super-off peak tickets are even cheaper but do have even stricter travel restrictions.
Your ticket's time restrictions depend on what journey you are taking, but most off-peak tickets won’t allow you to travel around rush hour – which is before 9pm and between 5pm and 7pm roughly speaking. You can usually travel at any time at weekends though.
What’s more, I found out recently when travelling on a Virgin train that if you book an off-peak ticket using a railcard the time restrictions do not apply. You will, however, need to check this is the case with the train company you’re using.
3. Buy in advance
You won't always know when you'll be hopping on a train weeks in advance but if you do have a couple of journeys you know are coming up – especially long distances ones – it’s worth checking out advance tickets online.
According to mytrainticket.co.uk, you can save up to 80% on the price of a standard single by doing this. If you buy a London to Edinburgh ticket 11 weeks in advance, for example, you’ll pay just £14.50 compared to over £100 on the day.
To get the best deals you need to book as early as possible because they sell out fast, but even calling the day before could mean you pay less than simply booking at the station. You should also be aware that you might not be able to travel at the most convenient times and your ticket will also not be refundable. You will, however, be able to change when you want to travel for a fee.
4. Buy in bulk
Ever heard of a carnet? Nope, me neither.
Well, apparently a carnet is a rail ticket that enables people who travel regularly on a route – but not regularly enough to warrant buying a season ticket – to get a discount on their journey.
The discount you get depends on the rail operator, the route and how many tickets you buy. For example, if you travel from Manchester to London you can save 10% with a 10 ticket carnet. Travel London to Birmingham, on the other hand, and you will save 20% with a 12 ticket carnet.
Carnets usually consist of 6, 10, 12 or 50 tickets that you can then use whenever you want. The best part is that anyone can use the tickets so you can give some to friends, family and colleagues. They are, however, normally only valid for six months so make sure you check the expiry date.
Obviously if you do travel regularly enough to buy a season ticket, you should look at getting one of these as they are almost always the cheapest way to travel. According to mytrainticket.co.uk, it’s normally worth investing in a seven day pass if you make the same journey more than two or three times a week. Annual tickets, meanwhile, cost the equivalent of 40 weeks’ travel on weekly season tickets, giving you three months travel free.
It’s also a good idea to look at ‘Groupsave’ deals if three or more of you are travelling together.
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