Cheap UK Train Tickets in Advance – Find hidden fares & split tickets
Cheap UK Train Tickets in Advance – The train ticketing system is a farcePurple train. To keep your spending away from the buffers, you need to learn how to play the system with hidden tricks.
This guide has sneaky ways to save on fares for Cheap UK Train Tickets in Advance, including how to split tickets beat booking fees, find hidden promotions and much more.
Book 12+ weeks ahead for the cheapest fares
Most people know if you book early, you can get cheaper train tickets, yet often these vanish quicker than empty seats on a commuter journey. To ensure a bargain, the key is to start looking about 12 weeks before.
Contractually Network Rail must have the timetable set 12 weeks in advance. So train operators commonly release cheap advance tickets shortly after. It’s not always dead on 12 weeks though, often more like 10 or 11.
Some train companies are now starting to release advance tickets even earlier – with the caveat that times could change slightly. For example, Virgin East Coast releases advance tickets 24 weeks ahead for routes from stations north of York into London.
Get a free alert when tickets go on sale
If you know when and where you want to go, there’s a sneaky way to be first in the cheap tickets queue. If you sign up and fill in your journey details with TheTrainline’s ticket alert system, you will get an email when cheap advance tickets for that specific journey come on sale (commonly the cheapest fares).
To help, National Rail also has a future travel chart, showing the furthest away date in the future you can buy advance tickets for each train firm.
2. Split your tickets, not your journey – find the cheap tickets train firms hide
We’ve been shouting about it for years and earlier this year it was all over the news – how split-ticketing makes no sense but can slash costs. Train firms have finally said they’ll start trials to reform fares but you needn’t wait for them to save.
This is the big trick everyone should know. Instead of buying tickets for the whole journey, bizarrely, buying tickets for its constituent parts separately can slash the price – even though you’re travelling on exactly the same train.
Cheap UK Train Tickets in Advance – It’s perfectly allowed within the National Rail Conditions of Carriage. The only rule is that the train must call at the stations you buy tickets for.
Save £219 on a London-Durham return
To show how this works, we unearthed this cracking example. For a London to Durham return, the cheapest ticket was an anytime return at £301. Yet the train stopped at York, so instead we found four singles.
The total cost for those tickets was just £82, a saving of £219.
It’s the same train at the same time – the only difference is you’ve four tickets covering the journey rather than one
Watch out if you need to change trains
In the rare event that you book specific tickets, your split ticket stop coincides with the station where you change trains, and your first train runs late, then your second ticket might not be valid for the next leg of the journey.
For example, if you travel from Aford to Cshire via Btown and split your tickets at Btown, but you need to change trains at Btown, then if the Aford to Btown train is late, your ticket may not be valid for the later Btown to Cshire train.
Finally, off-peak and super off-peak tickets require you to travel at specific times of day. If you split your tickets at a station where you change, and the delay takes you outside the off-peak time, you may have to pay again to travel during this time.
3. Split tickets – Cheap UK Train Tickets in Advance
While split ticketing gives massive savings on scores of routes, the problem’s always been finding when it works. Now our split ticket tool uncovers hidden ticket combinations to cut the cost.
Anything to watch out for?
As with all split ticketing, the train MUST call at all the stations you buy tickets to and from. Beware split-ticketing at stations where you change trains: if your service is delayed and you’ve a time-specific ticket, you may need to pay extra.
4. Book early, late
Most people know buying train tickets before you travel is nearly always cheaper, but many don’t realise you can often buy them right down to the wire. The golden rule is:
Always check if tickets are still available the night before – you may even be able to get some on the day
If tickets haven’t sold out, one rail firm still lets you buy advance tickets on the day. Many more let you buy the day before – so never assume it’s too late. (Always make sure you’ll have enough time to get your tickets beforehand as with some third party sites it can take up to two hours before your ticket’s ready for collection.)
5. Spend over £90/year? Consider a railcard
Railcards can cut a third off the bill. You can buy them on the Railcard site and most are usually £30 per year or £70 for three (works out at £23.30/year). So spend more than £90 a year, even on just one trip, and it’s cheaper.
All railcards, except the Network railcard, also give you up to a third off off-peak rail and tube travel in London on either Oyster pay-as-you-go or Travelcards. Just go to an underground ticket office with your railcard and ask them to register it to your Oyster card or buy a Travelcard.
Don’t assume every journey’s eligible for a railcard discount, although time restrictions never apply on weekends and bank holidays. Always check first, especially if travelling at peak times as these vary by operator.
6. Singles can beat returns
Returns should be better value but often aren’t. Lots of top deals are only available on one-way fares. It’s very common that cheaper fares are available for two single tickets but not the return, so always check.
The web makes finding them easy as you’ll often be shown both single and return fares.
Save £275 on a London to Manchester return
Cheap UK Train Tickets in Advance – As an example, a search for a seat on a London to Manchester train, coming back the next day, brought up a standard anytime return ticket costing a whopping £332. A quick check instantly found that for the same journey, an outbound advance single ticket was £31, while coming back, a Manchester-London advance single cost £26 – a total of £57 for the journey.
7. Only pay peak for the bit that is
Train peak times are usually before 10am and between 4pm and 7pm. Yet if a long train journey’s during peak time, even if a portion of it’s outside peak time and you return outside peak time, you still pay peak ticket price for the whole return journey.
Rail bosses are soon to meet Government officials in a bid to make lower prices more transparent to passengers. One of the proposals is make fares reflect the lower costs involved if part of a journey is off-peak, even though it started at peak time.
How much you can save… £76 off a Ldn to Manc peak train return
As an example, on testing a London to Manchester return journey leaving at 8.40am and returning at 6.35pm we found a standard return fare for £130. By splitting the ticket, at Milton Keynes on the way out and Stoke-on-Trent on the return journey, it knocks off £76 to the total fare.
This is because from Milton Keynes to Manchester on the way up, and Stoke-on-Trent to London on the way back, you’re only paying for an off-peak fare, slashing the overall cost of the journey.
8. Know your train refund rights
Cheap UK Train Tickets in Advance – Sadly, you can’t get any money back if the delay is less than half an hour. If it’s longer, every operator has different rules.
The majority of firms now operate a Delay Repay policy which means they will pay compensation of 50% of the fare, regardless of what caused the hold–up.
A few train companies still operate an old style compensation scheme, which means they sometimes won’t pay if the delay was not their fault, such as a track fire or strike.