Nothing signals the start of the festive season like the announcement that train fares are set to rise in the new year.
Today the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) revealed that train fares are set to go up by around 3.4% in 2018, with increases due to take effect from 2nd January and covering both regulated, which includes season tickets, and unregulated fares, such as off-peak leisure tickets.
This is the biggest jump in fares since 2013, which isn’t exactly heartening news to hear at the most expensive time of year but there is a ray of light at the end of the train tunnel.
Train fare increases are nothing new to us at Click and due to our dynamic approach to managing and reducing rail spend, as well as the immense amount of knowledge that our account managers have on the subject, we’ve been helping our clients save money on train fares for years.
In fact, many of our clients have actually seen a reduction in their average train fares; for example, our customers’ average train fares have reduced by 1.5% in 2017, despite there being a government increase of 2.7% at the start of the year.
Here’s our Director of Operations, Chris Vince, to share his advice for making sure that you always secure the best train fare possible:
1. Cancel unwanted train tickets
It’s a common misconception that once booked train tickets cannot be cancelled – they certainly can! There are usually some terms and conditions attached but if you end up not needing to use your ticket then it’s always worth checking whether you’re entitled to a refund. This is something that a lot of travellers don’t do and is one of the simplest ways to reduce your travel spend.
2. Book in advance
Everyone knows that, as a general rule, the more you plan and book in advance, the more you’ll save, however less of us know what’s meant by ‘advance’. Due to their favourable prices, advance rail tickets often sell out quickly and so you’ll need to buy them 12 weeks in advance of your departure date to ensure that you get the very best deals.
Advance tickets can now be purchased up until one hour before travel with some train operating companies, subject to availability, so it’s worth checking whether any are available even if you’re making a last minute trip. If your travel plans change, you can usually exchange your advance ticket as long as you are still travelling on the same route.
3. Travel off-peak
It might sound obvious, but travelling off-peak really is the best way to significantly reduce your fare. Although sometimes it can be hard to avoid joining the busiest commuting hours, asking whether a meeting can begin at 10:30, rather than 9:30, can make all the difference when it comes to the price you can expect to pay – we’ve even found that sometimes it’s cheaper to use an off peak ticket and stay at your destination overnight than it is to travel during peak times! Off-peak hours are typically any time after 0930 and before 1530 but these can vary between rail providers, so it’s always worth checking this before booking.
4. Purchase a railcard
You can save up to a ⅓ on rail fares simply by purchasing a railcard. There are various railcards available to purchase for a one-off annual fee including a 16-25 railcard, senior railcard, disabled persons railcard & Network railcard. For further information please visit www.railcard.co.uk.
In spring 2018 there will also be an extension to the 16-25 railcard, dubbed as the ‘millennials’ card it will offer those aged 26 – 30 savings of up to ⅓ on train travel.
5. Restrict the outbound journey only
Travellers aren’t always aware that they can buy a cheaper ticket and still have the same flexibility on their return journey. Seeing as you will usually know the time of the train that you need to catch on the way to your destination, it’s worth fixing that route and then booking a more flexible ticket for the journey home. Combining an Advance Single ticket with an Anytime Single is cheaper than an Anytime Return and creates a win/win situation – you won’t be inconvenienced and the ticket cost is reduced.
Unfortunately, there will always be the odd price hike here and there, but a little industry know-how can go a long way towards significantly reducing the train fares that you and your fellow business travellers pay.
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