Please sign in to post.

How To Save Money On Railfares & Not Pre Book.

A lot of you are confused about the British Rail system and fares. As many now realise, you can pre-book specific trains at low fares - if you book about 11 weeks ahead. Of course, this gives you no flexibility and means that you might have to rush to a station to catch a specific train. May I suggest that you consider purchasing a Railcard when you arrive in Britain - make sure you have the relevant sized photo. So, a 2 Together Railcard will cost £30 for a couple travelling together. Note that you are not allowed to use this before 9.30am on weekdays. (A Senior Railcard costs £30 for one person but I don’t think the 9.30 rule applies - check the small print).
Anyway, with the Railcards, you are entitled to about a third off the fares - so worth getting if you can cover your initial outlay in fare savings. If pre-booking Advance tickets, you can do this on the assumption that you already have the Railcard even though you won’t actually purchase it until you arrive in Britain.

Another way to reduce the fares is to buy split tickets on certain routes. So, for example, let us take Paddington to Bath return bought on the day. A through off peak return ticket would cost £37.95 with a Railcard. If you asked for a PAD > Didcot return = £16.95 per person Railcard price plus a Didcot to Bath return = £12.55 per person (Railcard price) we have a total of £29.50 for the London to Bath return buying on the day and not being tied to specific trains - apart from the fact that we must travel off peak - which means not before 9.30am on weekdays. The first train to go from London to Bath and call at Didcot on a weekday is the 10am departure (for Paignton in Devon). Coming back from Bath, usually it is only the x43 departures that call at Didcot. (To comply with the rules, the train must call at the split ticket point - even though you stay on the same train throughout). Click DETAILS on the national rail website to get the calling points. Also note that when going one way only, the savings may not work the same as buying a return.

The UK government are trying to stop all this nonsense about having to buy split tickets to get the cheapest fares.

So, check the through fares on and see if pre-booking advance tickets for specific trains gets you a big saving v pay on the day. Don’t forget to use the drop down menu to see of reductions are available for Railcards.

The Britrail Pass - which you can only purchase prior to arrival in the UK, is generally considered to be not of good value.

If per-booking tickets, the National Rail website normally directs you through to the train company that you will use for most of a journey. (This can make claiming compensation for late running more easy though in reality, most trains arrive on-time). However, one of the train companies - Cross Country Trains - do not charge the £10 fee for changes to the booking. (You would have to pay for any increase in the fare - which is likely with a later change for an Advance purchase). So, even if you don’t travel on Cross Country Trains, you make like to make your booking via their website for all your rail journeys in Britain. (You will get a booking number and your debit card will be debited, Bring the same debit card on your holiday, insert it into a Ticket Machine and out will come the tickets when you insert the Booking Number(s). Alternatively, see a member of staff at any British Rail station - preferably not in the peak time. The seats remaining number means 'at the price shown'. It does not mean that no more room exists on that particular train.

Although the trains have overhead luggage racks, big cases will need to go into areas as the ends of the carriages. Carriage floors are just above platform height. Newer trains have electric toilet doors - be sure to press the LOCK BUTTON!

Posted by
16866 posts

Different strategies will work for different people. Split ticketing sounds more complicated and time-consuming than what the average tourist wants to deal with (especially in an example that saves £8.45). Roundtrip discounts are helpful for side trips from a city but won't apply to most long-distance tourist travel, which tends to be in a wider circle, or perhaps a line. Some of the same options are summarized at

Posted by
1838 posts

Not all people are in a category that applying for a Railcard would be allowed. You also have to factor in whether the savings cover the cost of the Railcard.

I have just done a check on the walk on cost of a Paddington to Bath return today (Wednesday) with no Railcard. Prior to 8am, it is a whopping £190. On the 10.30am or later - it is £57.50 and any train between these two times is £73.30. (One train every 30 minutes). Remember, that whatever kind of ticket you are getting, that fares are likely to be less on Saturdays due to a lack of commuters. However, sporting events can bump up Saturday prices - and you would not want to be a train heaving with fans! Sundays can also be problematic due to engineering work. Fridays tend to have higher prices due to being the busiest day.

If you need advice on trips that you are thinking of taking, you may like to consider using this forum (you need to sign in), and select Fares & Advice section. Usually a rail geek will get back with some advice.

Posted by
1838 posts

Another way to save on some routes - but only selected places - is to use the Megatrain website. (I think this will only work for some South West Train services from London (Waterloo). I know that some really cheap deals can be found to Exeter & Southampton. Megatrain is really run by a company called Stagecoach who have a stake in South West Trains. They also operate cheap long distance coach services across the country.
On the London to Exeter run, SW Trains are slower than the GWR trains from Paddington.

Regarding the split tickets mentioned earlier; it has been found that by splitting where you change train company en route can result in a cheaper overall price. Known places where splitting the ticket may give reduced prices are:> Didcot, Banbury, Swindon, Cheltenham, Taunton, York, Crewe, Preston, Perth, Birmingham, Derby, Manchester. Remember, the train must stop at the places where the ‘split’ ticket occurs - even though you may be staying on the same train. (DETAILS on the National Rail website will show the calling points & times). Sometimes, you can get journeys down in price by purchasing separate tickets for 3 legs.

If you must leave on a peak service before 9.30am on a weekday, another trick which might reduce the price is to just purchase a ticket to the first place it reaches after 9.30am. Then have another ticket in your pocket for an off peak service (same train) from that place. (Click DETAILS on the National Rail website will tell you the calling points & time).

This is a very useful website about rail travel:>