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How to get the cheapest rail fares

Whether it concerns travelling to the north, south, east or west, the cost of rail travel has spiralled over recent years. However, there are ways to obtain cheaper rail tickets from advance bookings, purchasing a rail card, splitting the journey and avoiding peak travel. Follow this guide for some important tips on how to get the cheapest rail ticket.

Advance booking

"Book as far in advance as possible to get a better deal. By booking four weeks in advance, you can pay only £15.50 for a single trip from Holyhead to London. If you bought the same ticket on the day of travel, it would cost £65.50," says Krista Hamblin of Passenger Focus, the rail passenger watchdog. It is possible to book a rail ticket up to three months in advance. This normally ensures the best choice of ticket price. Booking a ticket in advance guarantees a seat but also means that travelling must be at the arranged time and date or face hefty charges. Visit Thetrainline.com or Nationalrail.co.uk for further details.

Avoid peak travel

The accepted peak travel times are between 6:30am and 9:30am in the morning and 15:30 and 18:30 in the afternoon. Booking outside of these times and also avoiding weekends can result in some big ticket savings.

Split journey

Purchasing two single tickets can often be cheaper than a return ticket. There may be some conditions to this, such as the train taken may have to stop at all stations on route (e.g – the slow train). The journey may involve changing trains, so be careful of connecting times as a delayed train may result in a missed connection and no refund.

Rail cards

There are several rail cards available, each offering discount train travel. They are usually beneficial if you travel frequently by train.
Network Railcard

This covers the South East and entitles the traveller to one third off the fare within the Network Railcard area. Additionally, the discount is for up to three other adults for travel after 10am on weekdays or the weekends. As a bonus, you can take up to four children, aged 5-15, with a 60% saving on their tickets. Annual Season Ticket

These holders get the same benefits as holders of the National Railcard and can also buy the railcard for a partner for only £2. 16-25 Railcard

As its name implies, this card is for 16 to 25 years old or 26 plus and in full-time education. This cuts one third off all the standard class tickets. For the cheapest train tickets, search online. Most rail ticket websites have easy booking facilities, making buying online quick and efficient. (Prices are correct as of 01.08.11 and available from National Rail )

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