Cheap Train Tickets
The Train System in the United Kingdom
The train system that runs in the United Kingdom is oldest in the entire world. Currently, the UK rail system is 18th largest network in the world. In addition, the system is one of the busiest in the world offering 20% more train services than the country of France and 60% more services than those found in Spain and Italy.
The passenger train services offered in the United Kingdom are run by private companies and the services are divided by regions. The private companies bid for contracts in order to run their franchises.
In the year 2002-2003 the franchised train services provided over 950 million journeys that totalled almost 25 billion travel miles for passengers. In 2011, the number of passengers increased by almost 6% and this number is expected to continue to rise as the number of people using trains for their travelling needs in the UK is increasing.
The Public Performance Measure is used to assess the train performance for passenger trains. In the year 1998 nearly 90% of trains arrived on time. This figure dropped down to 75% during the early part of 2001. As of the fall of 2006 the performance has rebounded and nearly 87% of the trains run on time in the country.
One of problems that some people have with the train’s services in the United Kingdom is the price of tickets. Britain has some of the highest fares for rails in the world. For example, as of the summer of 2013 the cost for a yearly ticket from London to Brighton, which is an 87 km trip, is €3,532. In comparison, the cost for a yearly German BahnCard that allows a year of travel on the entire rail network in Germany costs almost the same amount at 4090 Euros. The rail operators in the United Kingdom point out that the increases in prices are far less than the increases seen for the price of petrol needed for private motoring.
During the 1970s the high speed rail was introduced to the country. However, services were not offered to passengers until the year 2003. The first phase of these trains opened in 2003 and they linked the British side of the Channel Tunnel in Folkestone with the Fawkham Junction located in Kent. This is an international only passenger train provided by the Eurostar service. The line has since been extended to London.
Local Rail Systems:
Most of the cities and towns throughout the United Kingdom have some type of rapid transit system in place. London and Glasgow both have heavy underground systems that are used throughout the cities. There are light rail systems that have underground sections located in the centre of the city in places such as Newcastle-upon-Tyne and in the area of the London Docklands. The rail systems located in Birmingham/Black Country, Croydon, Manchester, Sheffield, and Nottingham all use combinations of street running as well as some of the conventional rail lines if located in the area. There is one traditional tram system running in Blackpool. There are also miniature railways, heritage tramways, funiculars, and monorails that exist in many of the cities. The majority of major cities all have some type of commuter railway in place. These cities include Sheffield, Manchester, London, Liverpool, Leeds, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Bristol, Birmingham, and Belfast.
Finding Cheap Train Tickets:
For those travelling in the United Kingdom, train travel is likely going to be a part of your travel plans. As mentioned, the cost of train tickets is somewhat high throughout the United Kingdom. However, there are certain things that you can do to find cheap train tickets. Here are some tips for getting the best prices for your train travel which includes booking early, use split tickets, get promotion offers, use of rail cards and use train booking sites in UK.
Plan your travel smartly – Book early to save more!
Ideally, you will want to get your train tickets at almost 12 weeks exactly before your departure date. The reason for this is because the Network Rail is contractually obligated to set their timetables at 12 weeks in advance. If you buy early, you will be able to save lots of bucks and on the other hand, late bookings may lead to the unavailability or higher fares. If you already know where you want to go you can join the alert system of Trainline. This will send you an email the moment that advance tickets are available for a specific trip. Make sure to think twice before making any decision, as ticket cancelation is not available sometimes.
Always check for advance tickets even the night before:
Many rail operators allow you to book cheap advance tickets even the night before journey. Some rail operators also let you book advance tickets 15 minutes prior to travel.
Avoid peak times – Smart planning required:
To save money not only on tickets but other expenses including accommodation as well, plan your travel smartly. Avoid peak times because everyone tries to travel in peak times and the fares are generally very high during such rush hours.
If you are doing a long journey and even if some part of it is outside peak time, you still have to pay peak time fares for your entire journey. Spilt tickets are beneficial in this case.
Consider a Railcard:
Railcard are very helpful in saving money on train tickets. There are different railcard available which will save you money, however there are certain restrictions on getting discount using these cards. 6 main rail cards are as following:
1. 16-25 Railcard: For people under 26 year or full time students of any age. It will slash a third off rail fares.
2. Family and Friends Railcard: This is useful for up to 4 adults aged 16+ and up to 4 children aged 5-15.
3. Two Together Railcard: Useful for adults over 16 years of age. You can save a third off the fares for two persons.
4. Senior Railcard: For persons over 60 years.
5. Disabled Persons Railcard: This is useful for disabled persons. With this you can get a third off the rail fares for you and one adult co-passenger.
6. Network Railcard: This is for up to 4 adults aged 16+ and up to 4 children aged 5-15. You can get a third off adult fares and £2 flat fare for children. There are certain restrictions in this.
Travelling to London – Buy a Travelcard:
When you are looking for cheap trains, Travelcards are one of the most cost-effective ways. Passengers travelling to London for the day, add Travelcard while booking the ticket and avail discount as well as other benefits.
Travelling long distances – Avail discount with coupons:
When you do advance booking, save your money by using coupon, which can reduce the costs by up to 30% or more. Railcard is one of the best solutions to get discounts on train fares.
Compare Single vs. Return Fare:
Return tickets are economical but sometime single route journey is cheaper. So while booking tickets make sure to compare prices for single and return journey.
Online train booking sites in UK:
There are several websites in UK from where you can search and compare train tickets online. East Coast, Red Spotted Hanky, Thetrainline and Raileasy are the major providers of train tickets.
Unlimited train and bus travel – Add a PLUSBUS ticket:
PLUSBUS tickets are available at about 300 towns and cities on the National Rail network in Britain. It offers a tremendous way to get around the city and town. When you add PLUSBUS ticket to your train ticket, it enables unlimited bus travel in almost every bus service in that city or town.
Special or Seasonal offers – Keep your eye wide open:
Plenty or seasonal or special offers are available all over the National Rail network, such as -
• Weekender tickets on National Express East Coast - provides discounts on your journeys that start on either a Friday or Saturday and return within four days.
• Family Travelcards - from various railway stations in East Anglia to London. In this offer, you need to pay a flat rate for children usually just £2.
• ‘Kids Go Free’ on several routes in Scotland through Scot rail and many other operators all over the UK. Travelling to same destination frequently – buy a season ticket
Passengers, who are travelling to the same destination for more than two or three time in a week, can save by purchasing a season ticket. It is a great value ticket for the frequent travellers. If you buy annual season ticket, it costs equivalent to 40 weeks’ travel and you get further three months at no extra cost.
Travelling in groups - Buy 'Groupsave' tickets:
If you are travelling with family, colleagues, or friends (more than three people), Groupsave tickets are easily available on many routes. Its offers great savings on ticket costs for three or more people travelling in a group.
Use Cashback credit cards:
Many cashback credit cards provide you cashback whenever you spend on card. Using such cards you can get cashback on train fares you will purchase.
Buy Split Tickets:
This is one trick that many people do not think about. For some reason, it is likely cheaper to buy separate tickets for separate parts of your journey. Buying tickets for each section of the trip can save you a lot of money overall. It is important to make sure that the train stops at all the stations that you purchase tickets for.
Finding cheap split tickets is easy and can be done using following steps:
1. Check out total cost of journey at websites of rail operators or independent train booking sites. This will serve as a benchmark.
2. Check out all stopping points of the particular train you are going to travel with. These are called calling points.
3. After getting this information, pick a main station and find prices of journey to and from a station halfway. Try other stations if that doesn’t work. For journeys with many calling points you can try many combinations to get cheapest tickets.
Finding First Class train tickets for cheap:
You can save on first class tickets as well by booking in advance. If you upgrade on the day of travel it is sometimes cheaper as some operators only charge a flat-rate upgrade fee on weekends and bank holidays. Upgrades are possible only if there is seat available in first class.
These are just a few ideas for getting cheap train tickets when travelling in the United Kingdom and even throughout Europe.