HOW TO FIND CHEAP FARESThere are four main ways in which this site can help you to find cheap train fares:
- Show whether Advance fares are likely to be available
For many journeys, quota-controlled advance single fares are available and it is possible to obtain a good deal by booking as far in advance as possible (up to approximately 12 weeks in advance, when advance quota is released).
Not all journeys have advance fares available, but you can check using this site. If, listed in the results of a fares query, there are one or more fares with a ticket name including the word ADVANCE, then there are likely to be advance fares available for the journey. However you need to either use a website that incorporates a journey planner and booking engine (e.g. Red Spotted Hanky ), or ask at your local rail station booking office, to see if any of these fares are available on trains at times that suit you.
The cheapest advance fares shown may not be available on every train even if you book far in advance; the train companies are not obliged to offer them just because they are in the fares database. In rare cases, advances might not be available because they have been included in the database in error. This situation can arise if the permitted routes for the journey preclude travel using the train company concerned, perhaps because it does not actually operate trains over any of them.
If there are no fares with a ticket name of ADVANCE, then the journey does not have Advance fares available and there is no benefit to be gained by booking in advance; the prices will be exactly the same buying at the station booking office on the day of travel.
Whilst Advance fares can sometimes offer a very good deal, in many cases the inconvenience of being tied to a specific booked train is a problem, particularly for a return journey. Off-Peak Return and Super Off-Peak Return fares often come out at a price similar to (and can even be cheaper than) a pair of out-and-back Advance Single fares, yet offer massively increased flexibility by not being tied to a particular train or route.
In most cases Off-Peak and Super Off-Peak fares allow break of journey en-route, overnight stays etc. yet information on this extended validity is not made public by conventional journey planning websites; they only offer a yes/no answer
on whether the ticket is valid on a set of pre-determined itineraries.
This site includes full details of Off-Peak and Super Off-Peak validity restrictions in human-readable format – this is exactly the same information that booking office clerks have available to them, and allows you to plan your own journey with full knowledge of which trains your flexible ticket is valid on.
For certain journeys, cheaper fares (both Advance and Walk-up) are available if you are willing to accept a longer journey time by using only trains operated by a particular train company or companies, or by travelling via (or avoiding) a particular station. Any such restrictions are indicated in the Route column in the results of a fares query.
Conventional journey planning websites do not always make such fares very obvious, as they tend to devise itineraries based on the fastest journey time and include price as a secondary consideration. This site gives you full up-front information on all the fares available for a journey, leaving you free to devise your own itinerary to get the best value out of the available fares.
For a variety of reasons, it can sometimes happen that paying for a through fare from origin to destination is not the cheapest way of making a journey. It is often worthwhile to check the prices of a combination of fares between different stations along the route of the journey – such a combination of two or more split tickets can work out cheaper than a through fare, although flexibility may be reduced as the train must call at the station where you change from one ticket to another.
If you have a particular query about a journey you wish to make cheaply, the RailUK Fares Advice forum is usually a good place to ask.