Of course, we’ve all by now come to terms with the idea that we can no longer turn up at the station five minutes beforehand and expect to get a ticket without having to mortgage our aunt in the bargain.
Going online a few days, weeks or even months in advance is the best way of travelling for less. Discovering which company is operating the train is often a difficult task, with different companies often covering the same route. But before you reach for a website with national coverage like Thetrainline.com or Raileasy.co.uk, bear in mind that these services often charge more than going direct to the rail company – and sometimes by as much as 50%.
A study by Southern Railway searched for tickets from Brighton to London, and found that that while the lowest fare was £4.50, the websites with national coverage charge £5. And if you want your tickets posted to you and include the booking fee, this can add up to £9.50 if you’re using Thetrainline or £8.95 from Raileasy.
Alistair Buckle, head of marketing at Southern Railway says: ‘With headline adverts like 'Save up to 80% on train tickets', customers could be mistaken into thinking they are getting a good deal by using a commercial ticket site. In fact, these percentages only compare the commercial sites' prices to the cost of buying a ticket at a station on the day of travel, when even greater savings could be made by buying advance tickets direct from the train operators' websites. The truth is that all commercial ticket sites include a mark-up on the face value of the tickets sold, and then create extra revenue with added booking and credit card fees, further increasing the cost to the consumer.’
Our message is simple: if you’ve got the time then it pays to shop around.