How to get the cheapest UK train tickets, as prices rise again

Using a ticket machine can be confusing, with prices more than twice that of those online (PA)
Using a ticket machine can be confusing, with prices more than twice that of those online (PA)

Rail fares in England and Wales are rising by nearly five per cent despite train cancellations being among the highest levels for 10 years.

Public transport campaigners claimed passengers are being “punished” and will be “angry” at Sunday’s price hikes.

The equivalent of 3.9 per cent of services in England and Wales were cancelled in the year to February 3, PA news agency analysis of Office of Rail and Road (ORR) figures shows.

That is narrowly below the worst performance of 4.1 per cent in records dating back to 2014.

Reliability has been hit by several factors in recent months, including strikes, infrastructure faults, and severe weather.

The fares rise could add £190 to an annual season ticket from Woking to London, taking the cost from £3,880 to £4,070.

It could also see flexi season tickets for travel between Liverpool and Manchester on two days per week over a year rising by £92.60 from £1,890 to £1,982.60.

Chris Page, who chairs pressure group Railfuture, said: “Why are rail passengers being punished year after year with inflation-busting fare rises?

“No matter that there’s a cost-of-living crisis, no matter that we’re facing a climate emergency, the Government seems more determined than ever to price us off the railway and on to the roads.”

Labour’s shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh said: “This fare rise will be tough for passengers to stomach given the shocking state of rail services up and down the country.”

The news is a further slap in the face for commuters who last month were told they were being fleeced when trying to buy tickets at stations.

Research found station ticket machines charge more than twice as much as a major online retailer for some rail journeys.

Analysis by Which? in January found that passengers have not seen the best value fares presented on the screen or that they are unavailable or hidden.

After sending mystery shoppers to 15 stations of different operators, Which? found that travel on that day cost an average of 52 per cent more from machines than from online options.

How to buy the cheapest UK train tickets?

As the Which? research has found, it can be tricky to find the best price for ticketing – although online is generally cheaper than going to a station.

Travelling from Holmes Chapel in Cheshire to London was priced at £66 by a machine, whereas the Trainline app offered the same trip for £26. A journey from Northampton to Cardiff was found to cost £107 from a machine, but just £43 online.

The website MoneySavingExpert has provided several ways to cut your ticket prices, including:

And some advice for Londoners is to link your Oyster card to your railcard as this can save you money on some journeys.

Around two in five stations do not have a ticket office (PA)
Around two in five stations do not have a ticket office (PA)

Why are train tickets so expensive?

The rail industry has been privatised over the years and this means that the network does not have fixed rates, like some European countries.

General secretary of the RMT Mick Lynch told the New Statesman: “Unlike trains in the rest of Europe, which tend to be publicly owned and have cheaper fares, most UK trains are privatised, which means that a profit has to be paid out, reducing the scope for fare cuts.”

The amount that the tickets rise in cost depends on inflation and the retail price index.