5 lesser known tips for saving money on the trains

Published 30 April 2014

Train in the West Highlands

When writing this site I have a tendency to assume that a lot of long distance walkers use the train to get to and from their walk. This seems a fair assumption based on the following criteria. 1 – most long distance trails start and end near a train station. 2 – walking from one place to another over many days is just a tad awkward if you have a car. 3 – it’s what I do, and what I do is clearly representative of what everyone does. Although I don’t have a car, and if I’m representative of what everyone else does, then no one else has a car and that’s clearly not true.

Err. Anyway.

So yeah, you’re all using the train yes? Train tickets can be expensive, so wouldn’t it be nice to be able to save some cash on them? We all know about cheap advance tickets and things, but there’s other ways as well. And it would be nice to know about them, wouldn’t it? And where there’s a will, there’s a way.

So here are my top tips for saving cash on train travel! And they’re not just for walkers either. These tips can be used for any occasion.

1. Three or four of you? Get a GroupSave!

n.b. this section was updated on 15 May 2014, to reflect changes in the Groupsave scheme

People on a train, waving

GroupSaves are great when there is, err, a group of you! They allow groups of three to nine people to travel together, with a third off the usual fare. And if there’s more than nine of you, you can still make use of group saves to save some cash! When you do have a GroupSave, everyone must travel together else your ticket will not be valid.

Only selected train companies offer GroupSaves – mainly those in the South and South East – although you can also get them in Scotland and the Midlands for certain journeys. And services to the West Country too. For groups of then or more, some other railway companies also offer discount schemes. Full details can be found on the National Rail website’s group travel page.

2. Get splitting those tickets!

Beware of Trains

Several years ago I did a rail journey from Windermere to Newcastle. This required three trains. One to Oxenholme, then another to Carlisle then a third to Newcastle. Each train was a different company. Transpennine Express, Virgin Trains and Northern Rail.

Now you’d think the cheapest ticket would be a through ticket. But I was amazed to find that the Off Peak single ticket would cost me around £35. So I did some digging and found that if I got an Off Peak Single ticket for each step of the journey, I’d save about £8.

If that seems bonkers, there are other scenarios where you can stay on the same train. London to Durham is an often used example here. You can save money by buying a ticket that goes from London to York, and then another to York to Durham, and be quids in.

Saving money here can be complex, which is why the MoneySavingExpert website have created TicketySplit which is an app to help you. Not every journey can be split, but you may be surprised.

3. Get Two Of You Together for a Third Off!

Rucksack and passenger on a train

Two of you travelling together? The Two Together Railcard recently launched and gives you each a third off when you travel together outside of peak times. It can be used nationally and you just pay £30. On longer journeys it can pay for itself very quickly. For example, we recently booked a journey from London to Windermere. The cheapest ticket for our journey was an Off Peak Return for £100 each. With the railcard, £66 each. So we saved in total £68 pounds on one trip.

The railcard can only be used by the two people named (and photographed) on it, but you don’t need to be related, to live together or anything. And you can buy more than one of them as well. You can buy them at ticket offices or online.

4. Bling it to the max with your Gold Card!

Bench shaped like a train, near Shoreham-by-Sea

Live in the south east of England? Are you going somewhere on the train in the south east as well? Got an annual season ticket for the train or an annual Travelcard?

If all that applies then congratulations, you’ve probably already got one of the easiest ways to save money on train travel. You have a Gold Card. If you’ve ever wondered what the point of that piece of paper saying “Gold Record Card” was, here is the answer.

Gold Cards have a little benefit that a lot of people don’t know about. It allows you to get a third off off peak train tickets in the “Network Railcard” zone. This covers railway stations across the South East, a huge chunk of the South of England and plenty of other places as well. Amazingly it goes all the way to Exeter and Worcester. There’s a handy map of the zone on the Network Railcard website.

This third off can add up. For example, an Off Peak Single from Clapham Junction to the delightful town of Lewes in Sussex costs £23.80. With the Gold Card it’s £15.70. Oh and for good measure, you can share the benefits with three other adults. You can even take four children and get 60% off their fares.

The Gold Card has other benefits such as being able to upgrade to first class for a fiver.

Especially great if you live in London and want to walk the South Downs Way or Ridgeway in stages.

5. Take silver with the Network Railcard

A void train ticket

If you don’t have a Gold Card, you can get some of the benefits with a Network Railcard. Again it gives you a third off off peak train travel. It costs £30 a year and anyone in the UK can buy it, although you have to buy it from a ticket office in the zone. The other catch is that during the week there is a minimum fare of £13 so it can reduce your savings. During the weekend there’s no minimum fare and you can share the benefit with three people and four children.

Alternatively if you have a friend who has a Gold Card, ask them nicely to buy you a “Gold Card Partner Card”, which is basically a Network Railcard costing a mere £1. Apparently you’re only supposed to be able to buy one a year, but the times I’ve bought one, no one has ever checked. But then, every time I’ve ever bought one, the ticket office staff have never heard of it and have had to look it up – clearly it’s not a well used service.

Obviously if you’re not walking in the South East, this one isn’t much use to you. But if you are, take a look.

So there you are. Five tips. Now time to get saving!



2 May 2014 at 12:17 pm


Anybody who wants to save money through split ticketing may also be interested in our recently launched tool, which will both identify splits and automatically book the correct combination of tickets for you.

The tool has just been released in a beta version and there are many improvements coming soon including splits on advance fares too. For anyone who’s interested, the tool can be found by going to our website and clicking ‘Split Ticketing,’ at the top of the page.

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