Cheap rail travel tips for commuters

Author: Neil Kay-Jones, Online Support & User Experience Manager

How can a business traveller keep the cost of rail travel down while still journeying at a reasonable time of day? This question is even more pertinent since today’s headlines include news of inflation busting fare increases, as the government plans to cut £3.5bn from the railway industry running costs. Ultimately, it means higher fares!

While the majority of our customer, partner and supplier conversations are via web conferencing, even we have to travel sometimes, so the news hits us just as hard as other commuters.

Our most regular journeys are from Manchester to London or Birmingham to London and back. We’ve found a number of ways to keep journey costs down, and are pretty sure that these tips can be applied all over the UK, and want to share them with you:

  1. Book your ticket in advance – it’s not as flexible, and if you miss the train you could end up forking out for a single fare home but if you know meeting times, this is a great option. Seats become available twelve weeks before travel for the cheapest fares….great if you are doing regular journeys. Many train companies also allow you to book till midnight of the day before travel.
  2. Buy two singles – sometimes it can be cheaper than a return, since you may travel one leg of your journey peak and the other leg off-peak.
  3. Know your peak, off-peak and super off-peak travel times. Most train companies will have similar bands, but if you make a regular journey, commit these times to memory, so that you can benefit from cheaper travel and arrange your business meetings accordingly.
  4. Try to conduct your meetings at off-peak periods – trains arriving in London after 10.00 and leaving by 3.30 are cheaper.
  5. Compare train companies’ prices – Virgin, Chiltern and London Midland all run from Birmingham to London while if you are travelling from Newcastle to London, East Coast Trains, CrossCountry, Grand Central and Transpennine run the route. They’ll have different deals and promotions, so for maybe a little less luxury, you’ll save some pounds.
  6. Get a railcard – for £28 you can save 1/3 off rail travel. For business travellers, the network railcard is good if you are travelling around London and the SouthEast. The Two Together Railcard is being trialled at the moment for Midlands residents and offers discounts for two adults travelling together, so if you and a colleague make regular business trips, this could save some money.
  7. Choose a slower train – more train lines are introducing free wi-fi on journeys; this coupled with a table mean that you can work on your journey, so does an extra 20 minutes on your journey make that much difference for a saving?
  8. Split your ticket – travel the longest distance on the cheapest fare especially if your journey straddles off-peak and peak times, eg you buy a ticket from Penzance to Bristol and from Bristol to Leeds. It’s worth ringing National Rail Enquiries to see if this is possible for your journey, if you haven’t done this before, because you may hold up the queues at your station otherwise.
  9. Travel in a group – GroupSave offers discounts for small groups travelling together. Usually groups from three to ten people are eligible.
  10. Stay in the office and conduct your meeting virtually with Yuuguu – our web conferencing software offers cost effective, easy to set up and use web and audio conferencing and even integrates instant messaging and chat, so you feel like the person you are meeting with it right next to you. For the cost of one or two business train trips, users can have Yuuguu for a whole year.

We’d love to hear from you on: how train fare increases are affecting the way you conduct business meetings, and any further tips on how to save money when travelling on the train for business.

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