MAKING SERIOUS SAVINGS ON TRAIN TRAVEL: ADVICE FROM A WELL TRAVELLED PROFESSOR : WHY FIRST CLASS IS SOMETIMES CHEAPER
Last September there was a crowd-sourced post on this blog about the best means of travel and accommodation for lawyers. This is particular interest to litigators who who to travel for court hearings or meetings. When Professor Dominic Regan contacted me and asked whether I wanted a guest post on the most economic means of train travel I had to say yes. So here are Dominic’s tips to make serious savings on travel.
DOMINIC’S GUIDE TO TRAIN TRAVEL
I catch 250 trains a year, every year. There are several ways of making serious savings.
ALWAYS GO TO THE COUNTER
Buying tickets in advance is an obvious way of cutting costs . It used to be that advance tickets would disappear a day or two before your journey. That is not now always so. Indeed , if ever you have to buy a walk up fare at the station on the day never use a ticket machine. Always go to the counter.
I recently took a train from York to Leeds. The kindly gentleman was able to sell me an advance ticket for a train departing 20 minutes later and at a 75% discount to the fare charged by the machine. Always ask . Machines only sell full fare walk up tickets and some offer ‘convenient’ tickets which are not necessarily the cheapest option.
FIRST CLASS CAN BE CHEAPER
If booking an advance journey always look at both travel classes. As peak hours expire you could find that first is the same fare as standard or even less ! That is because people on expenses tend to be business types ( or Silks ) and travel early . Ordinary people travel off – peak so that the demand for first collapses whilst the desire for standard soars.
TIME REALLY IS MONEY
A few minutes can make a big difference . As I write i am looking at a direct train in 4 weeks time from London to York. The 9.06 am departure is £40 less than the departure 6 minutes earlier .
Incidentally, this principle also holds true for upmarket business hotels in the peak Summer season. Perversely, it can cost more to stay in a reasonable ‘ budget ‘ hotel than somewhere smarter . Business people take August off whilst tourists instinctively pack out those hotels which they assume is all they can afford. I have dwelt in magnificent Barcelona Hotels that came in cheaper than the Holiday Inn.
Many will have heard of ticket splitting. Instead of buying a ticket from , in my case , Bath to London, one buys 2 tickets . The first takes me to Didcot ( where the train stops en route to Paddington). The second covers me from Didcot to London . There is no need to disembark. It is significantly cheaper to buy 2 separate tickets . Note that the train must stop at the intermediate station for this to apply.
The Trainline app now automatically works out ticket splitting journeys for you. Incidentally, if you fancy a run from Paris to Marseilles or Brussels to Moscow it will sell you those tickets too.
USING SECONDARY PROVIDERS
Another useful way of cutting costs is to use secondary providers . Grand Central runs a very limited but cheaper service from London to York. LNER is the main provider and it has some trains which run non – stop. Again, Avanti is the dominant provider between London Euston and Birmingham New Street . However, award winning Chiltern provides a similar, less frequent run from Birmingham Moor St ( 5 minutes walk from New St ) to London Marylebone . By using Chiltern i got to London for 80% less than the cheapest Virgin fare. The journey took 15 minutes longer and the seating was excellent with charging points and free internet for everyone.The train then stops at Snow Hill which is close to the Law Courts.
Railcards abound and , if eligible, you should get one . Full details at the Railcards .co.uk website. Savings represent a discount of one third , which immediately covers the cost of £30 for a year.
If you live outside London and are taking my favourite train, the Eurostar , which goes to Paris , Brussels and Amsterdam all year round never make the mistake of buying separate tickets to London. On the Eurostar website enter your starting point such as Manchester and then your destination. I tried a test purchase for this column and found that i could do the entire journey for exactly the same fare as if i were travelling only London- Paris. Sometimes it might cost a tad more but nothing near full fare . You are the beneficiary of the secret London International Fare !
For all rail planning, home and away , look at the Seat 61 website. It is named after a lovely seat in Premium Economy on the Eurostar. It is a table for 2 , coupled with Seat 65 , so book them together. The website allows you to select seats after booking.
One final Eurostar trick. It can cost less to stay a night booking a hotel with them as well as rail rather than doing a day return if you are booking late on !
The DB Navigator app , which is free on the App store , gives one train times for the whole of Europe; typical German efficiency .
THE TUBE EXITS APP
If you venture into London then buy the Tube Exits app . It is dirt cheap and and works out the fastest way from A to B. It even indicates the best carriage to take in order to alight closest to an exit.
CLAIM YOUR COMPENSATION
Finally, if you are delayed remember to ask for compensation. Only one third eligible ever make a claim. Bonkers ! Best to fire off at once