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Tips on finding cheap train tickets

There are many great deals on train fares around, and you can track down cheap train tickets and low-cost fares by following some simple methods.

Getting the best deals

Cheap train fares are quota controlled by train operators, meaning that on long distance train journeys or intercity travel there will often be many different levels of cheap train fares or discounted train fares available.

These cheap fares are usually released by train operators around 12 weeks in advance of the journey, and are then managed on a regular basis by the company to control demand. This can sometimes mean increasing the quotas on trains or reducing them, which can make ticket prices rise.

If you know your travel dates, it's a good idea to start searching for travel tickets as soon as you can, to see what's available. If you can commit to a date early for your journey, you're likely to get a good deal on your rail fare. If, for some reason, you can’t commit to a date, that might mean you see fare prices rise as availability is reduced.

Unlike airline tickets, where last minute deals can often be cheaper, the longer you leave it until you book your train tickets , the more expensive they tend to be. So here are our top tips for getting the best deals on rail travel:

  • Always book early
  • Try to be flexible - when searching for cheap fares, try different dates and times to compare train fares
  • Look at the routes of the trains - some journeys have competition between operators, meaning there are sometimes cheaper fares on different routes where the journey time is longer, or where on board service is less extensive. This can often be the case on the following routes: Birmingham to London (Virgin Trains / Chiltern / London Midland / Wrexham & Shropshire) and Birmingham to Edinburgh (Virgin Trains / CrossCountry Trains)
  • Routes where there is an option to go via London or avoiding London - there is usually a price difference
  • You can check all these routes on our mixing deck and see the full range of options available
  • Avoid peak travel times such as arriving before 0930 or 1000 at your destination, or leaving between 1500 and 1900hrs. Train operators tend to reduce their cheap train ticket quota in these busy periods
  • Fridays and Sundays tend to attract a higher price, as weekend breaks and travellers push up the prices
  • Look at your railcard options - you may be eligible for a railcard, meaning you can get a discounted rail fare.

Good luck finding cheap tickets for your rail journey. If you have any tips of your own for finding the best deals on tickets, please let us know.

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