While campaigners, environmental groups and trade unions are staging a demonstration at Waterloo Station, now is a good time to consider the ways you can bring down the cost of your train travel.
If you're a commuter or regular traveller, it's possible to slash your costs by getting a season ticket. If you commute daily along the same route, it's often worth getting an annual season ticket. You could also use a credit card with 0% on purchases to buy a season ticket upfront if work doesn't offer one as part of your package.
You can also seriously cut your costs by getting a railcard. These offer a third off most ticket prices and cost from £20 a year. Two thirds of people can save hefty sums using a railcard, so go to Railcard.co.uk to see the five different types: for example, the 16-25 Railcard, the Senior Railcard for over-60s and the Family and Friends Railcard. The latter allows up to four adults and four children to travel together on the card with adults getting a third off fares and kids getting up to a 60% discount.
Book as early as possible to get the cheapest fare, and particularly to ensure a reasonable price for a big trip. Tickets are often available up to 12 weeks in advance of travel, as Network Rail typically sets the timetable then - so put a reminder in your diary. Advance tickets can even be bought the night before, so always check to see if these are still available. But bear in mind that these often require you to travel on specific trains.
You may be able to split your tickets and get a cheap fare for part of it, says Martin Lewis, founder of MoneySavingExpert.com. Instead of buying tickets for the whole journey, buying tickets for its constituent parts separately can slash the price, and you won't even have to change trains. Take a train journey from London to Penzance, says Lewis: An anytime day return costs £257 but by buying four singles (London to Plymouth, Plymouth to Penzance, Penzance to Plymouth and Plymouth to London) the cost can be cut to just £50.
TheTrainline has a 'best fare finder' facility that will inform you when you need to travel to get the cheapest ticket. It boasts that customers can achieve average savings of 39% by booking ahead compared with buying a ticket at the station on the day of travel. You simply enter where and when you want to go and the site displays the options available so you can choose the best one for you.
RailEasy and Best Value Fares will also search for cheap fares. Also check out NationalRail which has an array of tools including season ticket calculators and journey planners to help with your travel needs.
However, when it comes to booking the ticket, you may wish to do so at the station or through the rail company's website as usually there's no booking fee. TheTrainline charges a £1 booking fee, plus an extra £2.50 for credit card payments.
Finally, a round-up of top tips…
• If you travel regularly, use a season ticket
• Take advantage of railcards
• Book early
• Consider fare splitting
• Use fare finder sites