Page last updated at 14:45 GMT, Monday, 2 January 2006

Ten tips for cheaper rail tickets

By Peter Plisner
BBC transport correspondent

Rail tickets
Flexibility can save you money

As above-inflation rail fare increases come into effect, travellers will be looking for ways to keep the price of their journeys down.

BBC transport correspondent Peter Plisner shares his top 10 tips for buying cheaper tickets.

1. Book ahead

Most train companies release quotas of cheaper tickets around six weeks in advance. On some journeys there are a limited number of tickets on each train. The earlier you book the better your chances of getting one of them.

Remember with many book-ahead tickets you'll have to travel on a specific train. If you miss it, your ticket won't be valid for any other services.

2. Ticket combinations

On some routes you can save money by buying two separate tickets. For instance, on a journey from Birmingham to Bristol at peak time you'd pay 56 for a standard return.

However, if you buy a return from Birmingham to Cheltenham and then another one from Cheltenham to Bristol you would save 26.

3. Internet research

Several companies now offer passengers the chance to buy tickets on the internet. You can see all available ticket types for the journey you want to make. The tickets can either be posted or collected at the station.

4. Travel off-peak

Most train companies offer the best deals to those who are prepared to travel after 0900 or 0930.

5. Different routes

For some journeys you might find that there are different routes available. Between Birmingham and London there are two routes, one via Watford and another via High Wycombe.

6. Single tickets

Some train companies are now selling cheap single tickets which are cheaper than buying a return. It has the added benefit that you can travel out on one route and back on another getting the cheapest deal from each company.

7. Ticket offers

Like the low-cost airlines, rail companies are now offering cheap deals from time to time. The best place to check is the rail company websites.

8. Add-ons

Many destinations have add-ons including unlimited bus travel and cheap entry into popular attractions. When travelling to London you can buy travelcards and use the same ticket on the underground barriers.

9. Group save

Most companies offer group saver tickets. With some you can buy a ticket to cover four people and save pounds.

10. Rail cards

There are a variety of rail cards available. On a long-distance trip you can often get your money back on the first trip.

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