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How to trim the cost of train travel

Fares will jump yet again next year, but there are several ways to save money. Ruth Jackson-Kirby explains.

Fares will jump yet again next year, but there are several ways to save money.

Train fares are a nationalrip-off. A recent study found that ticket prices have risen by twice as much as average wages over the past ten years. The average fare has gone up by 46% since 2009; the average wage has risen by 23% over the same period. To make matters worse, rail fares will rise by up to 2.8% in January. The annual rise is capped at July's Retail Price Index, a measure of year-on-year inflation that reached 2.8% last month.

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"If the full increase is passed onto passengers it could see season tickets from Brightonto London hiked by £125a year to £4,357," notesHelen Knapman in The Sun. Tickets from Gloucester to Birmingham could rise by £119 to £4,357 and fares from Edinburgh to Glasgow by £114 to £4,198. So, what can you do to cut your rail costs?

If you are a commuter your options are limited, but "some can still make savings on their regular train travel by thinking outside of the box", says Megan French from moneysavingexpert.com.

"For example, check if you can save by combining a railcard with daily tickets rather than using a season ticket, or see if split tickets' are available for your route." A more drastic option is to change your work routine to avoid the most expensive travel times. "If your employer allows you to work flexibly you could see whether it's cheaper to swap your season ticket for other types, such as pre-paid carnet tickets," says French.

Spread the pain

Another trick for one-off trips is to choose your booking website carefully. "Don't use fee-charging sites such as trainline.com and book with Grand Central, TransPennine Express or Virgin Trains, where no booking fees apply," says Adam Williams inThe Daily Telegraph.

You can book tickets for any journey nationwide through these websites, not just their own services.Take advantage of railcards too. There are so many 16-25, 26-30, Two Together, Family & Friends and Senior that most people fit into at least one category. They all offer a third off tickets. There is now also a 16-17 railcard, which is estimated to save the average teenager £186 a year.

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