March 2018: Birmingham

Summary:

  • Use National Rail Enquiries to search for tickets
  • Book directly with the train operating company – look for any further discounts they offer
  • Use a fare splitting tool or manually search to see if you can get the journey for less

Birmingham isn’t exactly as exotic as Paris or Milan but at least I did travel somewhere and also this is an important one that I feel like people don’t know enough about. If there’s one thing Brits love complaining about more than the weather or Brexit, it’s trains. Namely, them being late, cancelled, slow, converted buses on rails and of course, bloody expensive.

Even so, there’s still plenty of ways to save money on trains and you don’t necessarily need a railcard. Something I regularly look into on most train journeys is fare splitting and is a trick a surprising number of people don’t know about or don’t utilise. This is completely fine to do under the National Rail Conditions of Travel, providing the train calls at the station you buy one part of your journey to. There are a number of online tools such as splitticketing.com and SplitMyFare as an example that will search for you. I personally just prefer to do it myself.

There are two ways I tend to do it, either when I’m doing a journey without changing trains or if I do have to change, splitting the tickets at the station I have to change at.

So, in March I went to my sister’s in Birmingham and got the train from Manchester Piccadilly to Birmingham New Street.

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Instead of buying a through ticket, I split the fare for the same journey without having to change trains. So I paid two fares for one journey, but overall cost less than paying for one fare straight through to Birmingham New Street. The only difference as you’ll notice was my seat reservation, which I sometimes don’t sit in anyway. You don’t have to sit in your reservation, however, you have to have your reservation with you for the ticket to be valid but should I have had to move was only a few seats down.

 A great thing I’ve learned is that you can also get a 10% discount on top of the railcard discount on advance fares with Cross Country.

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The second way of splitting fares is if you have to make a change at a station in order to get to your final destination. For example, going from Manchester to Derby, you have to make a change at either Sheffield or Stoke on Trent. You can buy one ticket to use for both journeys but more often than not, it’s cheaper to split the journey where the change occurs.

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As these journeys were run by two different train operating companies (Transpennine Express and East Midlands Trains), I got the tickets for the part of the journey ran by the respective operator. Another great additional discount I’ve seen from Transpennine is that with a 16-25 railcard, the 33% standard discount is bumped up to 50% (when booking through TPExpress directly). I recommend booking directly through the train operating company themselves by looking on National Rail first then being redirected to their website to book tickets.

Even though this won’t stop us moaning about the trains, it might make journeys a bit more economical.

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