Some train fares are set to quadruple in price because of a change in classification of train times from ‘off-peak’ to the more expensive ‘peak’. The train companies are able to increase their fares with this tactic without the need for permission from their regulator.

Passenger Focus, the rail watchdog, described some of the fare increases as ‘astronomical’ although train companies claim only a ‘tiny’ number of passengers are affected.

An example of one of the larger fare increases is a return from London to Manchester at 9.15am returning at 8.55am the next day would have set you back £66 last year but the same ticket on Virgin Trains now costs £262!

Virgin said the re-designation of times and prices only affected 3.4 per cent pf their services, and South West said it affected eight per cent of its services.

Virgin also stressed that passengers can still make savings by buying their tickets in advance, and online.

Edward Welsh, of the Association of Train Operating Companies (Atoc), said the vast majority of travellers have seen fares fall, stay the same or rise below the rate of inflation over time, whereas conversely Bob Crow, general secretary of the RMT Union, said rail firms had used privatisation as a “licence to print money”.

Some tips for keeping fares as cheap as possible are as follows:

  • Buy in advance
  • Travel Off-Peak
  • Buy a railcard which can save up to a third on your ticket price, railcards range from a Young Person’s 16-25 Railcard, Family and Friends Railcard or a Senior Railcard.
  • A slightly longer way of getting cheap tickets is to split your fares and buy shorter journey legs, a website to help you do this is Splitfare.
  • You could consider season tickets which often offer discounts to single journeys