Travel price hikes and the ongoing cost of living crisis mean consumers are now facing an eye-watering rise to the cost of getting around.
Which? is advising consumers on how they can shave hundreds of pounds a year off their commuting and transport costs by using options like railcards, car shares and opting for flexible train tickets.
Take advantage of the ‘Get Around for £2’ scheme
Until 31 March 2023, single fares for participating bus journeys in England are being capped at £2. However, return fares will remain at their usual price, so for some journeys, it might be cheaper to get two single fares rather than a return.
The reduced price will be applied automatically when you take a journey. There are more than 4,600 bus routes benefitting from the discount, with 130 participating operators, including Arriva and Stagecoach.
The amount you save will depend on how expensive the usual bus route is, and how often you travel.
According to government estimates the average person will save almost 30 per cent of their usual fare, but customers on some routes can save as much as 87 per cent.
Beat the rail fares increase
Regulated train fares in England are due to rise by 5.9 per cent on 5 March. This will affect season tickets on most commuter journeys, some off-peak return tickets on long-distance journeys and anytime tickets around major cities.
For those who normally purchase an annual season ticket, if you buy it before the price rises you will get to travel for the next year at the cheaper existing price.
Those in England who aren’t making journeys every day should consider buying flexi train tickets – which can save part-time commuters £100s a year compared with daily returns for those commuting two or three days a week.
Railcards are an easy way to save money on rail journeys. There are nine types on offer and they all cost no more than £30 for a year, but will typically reduce costs by at least a third. Check eligibility criteria for each card and remember some can’t be used for certain journeys during peak times on weekdays, but these restrictions don’t apply on weekends or bank holidays.
Peak fares across Scotland’s railways are due to be scrapped as part of a six-month pilot scheme, a step that was announced in the draft Scottish budget in December 2022. Full details of this project, and when it will come into force, are yet to be announced.
Booking train tickets well in advance of travel makes it more likely to find a cheaper deal. Most train companies release a set number of reduced-price ‘Advance’ tickets up to 12 weeks before – and some go on sale even earlier.
Try ‘splitting’ train journeys
When travelling by train, splitting the journey – or ‘split ticketing’ – can often save money, particularly on longer routes. Instead of buying one single ‘through’ ticket, travellers can buy multiple tickets to cover the component parts. Which? previously found that it’s possible to save 52 per cent on a journey from Ipswich to Sheffield, by splitting the ticket at Perterborough and Doncaster. You’d pay £94.30 for an anytime direct ticket, but just £45.26 for a ticket with these two splits.
Websites such as the Trainline and Tickety Split can help find split routes.
Consider a coach
It is worth looking for other means of transport to your destination. For instance, it may be cheaper to get a coach instead of a train, especially if you’re not restricted by timings.
For example, popular routes like London to Manchester can cost as little as £6.88 with Megabus – but the journey will take five hours, compared to just two hours on the train.
Students might also be able to get discounts on coach travel, for example they can save an extra 10 per cent at Megabus with a Totum card.
National Express offers a Coachcard scheme which works in a similar way to a Railcard, offering a third off fares. There are three options available: Young Persons Coachcard, Senior Coachcard and Disabled Coachcard.
Shop around for fuel
Before making a long car journey, it is worth filling up at the cheapest station possible. Which? found that petrol at supermarket pumps is typically a few pence cheaper per litre. Petrol is also generally cheaper in towns and cities than in rural locations. It can also be worth checking a comparison site such as Confused.com, which compares prices at forecourts, and can be used to find cheaper options near you.
Cycle to work
While it won’t be an option for everyone, walking or cycling, where possible, can completely erase the cost of fuel or public transport.
It’s also possible to save money on the cost of a new bike with the Cycle to Work scheme. You start by choosing the bike you want. The bike is bought by your employer, who then leases it to you. Many employers can reclaim the VAT and have the option of passing this saving on to you.
Your salary will be reduced by the net cost of the bike for the hire period, spreading the cost across several months. Once the hire period ends, you can buy the bike from your employer at a ‘fair market value’ set by HMRC.
Depending on salary, the scheme can save cyclists up to 39 per cent on the value of the bike.
Reena Sewraz, Which? Money Expert, said:
“Soaring rail fares and uncertainty around fuel prices is a real concern for millions of people who rely on cars and public transport, especially as many are already feeling the impact of the cost of living crisis.
“However, there are steps that consumers can take to lower their spending and save money on their commute. Where possible, consider walking or cycling instead of driving or taking costly trains. If you can’t avoid them, make sure to book tickets in advance, while using a rail or coach card can help you save money on a lot of journeys.”
Notes to editors:
Over the coming months, Which? will be highlighting free and useful money-saving advice every Monday to help consumers manage the ongoing cost of living crisis. The series will cover a range of topics, from how to save money on household bills, to childcare and travel.
Those who are unemployed could be eligible for 50 per cent off travel in London with the Jobcentre Plus Travel Discount. Londoners receiving certain benefits such as Universal Credit can apply for the Bus & Tram Discount photocard to get 50 per cent off bus and tram fares.
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