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A poll of leisure rail users on behalf of

Date Published: 20 Apr 2011

Categories: Business | Consumer | Public and communities | Technology & Telecoms | Transport | UK


Brits pay over the odds by 71% when buying train tickets
 at the station compared to buying in advance
• ComRes research reveals half of leisure train tickets are bought at the station
• 70% of Brits admit to being shocked at cost of  ‘walk-up’ fares
• Change of mindset needed as people increasingly switch from plane to train
• finds average £81* saving by booking in advance

LONDON, 21 April 2011 – Half of all leisure rail users leave buying their tickets until they arrive at the station, according to a national survey. Buying a ‘walk-up’ fare is the most expensive way of travelling by train and often results in paying several times more than passengers who book in advance.  

 A ComRes poll of 2,050 people, sponsored by train ticketing website, reveals 49% routinely miss out on savings of up to 88% available by booking in advance.  Leaving ticket-buying to the last minute results in a nasty surprise for rail users with 70% admitting to being shocked at the cost of buying at the station.

This insight into ticket-buying habits comes when rail’s market share for domestic city-to-city travel is increasing. Earlier this month, the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) revealed that during 2010 rail accounted for 44% of journeys on the 10 most popular domestic air routes - up from 29% in 2006. This represents an extra two million train journeys on those routes alone.

But while more people are choosing rail over plane journeys, they are not mirroring the early purchasing of tickets that is commonplace for air travel. In fact, the survey suggests a lack of awareness about advance-fare discounts because three-quarters (76%) said they would book in advance if savings were available. This is far more than actually do so.

Alistair Lees, managing director of, said: “Half of all rail passengers are paying over the odds for leisure journeys such as going away for the weekend by train.

“A simple guide for leisure train travel is that the earlier you book your ticket, the bigger the saving available. Leaving it until you arrive at the station means you can end up paying several times more than the person sitting next to you in the carriage.”

The cheapest rail fares are available 12 weeks in advance when the train operating companies release their timetables. However, Advance fares with significant savings are often available right up to the day before travel. compared Advance fares with the cheapest on-the-day fares on the top 10 city-to-city air routes in Britain and found that booking in advance saved between 48% and 88%. The average per-journey saving was 71% which in cash terms is a saving of £81.29 – per journey.

Despite these savings, the ComRes survey offered a revealing contrast between booking habits for air and rail travel. Three-quarters of those questioned say they book plane tickets in advance with ‘saving money’ the most common reason (43%) given for doing so.

Alistair Lees added: “A change of mindset is needed when buying train tickets. People need to get into the habit of booking train tickets in advance, just as they do with hotels and plane tickets.

“There can be a temptation if it is only a couple of days to go until travelling to think ‘I’ll just get them at the station’. People need to understand that this approach leads to the shock they then experience at the ticket office so it is always worth trying to get an Advance fare.”

*The 71% (£81) calculation was based on an average figure across the 10 most popular city-to-city routes in Great Britain, according to Civil Aviation Authority figures. These are: London-Edinburgh; London-Manchester; London-Glasgow; London-Newcastle; London-Aberdeen; Bristol-Edinburgh; Birmingham-Edinburgh; London-Inverness; Birmingham-Glasgow; Bristol-Glasgow. fare data was sourced on Wednesday 20 April for travel on Wednesday 6 July (11 weeks in advance).

ComRes interviewed 2050 GB adults online between 25th March and 27th March 2011. Data was weighted to be demographically representative of all GB adults.

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