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The trains may not run on time but ordering train tickets on the net is fast and efficient using www.thetrainline.com
During the last twelve months my son has been using the train to travel significant distances from home to university. Not having used the railway network for some time, we soon discovered that the cost of the ticket could be a bit of a lottery.
Travelling from Wolverhampton to Exeter, the cost of a return journey with a Young Persons’ Railcard varied between £20 and £40 depending upon the number of days in advance you purchased the ticket and the time of departure. Discussing all the various options available at the ticket office is not a task to be taken lightly, particularly if there’s a queue of impatient commuters behind you. There is a tendency to accept one of the limited options offered to you by the harassed ticket office clerk, which can over a period of months cost you dearly.
Using the net as it should be used, I soon found out about the trainline service which enables you to view the timetables of the journey you want, identify the types of ticket provided by the operator on that route, key in any discount cards you may hold and find out the availability and cost of an appropriate ticket.
Key in the stations you wish to depart from and arrive at, the date and time before you wish to leave, and the date and time after you wish to return, together with any discount cards held and trainline provides a timetable of trains suitable for that journey alongside a column showing whether or not there are tickets available and at what cost. You can narrow your search even further by selecting whether or not you want a journey without changes, a smoking or non-smoking compartment, a seat facing forwards or backwards and the fastest and/or cheapest ticket.
It also allows you to tab back or forward to vary your journey to an earlier or later time, on each occasion providing you with a revised set of options for ticket availability.
Using this option I soon found that it was possible for my son to make the same journey for £6.20 using off peak travel times and booking 10 days in advance. On journey’s over £10 in value you were getting a further discount of £1 for ordering over the net, though this seems to have been recently discontinued. It also provides details of special offers available by booking on line, e.g. Day return, Manchester to London £10!
The site is easy to use, it is simple to correct a mistake, and it has a facility to save any regular journeys rather than key in the same information again. I buy the tickets on line using a credit card and the tickets have always arrived within two days of order.
Your order is immediately e-mailed back to you to check in case you have made a mistake and the site allows you to print (in easy print format) or save your order to disk. On the one occasion I did make a mistake (discovered the following day) I phoned the trainline who were extremely helpful and allowed me to make changes to my order without incurring the standard charge of £5 for amendments and cancellations.
All in all, a really good service which I would definitely recommend. Next challenge get the trains running on time - although I have noticed a significant improvement over the last two months.
One last thought, I do think that the variety of charges levied for a particular journey puts people off travelling by train. Once you are familiar with the options (by using trainline) you find that it can be a very cheap form of travel.