Your train into the office feeling spenny? This one thing could be secretly costing you way more

woman getting the train
Train tickets more expensive at railway stationsOleh_Slobodeniuk - Getty Images

While working from home may be an option for many of us, there’s still plenty of people who face the dreaded commute into the workplace.

Around one in ten of us take a train into the office – with the average cost of a peak time open return ticket £10.36 (adding up to £51.80 if you’re in five times a week).

However, you may be finding yourself significantly out of pocket if you’re opting to buy your train ticket at the station.

In an investigation conducted by consumer group Which?, mystery shoppers visited 15 stations and compared the price of tickets for 75 journeys offered by ticket machines to those available on Trainline, the biggest online retailer.

At each station, the shoppers attempted to buy the cheapest one-way ticket for travel that day, the following morning and in three weeks’ time.

They discovered that fares bought online were cheaper almost three quarters of the time, with tickets purchased for travel on the day from machines costing on average 52% more than buying online.

A ticket from Holmes Chapel in Cheshire to London cost £66 at the station ticket vending machine whereas Trainline offered the same trip for £26. A journey from Northampton to Cardiff was £107 at the machine but just £43 online.

a woman holding a phone at a train station
Plume Creative - Getty Images

Which? Shoppers put the huge differences in price to machines ‘burying’ or simply not offering the best value fares.

Out of the 15 stations visited, only five ticket machines offered cheaper ‘advance fares’ tickets, which can only be bought earlier and are only valid on the date and train specified.

Trainline also offers a variety of cheaper options, such as split ticketing, where the journey is divided into multiple tickets in a bid to reduce costs.

Rory Boland, the editor of Which? Travel, said: “The price differences we found between booking online and using station ticket machines were astounding.

“Millions of tickets are purchased using ticket machines every year, meaning that huge numbers of us are potentially paying significantly more than we need to when we commute to work or visit friends and family across the country.

“Wherever possible we’d recommend booking train tickets online for the cheapest options, but that won’t be possible for everyone.”

In December last year, the Department for Transport (DfT) confirmed rail fares were to rise by 4.9%.

In response to the Which? study, a spokesperson for the Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operating companies, said that they had previously called for rail fare reforms in 2019: “We will continue to work with the government and industry stakeholders to achieve further reforms and deliver more benefits for our customers.”

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