Five ways to make the most of your train ticket

In the last year alone, train fares have risen by an average of 6.2% and commuters across the UK are infuriated at having to spend more for increasingly crowded and unreliable services. However, if you regularly use the train or have a season ticket, there are plenty of things you can do to make sure you're making the most of your investment.

1. Get refunds when trains are late

Late running trains are a regular occurrence and you may see them as something you just have to put up with - but don't. Check with your train operator to find out what its policy on refunds and compensation is. First Capital Connect, for example, states compensation could be payable if your train is delayed by more than 30 minutes through its Delay Repay scheme. Applications can be made online or you can pick up a form at the ticket office.

Alternatively try, this is a free service which helps rail users to get refunds on late-running journeys, whichever train company they use. Its weekly email also provides details of all the delays encountered on your route to help you with the paperwork.

2. Get discounted travel for your family

You may pay a fortune to commute during the week, but commuters with annual season tickets can make big savings at the weekends when they travel with family. Adults accompanying season tickets holders get a 34% discount while up to four children aged between five and 15 can travel for just £1.

3. Enjoy discount days out

Most rail companies have deals with attractions and events and offer discounts on days out. Check out for all the two-for-one tickets available in London and the South East to visitors who travel by train. Current offers include two for one on Madame Tussauds, ZSL London Zoo and the Sea Life Aquarium.

4. First class upgrades for pregnant women

Pregnant mothers in full-time employment can get a free upgrade to first class (when no other seating is available) with many train services. Rules will vary depending on the train line so check your operator's policy. South Eastern, South Western and First Capital Connect trains for example both offer first class seating to women with season tickets once they are 20 weeks pregnant.

5. Make sure you have the cheapest ticket for you

For regular commuters, an annual season ticket is the cheapest option, however many people still plump for monthly tickets as they can't afford to pay for a year's worth of travel upfront. Don't let this make you pay more than you need and ask your employer for help. Many companies now offer staff interest free loans to help them buy annual tickets – the money is simply deducted from your salary each month.

Season tickets rarely make sense for part time workers – nonetheless queuing for a ticket every day you travel and missing out on the discounts available for full timers can be frustrating. However a number of train companies – including East Midlands and First Capital Connect – can help you get round this with carnet tickets. This is a pack of 10 discounted tickets that can be used at any time and last three months.

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One thing you don't mention to reduce costs of train travel. It is frequently better to buy tickets for separate parts of journey.
One, of several examples my student children have found: to get from Stafford to Leeds buy one ticket gem Staffird to Manchester then another from Manchester to Leeds. Much cheaper than buying a Stafford to Leeds ticket. Totally bizarre. Thus even works on trips where you don't have to swap trains. Crazy.