Having moved to London from Wales earlier this year – giving up my car in the process – I now seem to spend an extraordinary amount of time, under duress, on the UK's heaving train network.
Most travellers heading out of Paddington Station on the 19.15 First Great Western service (the first off-peak train) to Swansea on a Friday night know only too well what overcrowding can do to spoil the beginning of a weekend. Worse, we are all charged what can only be described as an obscene amount for the "privilege" too.
Booking a return ticket to Abergavenny for the weekend sets me back a whopping £67 if I am travelling alone. I am not one who expects to travel in luxury, but when you spend the first half of the journey getting to know other irate passengers on an intimate basis due to a lack of personal space, it's hard not to wonder if any of us are getting the service we deserve or pay for.
I am not alone with tales of rail-woe. Many of my Moneywise colleagues travel into the capital on the famously-inept South Eastern, Southern or Thameslink networks, with their regular delays seemingly a part of the service.
And with fares going up by 2.5% again in January, it seems to me that train companies hold their passengers with more contempt than ever.
Fortunately, I have been able to knock a third off my rail costs because I can travel with my partner. We purchased a Two Together railcard in March, which entitles us to a third-off tickets as long as we travel together.
It costs £30 for a year and we made our money back after just two trips to Wales – and we've saved a packet on all the rest of our trips out of the capital too.
A quick check of our bank statements sees that I have dragged my partner back to rural Wales five times in the past seven months (the poor woman!). If we were travelling without the card, we would have forked-out an eye-watering £670 in total on our trips.
However, we've managed to cut the bill down to £508 with the rail card, saving £162. Okay, £508 is still a pretty penny – and it's incredibly annoying when you are traveling alone – but a savings of close to £200 is not to be sniffed at.
Many people I know save by other means. Whether it is booking well in advance (the most sensible option), or splitting your journey (this is legal, so long as the train you are on stops at the station you have bought the next ticket for). Two singles can work out cheaper than buying a return in some cases, too. So do what you can to cut down on your cost of train travel – god knows we pay enough as it is.