Everything you ever wanted to know about train fares

Published on: Monday, 14 November 2022
Last updated: Monday, 4 September 2023

  • Your journey

Everything you ever wanted to know about train fares

Everyone has an opinion about train fares, but what do you really know about them? We want to answer some of the most frequent questions we get about our fares and also bust some of the myths surrounding them.

“You’re always putting up your fares.”

Actually, that’s not true. Unlike other businesses, such as shops and petrol stations which are able to put up their prices whenever they want, we can only put up our regulated fares at three set times of the year - although in reality we only tend to put them up once a year. In the last couple of years fares have gone up in March, but before the pandemic the increase was at the beginning of January. At the moment, while the cost of living is going up due to soaring inflation, rail fares have remained constant, and this year we’ve also held a couple of sales offering tens of thousands of cut price tickets plus over the last few years we have been introducing a bigger range of Advance fare prices.

Talking of cut price tickets…why can’t you sell £5 tickets every day for every train?

Like any other business, we have to meet our costs and it’s not cheap running a railway. As well as staff costs, we have to pay for our trains, there’s infrastructure costs – the tracks, stations, overhead wires and so on, plus fuel bills including electricity and diesel to run our trains. The Government stepped in during the pandemic to cover some of our costs to ensure our railway survived Covid, but over recent decades, the railway has been expected to cover a greater share of its costs through revenue from fares rather than subsidies from the taxpayer. So if our costs go up, putting up fares is a major option available to us to cover them.

Also, if we were to offer £5 fares for every single train every day of the week, we would not be able to cope with the huge influx of passengers it would lead to, especially on commuter services. Trains would be full and standing every day and we’d probably have to leave passengers behind. We’ve got new longer trains to take more passengers, but there is very little leeway for putting on more services on our main routes into London as the network, which we share with freight trains, other passenger train companies and engineering trains, is already extremely busy.

Greater Anglia Train

Hmm, I reckon you don’t sell cheap fares because you want to make bigger profits.

This isn’t true at all. Greater Anglia has a “National Rail Contract” with the Department for Transport. Greater Anglia is paid a 1 per cent fee for running the railway and we can also get a maximum further 1 per cent extra for good performance – this is the most the company can get no matter how well we do and how many tickets we sell.

Countries like Italy, Spain and Germany have cheaper fares than us, so why aren’t ours so cheap?

Taxpayers in some countries in Europe make a bigger contribution to the railway, which means their railways can offer cheaper prices. That’s a political decision and not one for Greater Anglia. But did you know that often when our prices are compared with other country’s train fares, our more expensive Anytime prices are contrasted with a European fare? But in fact, there is a bigger range of discounted fares available in the UK than in many European countries. If fares such as our Advance fares – which are discounted further with a Railcard – are compared with European fares it’s a totally different story.

Greater Anglia Deutsche Bahn
Journey (both 186/115miles) Norwich to London Cologne to Mainz
Return for today £62.10(return within 1 month) €79.80 (£70.00) (return specified day)
Advance single for 1 month £10.00 €17.90(£15.70

Travelling by train in the UK has almost doubled since the railway was privatised – and it’s bouncing back following Covid, although travelling patterns are different compared to March 2020, with fewer people commuting five days a week and more people using the train for leisure. Some of the ticket offers, discounts and deals offered here are much more innovative than in Europe.

Really? Tell me more about these cheap fares, discounts and deals.

Our cheapest fares are Advance tickets, which start from £6 for Southend Victoria to London Liverpool Street – and you can get a further third off that with a Railcard, making it just £3.95. You are committed to catching a particular train with an Advance ticket, but surely it’s worth it for such a cheap fare? You can sign up for alerts on the Greater Anglia website for when the cheapest tickets are released so you can bag yourself a bargain.

If you want more flexibility you could opt for a Super Off Peak ticket - there are time restrictions on weekdays, generally you can’t travel before midday, (unless you’re going to London when you can’t arrive before midday) but it doesn’t tie you down to one particular train.

There are many other discounts available, such as GroupSave, which gives everyone travelling together in a group of three or a third off – so effectively it’s a buy 2 get 1 free offer. There are also Duo tickets available for some weekend journeys on the Greater Anglia network which gives 25 per cent off each fare when two people travel together. For a third off rail travel, get a Railcard – there’s a large range available such as 16-25, 26-30, Disabled Persons, Family and Friends, Senior and Two Together. From time to time there are National Rail ticket sales or Greater Anglia’s “Hare Fare” special offers. Follow our social media to make sure you don’t miss them. If you book your ticket using the Greater Anglia app or website you will be offered the cheapest available fare and there is no booking fee.