Should winter fuel benefits only be paid to the poorest pensioners?
As commuters get another rise in rail fares, how to save on monthly season tickets.
Where do TV shows get their questions from?
How is the Housing market going to fare this year?
Michael Mosley looks at the government advice to eat 5 portions of fruit or veg per day.
Season Ticket advice
If you can afford to buy an annual season ticket in one go, they still offer the best value. So this is intended for anyone in the habit of buying monthly season tickets and shows the savings which can be made from buying strategically around holidays when you don’t need to travel.
Let’s suppose between January and June this year, a commuter decides to take a break from work over three separate weeks: the first during February half-term; the second during Easter and the last during May. There are bank holidays to factor in too. Buying a combination of monthly and weekly season tickets and, in some cases, day return tickets, around those holiday dates is one way of saving money. But it takes a bit of planning so first our commuter needs to sit down with their calendar and work out which combination of tickets to buy and when.
A monthly season ticket runs for a full calendar month from the date it is bought so it’s advisable to buy one only when you’re sure you’ll be able to use it to your full advantage.
Our commuter is lucky enough to have had New Year’s Day off as a bank holiday so went back to work and bought their first monthly season ticket on the 2nd January. It’ll run up to and including Friday 1st February 2013. They’ve got a holiday coming up later that month so should buy a weekly season ticket for each of the next two weeks. That takes them up to their week off at half-term when they won’t be travelling to work so don’t need to buy a train ticket at all.
They are back at work on the 25th February so it makes sense to buy a monthly season ticket then which runs until Sunday 24th March. By then Easter is in sight, so they need to consider their options. It might still be worth buying a weekly season ticket … but since it’s a week which includes Good Friday when they’ll be off work and not travelling, it’s worth checking that 4 ‘day return’ tickets won’t be cheaper instead (on some routes they will be).
After enjoying their Easter break, our commuter returns to work on Monday 8th April and buys a monthly season ticket which runs until Tuesday 7th May. The chances are it will be cheaper for them to buy day return tickets for the next 3 days (again it depends upon the route – in some cases a weekly pass may still be cheaper). Either way that takes them to Monday 13th May when they’ll buy another weekly season ticket as they’re off on holiday again the following week.
Monday 27th May is a bank holiday so when they return to work on the Tuesday they could buy 4 day return tickets or a weekly season ticket (whichever is the cheapest) to cover travel for the rest of that week. Then on Monday 3rd June 2013 they could buy another monthly season ticket which takes them right up to July 2nd.
In summary, during the first 6 months of this year, our commuter would buy the following combination of tickets to work around the days on which they won’t need to travel:
1. Monthly Season Ticket
2. Weekly Season Ticket
3. Weekly Season Ticket
4. Monthly Season Ticket
5. Weekly Season Ticket / 4 x Day Return Tickets (whichever is cheapest)
6. Monthly Season Ticket
7. 3 x Day Return Tickets (or a weekly season ticket if it’s cheaper)
8. Weekly Season Ticket
9. Weekly Season Ticket / 4 x Day Return Tickets (whichever is cheapest)
10. Monthly Season Ticket.
By using this formula in the first 6 months of this year a commuter travelling from:
Woking to London would buy a combination of monthly and weekly season tickets and day return tickets costing a total of £1,532.60. That would save them £136 (if they’d bought monthly season tickets on the first day of each month they would have spent £1,668.60).
Redditch to Birmingham New Street would buy a combination of monthly and weekly season tickets and day return tickets costing a total of £641.50. That would save them £68.30 (if they’d bought monthly season tickets on the first day of each month they would have spent £709.80).
Glasgow Central to Edinburgh Waverley would buy a combination of monthly and weekly season tickets and day return tickets costing a total of £1,852. That would save them £171.20 (if they’d bought monthly season tickets on the first day of each month they would have spent £2,023.20).
Southampton Central to London Waterloo would buy a combination of monthly and weekly season tickets only (it’s not worth buying day return tickets on this route if you are travelling more than once a week) costing a total of £2,236.60. That would save them £176 (if they’d bought monthly season tickets on the first day of each month they would have spent £2,412.60).
The season ticket calculator on National Rail Enquiries’ website outlines how much weekly, monthly and annual season tickets cost: http://ojp.nationalrail.co.uk/service/seasonticket/search
The price of ‘Anytime Day Return’ tickets can be found by using an online Journey Planner (all the main train operating companies have them on their websites as do other commercial operators). If our commuter was really organised and knew what time they’d be travelling, then buying cheaper, advance single tickets instead of day returns might save them even more money. But for simplicity’s sake, we’ve stuck with ‘Anytime Day Return’ tickets in our examples.
BBC Radio 4's daily consumer programme with Julian Worricker, Winifred Robinson and Peter White. You...