Train fares in the UK are not cheap. They go up all the time and you can routinely pay an arm and a leg for relatively short journeys.
This has created a lot of ire among those that like to explore the country, as well as commuters who have no option but to make regular journeys up and down the UK.
Not only that, but it’s not exactly and easy process to get a train fare either. One option is to visit a train station in person and speak with an assistant. This is a great option because they should know their train lines and be able to find you a cheap journey. They have no bias and no reason to recommend anything other than the best options.
However, this requires you to get to the station early and probably involves long queues. That means either a separate trip, or a trip on the day – the latter of which will rule out the possibility of advanced fares.
And according to reports from papers like the Telegraph, rail passengers are actually often charged more by self-service machines which will sometimes omit the cheapest journeys. Research found that customers have sometimes paid over £100 more than the minimum price this way!
Finding the best place to get your tickets is an important way to avoid paying over the odds then and to make the process easier at the same time.
So how does Raileasy hold up as a ticket portal?
What is Raileasy?
Like Trainline, Raileasy is a ‘middleman’ of sorts that sells tickets for a range of different journeys. This means that you may be required to pay a booking fee or other additional costs, which is how companies like Raileasy make their money, despite not selling a ‘service’ of their own.
Raileasy is a National Rail accredited ‘internet retail booking agent’ and the objective of this service is to provide the easiest and most flexible way to find tickets.
The company then theoretically should provide a portal making it easier to compare journeys to destinations and then to order the most cost effective solution. In this case, you are paying a little extra for the convenience of having all the different options laid bare in front of you and being able to compare prices and easily get the best one.
Raileasy easy offers a number of extras on its journeys, including (taken from the website):
- Other linked transport including ferries, buses, metros, London underground.
- Group Save tickets.
- Links to European travel – including The Eurostar, European trains, ferries to the continent, the Euro tunnel/the Channel Tunnel, the Dutch Flyer, and RailSail to Ireland.
- A vast library of information on anything related to rail travel in the United Kingdom, including information on rail fares, rail cards and the latest rail news.
- Help finding and travelling to hundreds of events and attractions, from museums to theatres, from stately homes to football stadiums.
- Accommodation including hotels, guest houses and B&Bs.
All this can help to make planning a journey easier and theoretically save the user some time.
Theoretically is the operative word here. In a moment, we will see why this isn’t the best option for your travel by any stretch.
The Problem With Raileasy
The first problem with Raileasy is that its value proposition is flawed. The company’s main purpose is to offer an easy way to find the cheapest tickets for your journeys. However, it doesn’t really offer anything that other services don’t offer… for considerably less.
Most people travelling around the UK by train know by now that they can compare all their journeys through a site called National Rail Enquiries. Here, they can see all journeys travelling to any destination and then find the one that bests suits them. They can apply rail cards, look at special offers and book advance tickets.
When you click through to buy a journey through National Rail Enquiries, you are then redirected to the provider of that journey, whether that be Southwest, Chiltern or another rail line. You’ll then buy directly through that site and therefore not pay any additional fee – this is direct from the vendor and therefore the cheapest option possible.
That means you’re getting the precise same service that you get through Raileasy. Only on Raileasy, you are charged a booking fee of £2.50 on top of the price, as well as an additional 4.5% or 2.5% of for credit card bookings.
This is also a significantly larger fee than other intermediate companies charge. For instance, you can get better prices from Trainline. Raileasy goes to lengths to justify their prices on the site:
As an impartial, independent retailer with no connection to any of the train companies we earn a small commission on each of the train tickets purchased through us. Out of this commission we have to pay up to 90p (depending on where the ticket is printed) to the train company when the ticket is ticketed. To cover this cost we charge a booking fee. Much as we’d love to drop the booking fee, apart from the cost of printing the ticket, there are a number of other charges we have to pay out of the commission for accessing industry systems etc., which means that it sometimes costs us more to issue the ticket than the money we receive from selling it. This does not include the other overheads we have to pay out for such as merchant fees from card companies, software and programming costs etc. As there is no feasible way of covering all these costs from the commission we receive, we also have a small card charge.
But remember, the 90p they are being asked to pay is only out of the profit they already make from you. Not only that, but other companies manage to do the precise same thing for cheaper. So, it simply doesn’t quite wash.
Not only is all this true, but we can also call into question just how reliable or easy Raileasy makes it for you to book tickets. A quick Google search will immediately bring up complaints and stories of unhappy customers. The company is legitimate and safe however people who have had difficulties with tickets not being delivered or journeys being cancelled have found that the company is not particularly helpful or forthcoming with solutions.
The website and interface also leave something to be desired. Bearing in mind that ease of use is supposed to be the major selling point, the website looks and feels as though it hasn’t been updated in years and isn’t mobile friendly.
While there is mention of an app, it no longer shows up on Google Play, meaning that there is no option for booking conveniently through an app.
On the ‘Top Tips for Cheap Train Tickets’ section of the website, there is a bullet point that says ‘Go Mobile!’. Click on it for ‘more info’ and you are taken to a random login page that has a drop-down menu with ‘Project Selection’, reading ‘raileasyfc6’ by default. In other words, the site is actually broken or defunct. It completely fails to inspire any confidence in the user.
Once again, this is something that similar competitors provide. It’s really hard to make an argument for using Raileasy today.
Getting the Best Tickets
Looking back at old reviews of the service dating to 2008 and prior, it does seem as though the platform once provided the occasional way to get a deal not available easily elsewhere. This might still very occasionally be the case and so the best argument that can be made for Raileasy is that if you’re desperate for the lowest price, it might just be worth checking.
The site does also recommend some useful ideas. It suggests ‘splitting’ for instance in order to break one journey down into lots of smaller ones, which is sometimes a cheaper way to travel (though slower). You can use the site to look for these journeys, then replicate them directly with the train lines.
You can also select ‘overtaken trains’ which will again slow the journey but potentially save you some money.
Otherwise, all the usual fare-saving tips apply here. Those include booking as far in advance as possible and of course avoiding peak travel times. Peak travel normally means any journey that arrives into its destination before 10AM. So, you can actually travel during peak hours, as long as you aren’t arriving during those times. Look out for super off-peak or super saver fares which are usually even cheaper.
Better yet, look into getting a railcard. These include young person’s railcards for those under 25 and then the individual railcards for different journeys for travellers of all ages. You can get a network railcard for instance which covers London and the Southeast. That includes a lot of journeys and can save you as much as 30% on your journeys – a very worthwhile investment for anyone who makes those journeys a lot!