Last year train fares were simplified to group the confusing advance ticket system to group them under one, more straightforward, umbrella. National Rail replaced the 'Apex' and 'Leisure Advance' fares with the 'Advance' ticket.
Consumers can now go directly to the rail provider, to National Rail or via a third party website such as Trainline or RailEasy to book their tickets. We've put together a guide to help get the cheapest deal possible.
The National Rail website is a good place to start; you can scour for fares and timetables in advance. They will then direct you to the cheapest rail service provider or website for your fare.
However, before you book you should check the promotional offer section of the rail service provider's website that you will be travelling with. Virgin trains sometimes offer super-cheap mid-week single tickets from £1 and Cross Country Rail is currently offering up to 75% off.
thetrainline.com powers both its own site and many other commercial booking sites. It is worth checking this site, and the others, before you book with the operating system as sometimes advance fares can be cheaper. However, it does charge a booking fee (normally £1) when you book through the website, so it may not work out as the cheapest fare. The same goes for another third party booking site, RailEasy, where you may be able to pick up in advance.
Although the name doesn't suggest it, the National Express' East Coast system, actually covers the whole of the UK. It has no booking fees and sometimes offers extra discounts if your journey uses its network. Check its low fare finder, for advance deals. Also, its 'special offers' page highlights low cost routes – such as York to Edinburgh for £8.50, standard one-way advance.