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Following the recent revelation that the cost of rail travel is once again set to rise, this time by 3.5% from January 2015, we thought we would try and find a way to combat the ever increasing cost of travelling by train in the UK, on some of the most popular routes across the nation.

We started researching our fictional journeys, between London and a number of major cities across the UK, for various train operators and at off-peak times.

The first thing that was abundantly clear to us was that if you do have to end up buying a ticket on the day of travel, always opt to purchase an open-return. The reason for this is that, according to our findings, you will often only end up paying a few pounds more than the cost of a single ticket, making the return journey incredibly good value for money.

However, once we start looking at booking tickets in advance, the savings really start to jump out of the screen at us. For example, a single ticket from Sheffield to London purchased on the day is £71.50 but if you take some time to plan just one week in advance, the price plummets to just £25, which is an incredible saving of £46.50. Plus, if you are able to book even further ahead in advance, for example up to 10 weeks before you are due to depart, you could pay only £13.50 for the same seat, on the exact same train.

We also discovered that, if you really want to be a savvy traveller and save money on train travel by booking in advance, you should opt to purchase two single tickets rather that an open-return. This is because we discovered that the cost of an open return ticket never changes, even if you book weeks in advance, so you are effectively cancelling out any savings by doing so. Instead, you should purchase two single tickets for both legs of your journey. For example, a single ticket between Exeter and London, 10 weeks in advance, is only £14.00 but an open return is £63.80. Therefore, by booking two single journeys instead of an open-return, will save you £35.80.

For a full illustration of the savings to be made by booking train tickets in advance, check out our infographic below.

Train Fares: How much can we save by booking in advance?

Looking for even more ways to save on travel? Check out our vouchers for thetrainline.com, RedSpottedHanky, Megabus and National Express.