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Saving Money On The Trains

Published on 26 June 2005 in , , , ,

One thing occurred to me recently – that a lot of people don’t know about some little money saving tricks when travelling on the railways in London and the South East. So I thought I’d mention them to those that don’t. If you know all about Boundary Extensions and Network Gold Cards, you can probably wander off somewhere else.

Network Gold Cards

First up – Network Gold Cards. If you have an annual travelcard, then you have a Network Gold Card. If you have an annual rail season ticket for the old Network South East area, you also have a Gold Card.

The Network Gold Card is a railcard, and as such gives you a third off rail tickets in the old Network South East railway area. There’s a map of the area on the Railcard website.

A Gold card is pretty much the same as a Network Railcard but with two important distinctions.

  1. You don’t have to pay £20 for it. You get a Gold Card by default when you spend all that cash on your annual travelcard/season ticket.
  2. There is no minimum fare – the Network Railcard has a minimum fare of £10 on weekdays. This doesn’t apply for Network Gold Cards which mean you can save money on the shortest of journeys.

Information about the Network Gold Card can be found in the Transport for London fares booklet, or from your local, friendly railway company.

Boundary Extensions

If you’re a regular user of the tube, you may know about zone extensions – where you might have (say) a zone 1,2,3 travelcard, and you want to travel to zone 6. You just get a tube extension ticket to cover your journey through zones 4,5 and 6. If you have an Oyster, it does it automagically. Dead easy and simple.

Bit more hidden is the fact that there is a similar scheme for use on the national railway network.

The rules behind it are a bit more complex and seem to vary between operators but the logic is pretty similar to the tube version. You already have a ticket for certain zones, so you don’t need to pay for your journey within those zones.

It’s a bit more complex than that – your extension is valid from the last station for which your travelcard covers, and that your train stops at. So imagine that you’re travelling Waterloo to Raynes Park. You have zones 1,2 and 3. Your travelcard covers you from Waterloo to Wimbledon, which is in zone 3. Raynes Park is further beyond, so your extension covers the journey from Wimbledon to Raynes Park.

There’s some other rules and restrictions – bit too complex to explain. It all depends where your train stops, which train company you’re travelling with, and sometimes which station you buy your ticket from!

In some circumstances you might not get any discount (don’t expect to get anything if you’re travelling via an Intercity company for example!) but if you’re travelling in the South East, it’s certainly worth a shot. You could save yourself a couple of quid off your fare.

To get one, just ask at the ticket office. The staff there will know what you’re talking about – show them your travelcard, ask for a boundary extension and tell them where you’re going – they’ll handle the rest. The important bit is that you could save money. Incidentally it works with any travelcard – even day travelcards.

One final word

One final word is to say that ticket office staff are generally very helpful on these things – just ask nicely and they’ll do wonders. I’m mentioning this because in recent months Catherine and myself have been doing hikes which start at one station and finish at the other – in some instances, the stations have been on different lines. Every time we’ve asked at the ticket office, the staff have worked out the best ticket for us, and saved us some cash compared to buying two singles. Which is nice.


  • Steve Dobson says:

    A gold card holder can also nominate an individual for a ‘Partners Card’ – same restrictions apply as per the normal network card. The real bonus is the price £1 as opposed to £20.
    Sorry if you have already covered this elsewhere.

  • Tony says:

    This is superb. Just been over to Paddington Station to get a Partners Card. I was going to buy a netwok card this weekend as the old one has run out. My wife is delighted and the £19 saved is already spent (by her).

  • Gilmore says:

    I’m just frustrated that I did not know about this before. I have found it in a few leaflets but it is well hidden away. Thanks to Steve for alerting me to this and yourself Mr Bowden for first flagging this up.

  • Jon says:

    For some, it may even be worth buying the cheapest annual season ticket possible, which I believe to be Ryde Esplanade to Ryde St John’s Road – £116. You get your gold card for free, as above, and are not subject to minimum fare on your discount tickets like you would if you bought a gold card..

  • Danny says:

    Good call Jon. I’m going to do just that. We travel all over the South East at weekends and within a couple of months we will have recouped the outlay.
    South West Trains also offer 6 free weekend journeys per year if you buy the season ticket from them.

  • Meaa says:

    HI there
    thanks for the comments.
    I have just found that my gold card from Slough into Paddington is also ok to use on the underground (zone 1 anyway..) even though I didn’t pay extra for the underground on my gold card… why is this? My only thought is that it takes me to zone 1 in the first place so it should be valid on the tube in zone 1 too….??

  • Andrew Bowden says:

    Normally you’d get a “Rail only” season ticket – maybe they gave you the “Travelcard” season ticket by mistake?

  • Meea says:

    I don’t know, what is the actual difference on the ticket?…. mine just says valid ‘between slough & London Terminals’ then route/also available ‘any permitted’.

  • Andrew Bowden says:

    As far as I understand it, “London Terminals” is basically the London station your train terminates at – so for Slough it would be London Paddington (there’s some more complex scenarios – see Wikipedia for a bit of an overview.

  • joanne says:

    Help… I am living in zone 2,and have to travel to Slough everyday, and am trying to find the cheapest way. I currently buy a weekly oyster zone 1-2 , but they tell me i must buy a daily extension to slough which costs £7.8 daily…there must be a cheaper way….can anyone help????

  • ismaiel says:

    i will start a new job in London zone 2, i have to travel from Slough every day. any suggestion re: cheap train/underground teckets. Thanks

  • JOhn Yannone says:

    I am also looking for the cheap Slough Travel from zone 2. Joanne, 7.80 doesnt seem to bad… i think i will be down about 300£…
    Let me know what you come up with

  • jonnie says:

    Yes, following the last few posts…I too am having to travel to slough from london (though I live in zone 3). What is the cheapest way. Looks like slough is swiftly becoming the centre of the world (ew!).

  • Ruppy says:

    Great help. FYI the Ryde Esplanade to Ryde St John’s Gold Card is now GBP132.00.
    Does anyone know if the 1st class upgrade works on any of the Gatwick, Stansted or Heathrow Express services?

  • Andrew Bowden says:

    I doubt it applies to Heathrow Express – they’re not officially part of the National Rail network, and as such are a bit “fussy” about what they accept and what they don’t. Won’t expect Gatwick Express to do so either.
    Standsted Express I don’t know about

  • Ruppy says:

    Thanks. Just wondered…. I find the whole thing more than a little confusing! I live to the south of Gatwick and I’m able to use any undiscounted “Any route” tickets on the Gatwick Express i.e. any fare not reduced with my Network Card. As you suggest, I expect the same applies with Gold Card discounts or upgrades.
    On the slim chance that it’s of interest to anyone, I do know that you can get free upgrades from Express to First Class on both the Gatwick & Stansted Express services if you own a BAA Worldcard, run by Bank of Scotland.
    One reviewer wrote:
    “This is a useful card as it gives free upgrades on the Heathrow Gatwick and Stanstead Express.You have to purchase your standard class tickets before boarding the train using the card but once on the train you can sit in first class simply by presenting the card to the guard. Other advantages are points earned when making purchases at Airport shops. These points can them be redeemed at a later date for discounted airport parking, fast track airport entry and other offers.”
    That’s the limit of my scant knowledge.

  • Kuldeep says:

    Amazing website with lots of information. I also have something to ask.
    I am travelling from Mitcham Eastfileds to Oxford Circus and planning to buy Annual Season Pass(Gold Card). I just want to know few things
    1. Do i need to buy it from National Rail Station or Tube Station and what is the difference between both of them.
    2. Can my wife gets any advantage on daily travel to her office. She use to travel from Mitcham Eastfields to Balham.
    3. I am sure there are so much benefits of having gold card. Can you please highlight few of them as i have seen on so many websites everyone has different opinion.
    Thanks in advance,

  • Andrew Bowden says:

    Hi Kuldeep. To answer your questions…
    1) you can buy it from either. For the most part they’re the same if you buy it from a National Rail or tube station. If there’s a benefit from buying from one and not the other, I’m not aware of it.
    2) your wife can get a third off the National Rail fare after 9:30am (and all day weekends) but only if she travels with you. She wouldn’t get anything on the tube.
    3) Best place to find the details of the Gold Card discounts is on the National Rail website (it’s quite buried but there) at