Fleet vehicles are by no means the only way to get professionals from A to B.

Some journeys don’t require a car when someone can hop on a train instead. Rail journeys are a common component of any company expense policy – the question is, how do we minimise outlay on train trips when they’re so frequent?

Sustained corporate train travel can make it hard to buy and manage low-cost tickets. This seems like a minefield, but we’re going to offer an easier strategy for keeping expenditure down, even as you prepare to claim these expenses back from HMRC.

Choose advance bookings

The most obvious means of limiting the fare is making an advance purchase, fixing a date/time that suits the traveller. According to the National Rail timelines for each service, there’s a general rule that 12 weeks is the farthest ahead you can reserve a cheaper seat.

A few operators, such as Great Western Railway, have a stricter limit of five to six weeks. Time the bookings you’re 100% going to make so they’re in line with the earliest reservation period.

Try to avoid peak times

It may be necessary to travel during rush hour. Mytrainticket.com  defines peak times as anywhere between 6.30-9.30am or 3.30-6.30pm, when tickets are going to be more expensive. Demand is high though; try to help staff avoid peak sections in the day when booking meetings. This can result in significant savings over the year. 

Off-peak trains may influence your scheduling, but it’s worth it for the extra money you’ll retain, providing none of it forces a meeting to start late or a workday to run over.

Explore split fares

Incredibly, it’s often cheaper to book each part of a long-haul journey separately, instead of paying for the full trip at once. A source from Trainsplit shows how much can be saved by using what’s known as a ‘split fare’. One route in this example – London to Huddersfield – brings a discount of 86.57% on corporate train travel.   

By splitting the booking (i.e. buying journey legs one at a time), the benefits to your business are assured. And these are only magnified when paired with smart, coherent advance booking schedules, outlined in our first point.

Upgrade your expense management tools

All that’s left is the matter of recording what staff are paying for on the company account. HMRC will expect sufficient evidence for claiming back corporate rail travel as an expense, slicing down your overall tax bill. An Allstar Plus card is the help you need to catalogue expense payments.

Give one to each member of the team – they can use it to pay for trains within pre-agreed limits. Transactions are stored, approved and kept on record ready for when you want to claim tax relief. It’s done without any hassle on your part, so you can see how much people have been spending on every assignment.

Contact us for more details if you want further tips on travel expenses. Corporate rail travel can be a one-track route to squandered cash. Unless, that is, you have a practical plan in place.