Rail passengers could be making little or no savings by booking tickets in advance, according to a consumer report.

Disparities between train companies mean passengers can save between 80 per cent and nothing depending on where they want to travel.

Research by Which? magazine found those travelling from Birmingham to London fared worse as the price for an off-peak advance fare and walk-up fare was the same on Virgin Trains.

Researchers found train travel can prove expensive in peak periods.

Nikki Ratcliff, head of services research at Which?, said: “The price of walk-up tickets on peak services can be eye-watering. The good news is, buying in advance can result in big savings, but you may have to book a long way ahead for the best price, you won’t be able to change your travel plans or get a refund, and there’s no guarantee a cheaper ticket won’t become available.

“Depending on the train company, you could get surprisingly little back even if there’s a long delay or you need to cancel. So check with your operator before you book.” Which? checked fares for 12 weeks for journeys between Birmingham, London, Cardiff, Leicester, Norwich and Edinburgh.

They found disparities between discounts for those who book in advance and those who travel on or off-peak.

Researchers compared the cheapest off-peak returns with walk-up fares and found those travelling from London to Cardiff on First Great Western Trains who book in advance pay £27 instead of £57.

Travel from London to Leicester on East Midlands Trains was £28 in advance and £52 for walk-up fare.

London to Edinburgh passengers on the National Express East Coast pay £31.40 in advance instead of £158 for the walk-up fare, which is an 80 per cent saving.

But the Birmingham to London fare on Virgin Trains cost £39.50 for the advance fare and walk-up fare, according to Which?

A Virgin Trains spokesman hit back claiming he was unclear how Which? had calculated the figures, since Virgin offer a discount of £5.30 to those booking that journey in advance.

He said: “We are not quite clear how Which? arrived at those figures as we have found combining a walk-up fare with an advance fare on that route can offer you savings.

“Looking forward to fares that are available in months to come we found you can book that journey for £34.20 instead of £39.50.

“Virgin Trains are still offering very competitive rates to a number of destinations.”