You may have thought that acquiring a profound understanding of the UK’s rail network was simply a pastime for enthusiasts – but think again as split tickets could be the secret to discovering your cheapest journey.
With just a few days of studying the history of British Rail and its successors, plus a map and an excellent memory, you too could learn how to buy the cheapest ticket to your destination.
Our train investigation reveals how fare structures hark back to the days of InterCity, Regional Railways and Network SouthEast, which all set their own prices for their part of the network. The effect is that splitting your journey when you cross one of these old boundaries can save you up to a third of your fare. You don’t even need to leave the train.
Spliting tickets to save money
So if I were to buy a ticket to go and see my daughter in Exeter, an ‘anytime’ single would cost me £114.50. But if I split this into two legs, cutting the journey at Westbury in Wiltshire, I’d immediately save £9.80. I could still take the fastest, peak-time service from London to Exeter. Splitting a journey that starts during a peak time can mean the second leg takes place during a cheaper, off-peak period, too, as in my Exeter example.
The rail system is a topsy-turvy world where, it seems, the more tickets you get for one journey, the better the deal. Not only is it often cheaper to buy two singles than to get a return, it’s also cheaper to split each single into two legs. Yes, in the peculiar world of rail, four legs are undoubtedly better than two.
Singles cheaper than returns
We could all indulge this as a quirky old piece of our heritage, were it not for the fact that it is almost impossible for anyone to work out by the usual means how to get these cheaper tickets. The National Rail Enquiries website certainly won’t show you how. We looked at websites which specialise in this area; while these aren’t all perfect, they’re a good starting place.
The point is that you shouldn’t have to resort to finding specialist sites. It has never been easier for companies to harness data to let customers find what they want. It’s absurd that train companies are still making passengers do all the hard work to find out where to split tickets.
If these ancient rail boundaries are here to stay, then rail companies need to reflect this on their websites. We have trains in the UK which can break 200mph, but we still can’t sell people the cheapest ticket for their journey.
Have you ever used split ticketing for a cheaper train journey?
No (64%, 314 Votes)
Yes (36%, 180 Votes)
Total Voters: 494