Two split-ticketing tools to help you find cheaper train tickets

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‘Split ticketing’ has been a niche topic in rail circles for some years – you can save a lot of money on your train travel by using it correctly.

What ‘split ticketing’ means is that, instead of buying a rail ticket from A to C (with the train stopping at B on the way) you can save money by buying a ticket from A to B and B to C.

It works best when you are travelling on the edge of peak periods.  If all trains from Kings Cross are peak until 9.30, for example, a ticket on the 9.28 to Edinburgh would be at a peak price.  If you split-ticket the journey, you could instead buy a ticket on 9.28 from Kings Cross to Peterborough and then a ticket from Peterborough to Edinburgh – which, by the time you reached Peterborough, would be classed as off-peak.  Note that you remain on the same train at all times.

The problem with split ticketing is that it was very difficult to do the analysis yourself.  You need a lot of data to run all of the combinations.

When we first looked at split-ticketing there were only two websites dedicated to this topic – TicketySplit (run by moneysavingexpert.com) and TrainSplit.

TicketySplit has since closed and TrainSplit has added more tools. There are also a number of new websites, so we decided it was time to take a fresh look at split ticketing.

TrainSplit

TrainSplit

TrainSplit is supported by train booking site Raileasy.  This site has improved substantially since we last looked at it.  It can now handle multiple splits, returns and group bookings but it does not display open returns and anytime fares.

TrainSplit also has an app to make on the go bookings easier.

TrainSplit has an interesting revenue model.  If you book via their site, your order is processed by Raileasy who charge no card fees and no booking fees.  There is a £1.50 postage fee if you choose not to collect your tickets at a station.  However, TrainSplit adds an extra fee based on 10% of the saving found.

As an example, I looked at Exeter St Davids to Sheffield on the 09.24 on 26th September (one day after writing this article).  This was a £132.90 ticket in standard class when booked via Trainline.

Booked via TrainSplit the price was £74.34 (including the extra fee of £10.34).  The tool recommended that I split the trip into six individual tickets.

Exeter to Bristol Temple Meads: £14.70

Bristol Temple Meads to Cheltenham Spa: £9.10

Cheltenham Spa to Birmingham: £22.40

Birmingham to Derby: £8

Derby to Chesterfield: £4.40

Chesterfield to Sheffield: £5.40

The saving is £58.56.

Remember that you stay on the same train at all times despite having six tickets!

There are three other websites that are in association with Raileasy:  Split Your Ticket, SplitTicketing and SplitMyFare which all access the TrainSplit tool and thereby have the same pricing.

Ticketclever

A further website claiming to sell cheaper tickets is Ticketclever.

Ticketclever claims that its customers save an average of 58%. But, as you will see in my example, this isn’t always the case.

When I ran the same test booking on Ticketclever going from Exeter St Davids to Sheffield on the 09.24 on 26th September, it found a £118.20 combination splitting the trip into three tickets.  That is £14.70 cheaper than the standard fare from Trainline BUT £43.86 more expensive than TrainSplit.

The reason TrainSplit was cheaper in this case is that it looked for multiple splits – Ticketclever seems to restricts itself to a smaller amount of tickets.  

Looking at the same trip for 29th October, based on prices I found on 25th September, you pay £132.90 on Trainline, £118.20 on Ticketclever and £61.10 on TrainSplit.  However, when you book the £61.10 trip on TrainSplit, you need to physically change trains by travelling to Paddington and taking the tube to St Pancras before continuing to Sheffield.

On 24th October the same trip was £68.40 on Trainline as well as on Ticketclever.  On TrainSplit the ticket is split into six tickets – with no change of train – for a total cost of £52.25.

Conclusion

Both TrainSplit and Ticketclever are worth checking next time you book a long distance train ticket, but based on my limited testing TrainSplit seems to be the better tool to split your tickets and save some money.

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Comments

  1. I looked at split tickets after reading about them on another blog but they don’t always work.

    I priced up Brighton to Manchester and it came up more expensive than going via national rail enquiries and one of the train operators website!! I even tried it as separate trips (brighton to London then Euston to Manchester) and it was still more expensive as split tickets

    So always best to check all options before assuming split tickets are cheaper.

    And if your train is late at the final destination it would affect the amount of delay repay you are due.
    .

    And why book via the Trainline who charge a booking fee when the train operators don’t and you can usually get some nectar points as well.

    • You can use any number of tickets for one journey provided you adhere to minimum connecting times. You are entitled to delay repay for the entire journey, from the operator which caused the first delay. A minority of poorly-trained delay repay processing staff will try to claim that is not the case, but they are wrong; you can refer them to Transport Focus but there is currently no higher authority which can force the train operator to do anything except a court.

  2. MAY L LIM says:

    Are you able to get the same numbered seat all the way? If you get 6 tickets, is there not the chance of losing your seat along the route for one of the journeys

    • Chris L says:

      Some train operators now have seat selection if you book with them direct. I normally will first price up the entire journey on the operator’s website to find out which seats are available for the entire journey, making it easier when booking multiple tickets. I would note as well that it’s not just if you start your journey before 9.30am that you can make significant savings. UK train fares are not distance-based so it’s worth checking these websites for any expensive rail journies.

      • I used Trainsplit.com for the first time last week for a trip this Friday. I fell foul of this issue and have ended up with reservations on 3 different seats in the same carriage on the way from Doncaster to Birmingham!

        Thankfully, I don’t have to play musical chairs on the way back!

        Thanks for the tip Chris L. I had priced it up on the operator website but didn’t think there would be an issue with the seats. Live & Learn!

      • This is the silver-bullet of functionality currently missing from the websites, for me.

        If they could run this seat search, and make the reservation for the same seat for the full end-to-end journey, that would make split-ticketing a no-brainer.

        I don’t care what the saving is (within reason) I’m not going to go on a journey where I’ve got to swap seats 6 times – especially if travelling in a group.

  3. Rob it’s probably worth doing an article on skiplagged for flights too!

    • Richard says:

      Except that when skiplagged suggests hidden citying doing so in violation of the T and Cs of the ticket and *could* get you in trouble. Whereas Train splitting is explicitly permitted by the TandCs (of UK tickets at least)

  4. Isn’t this a great example of how insane our rail pricing system is in this country! Wow!

    • Richard says:

      It’s just as bonkers as airfare pricing (and the ability to use miles to pay a different price again probably makes airfare even more insane)

      • RussellH says:

        Both airfares and rail fares used to be distance based. Then some bright spark came up with yield management (AA IIRC).

        Back in the 1970s and 80s a long distance ticket could be used by a whole range of different routes and (in the air) different oiperators. Burglars would break into travel agents not for cash, but for ticket stock which they could sell on the black market.

        I remember my father making a trip LHR-ORD as a consultant on their metro and other ,local rail systems. He was given a plain LHR-ORD return ticket, I think on AA, but while in Chicago decided to come home via Toronto or Monttreal, and from there to PIK so that he could visit his sister.. Getting the return half changed to three separate tickets over several days just meant a visit to a travel agent. Then, after visiting his sister, he went back to London by train – much simpler, so he was left with an unused and unreserved PIK/GLA to LON coupon, which he gave to me. I took this into Amex and used it to book me a GLA-LGw flight. Back then no one noticed, or probably even cared, that we had different initials (no full names).
        That was the only flight I took throughout the 1980s.

    • Exactly! It’s absurd.

      They could, er, simply it all!!

      If the train operator is charging airline business class prices for peak travel to some destinations and either a) forcing you to stand in aisle or the opposite b) not filling all the seats it’s criminal. The latter case has been observed on a number of occasions on the west coast route between London & the midlands.

      The only advantage of this ridiculous fare structure is you can find some incredible off peak fares but usually it screws you especially for last minute travel.

      All for tiny profit margins if they’re lucky.

      • Richard says:

        it is a very complicated thing though! The ticket system just reflects the fact the railway is lots of different things to different people (and often at the same time!)

        And simplifying will like mean less demand management so more of the cardinal sins

        • It’s partly an airfare pricing model but for a very different system. maj of rail routes are heavily subsidised by govt with low pax numbers. Airlines presumably rely on much higher load factors.

          Air travel also clearly has an extremely negative impact on the environment so it’s fair to be paying an exhorbitant premium at certain times imho.

          Knowing people that have tried, the load on an individual train is difficult to find. If a fare is £200 Birmingham to London at peak time for a walk up fare because I have a family emergency, I would hope that is because there is only one seat left as would work for the airlines as a generalised model.

          Does it need to this complex? And how are these companies providing competition and value? Because occasionally I can travel 80 miles for a fiver on the weekend?

        • The definition of a walk-up fare is that you can walk up at any time and pay it. They don’t sell out as they are not for a specific train. If the train is full and you can’t get on, you can file for delay repay / refund if you don’t travel.

          The train operators are not providing competition. The competition happens once every 5 or so years when the government (DfT) specifies what train services it wants to happen in a region, and then two or more potential operators bid against each other to provide those services. When the private operator fails (VTEC) the government takes over (LNER).

  5. BlueThroughCrimp says:

    Just don’t use the Trainline with it’s booking fees.

  6. I really recommend checking off-peak *day* returns yourself in addition to whatever website you use. There are no day returns between Cardiff and Oxford, for instance, which is a route I use a lot, but there are day returns Cardiff-Swindon; Swindon-Oxford. Cutting up the route at Bristol is also an option, if you need to depart just before the start of off-peak. The average saving is about 50% on a normal off-peak return and you’re much more flexible than with advanced tickets. (Assuming you travel back on the same day, of course…)

  7. It is also possible to do split ticketing for season tickets, I did this for 2 years from Earley to Sunningdale, Sunningdale to Chertsey and saved about £250 / year

    As stated above you need to ensure that the train you take will stop at the station you are splitting.

    • I save £400/year on my season ticket from the South coast to London by splitting at East Croydon. Interestingly (and I only found this out relatively recently), the train *doesn’t* have to stop at ECR either – ticket is valid on Gatwick Express.

    • Shoestring says:

      Yes, we use it for season tickets to get my kids to school – use this tool to check the saving – perhaps once you have got a lead from the links/ sites in the artice – it’s:
      http://ojp.nationalrail.co.uk/service/seasonticket/search
      which is a tool provided by National Rail. Can be a bit confusing with the options – the ‘all week any train travel’ option is the last one.

      My 2 kids have 6 half terms a year – it’s far cheaper to buy their tickets like this ie miss out the holidays/ not buy a continuos 9 month season ticket —> = 6 season tickets each pa. Both still Child fares (until January for my son – aargh!). A typical 6-7 week half term would be £120 each season ticket. x12 = £1440.

      But with split tickets I get £15 off. 12x £15 = £180 saving pa.

      Other parents with students on the same train (who I have told about split tickets) give me a cheery little wave. Station staff behind the till don’t care one little bit about the minor extra work when they put our season tickets together, just write down dates, itinerary and they’ll process it no problems.

    • Not since October 2016

      • To clarify since I got gazumped by Harry’s rambling – since October 2016 you are allowed to take trains that don’t stop at the split point, if one or more of your tickets is a season ticket which includes rovers, day rangers and concessionary passes.

    • Small world. I live in Wokingham, work in Reading and cycle past Early on a daily basis.

  8. This is a good website, I used it to travel to South Wales recently from the Midlands and it saved me £24 when visiting family. So it’s worth a mention if other people can make use of it.

  9. These are good sites, but with the complex nature of rail travel in the UK, there are lots of other options. I don’t want to lose the options – the rail industry does watch these kind of sites and likes to close the gaps, so I won’t give details, but things to remember are:-

    Sometimes further is cheaper and is valid during the peak… For one journey I do regularly, choosing a station 20 miles further along the track slashes the cost of a peak return from £320ish to a £170 off-peak ticket with an easement to make it valid in the peak.

    Similarly another journey I do regularly doesn’t have the option of a “period return” – just two singles at £10 each way. But a station just 3 miles down the track does have that option for £13 (off-peak).

    One really important one to be aware of is the East Coast & West Coast (on-line only) Super-Advance Single (only valid for a return journey). This is where LNER & Virgin will sell you a semi-flexible off peak single ticket at half the price of an off-peak return as the other half of an Advance Ticket purchase. Absolutely perfect for people on the routes choosing a specific train for travelling to the Airport, but needing the reassurance of flexible off-peak ticket for coming home.

    Finally… I do repeat this often… Don’t forget to check your employer’s staff portal. I get 20% off Virgin West Coast Advance tickets through it – you probably do too.

    • Shoestring says:

      Just tried putting in stations 10 & 20 miles down the track – it *tripled* the season ticket cost!

      • I’d beware of getting off trains early. Not all tickets allow break of journey and it’s worth checking the details of restriction codes. For example, buying a ticket to Lancaster (no evening peak hours) and getting off in Preston (has evening peak hours) might attract unwanted attention from Virgin Trains staff.

        • Many tickets have a change of train anyway. These are the best places to break.

  10. Although Rob’s example with Trainsplit is a good one, there is one snag with splitting tickets.

    If your trains is delayed and you get to your final destination late meaning you are due compensation, the train company will only pay you compensation on the ticket for the section where the delay occurred.

    For example, if you had paid the £132.90 from Exeter to Sheffield, and the train got to Sheffield over an hour late, you would be due £132.90 in compensation regardless of where on the journey between Exeter and Sheffield the delay occurred.

    However, if you split your tickets six ways as per Rob’s example, the train company would only pay you compensation for the ticket you held on the part of the journey where the delay occurred. This could be as low as £4.40 if the delay occurred between Derby and Chesterfield.

    The operator of this example, Crosscountry, do pay lower levels of compensation too for journeys delayed between 30 and 60 minutes, but the biggest compensation levels on Single tickets are for delays of 60 minutes or more.

    • There is also the option for naughtiness by gambling on a slightly longer journey by adding a connection with a poor frequency.

      So, for example. A ticket from Oxbridge to Glasburgh costs £150 and a ticket from Oxbridge to Auchnashoogle costs £152. The train to Auchnashoogle runs hourly with a defined 10 minute connection time at Glasburgh. If the service to Glasburgh is 10 minutes late and you miss your connection to Auchnashoogle you “arrive” 1 hour late.

      You can load both ways, and start your journey in Appleham instead which also has a limited service…

      Just taking the you want to take of course.

    • Replying to James

      I see this myth circulated often. It’s simply not true. John – second post in this thread – has it right.

      Also the half-returns mentioned earlier that are misleadingly badged as “singles” should be treated as return tickets for the purposes of Delay Repay following a successful complaint I made via Transport Focus a while back.

  11. Travelling Inspector says:

    I book all my advance rail travel through the GWR site – no booking fee, Nectar points AND free first class post for tickets more than 7 days away. The first £100 a month charged to my Santander 123 credit card earns 3% cashback too…

  12. When it costs £10 to get a flight to Scotland but a £200 train it makes no sense. Utter madness. MSE have an example:

    For a London to Durham return, the cheapest ticket was an anytime return at £301, but the train called at York, so instead we found four singles for £82.

    Come on now, that is beyond ridiculous.

  13. For anyone travelling peak from Brighton to London here is a really mad sounding one! Look at booking a peak return to Aldershot instead (which would need a change at Clapham Junction) and add on a paper zones 1-2 TravelCard for Victoria, or zones 1-5 for the city via East Croydon. Saves at least £10 and gives you London travel)!

  14. Glenn

    You can get off the train at a station before the one you are ticketed to, and it has never been a problem for me. The guard even hands me the ticket back so that I can resume my trip later!

    The key reason split ticketing works is because of peak/offpeak time zones. The 2:38 pm Euston to Tring service is a godsend in that regard. The station staff at Tring must be wondering who so many people change trains there!

    • Genghis says:

      I thought advance tickets are point to point, ie no break of journey, whereas normal peak / off peak / season ticket you can?

      • Indeed.

        I would never walk out of Heathrow or Gatwick with my hand luggage without making the final leg either…

  15. Faremap.ml is a good split website.

    I used to use TakeTheTrain as they came up with interesting routes for cheaper fares, but they seem to have been “down for maintenance” permanently these days.

  16. Andrew,

    An airline might actually thank you if you do not show up for the final leg. After all they can sell your seat again or give thats eat to an airline employee on standby.

    Trust me, they mostly do not care, although I generally tell them when I will be a no-show

    • BA is known for sending bills to travel agents whose clients skip legs. Admittedly you will get away with it if you book yourself but it is easy pickings with a travel agent because BA just deducts the money from money it already owes them.

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