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We try out two split-ticketing tools to see if they 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 (41)

  • Andrew says:

    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!

      • Glenn says:

        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.

        • Andrew says:

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

  • James says:

    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.

    • Andrew says:

      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.

    • MKB says:

      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.

  • david says:

    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.

  • JohnT says:

    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)!

  • Tom says:

    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?

      • Andrew says:

        Indeed.

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

  • Michael says:

    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.

  • Tom says:

    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

    • Rob says:

      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.