Rail travel in the UK can be expensive -especially walk up fares. Train companies will tell you to buy advance tickets (very much like the airline market), where yield management is at play.
However, rail ticketing in the UK is dumb at worst and unintelligent at best thank to a mixture of the National Settlement plan that appeared during privatisation, and different companies unable to offer the cheapest ticket.
This has opened a loophole that many have written about – Split ticketing.
Let’s take an example. I had to go between Birmingham and Southampton last weekend to do a shoot. And as much as I love driving (I don’t if at all), sometimes, taking the train is a lot easier. Especially when I’ve only got half of my kit to carry.
This is light for me… believe it or not.
So. This ticket was booked Wednesday daytime -around three days before travel.
Here the cheapest option National Rail enquires could give me
You could spend hours and days faffing around ticket sites. I chose RailEasy who offer a split ticketing site. And does all the hard work for you.
The site is easy enough to use – put in the details of your travel, set whatever options you like and off you go. Here’s the exact same train journey in their search:
Again. You travel on the same train, the same route. You don’t get off the train at the end of each ticket, rather you stay on (though you may need to move seat depending on your reservations)
They charge £1 + a percentage of any saving.
Here’s my example from last weekend:
Bear in mind:
- I left the booking a bit late, to say the least.
- And I had to be in Southampton… and the long drive was NOT appealing (the fact I have to do this again in a few weeks time is beside the point…)
So, how does this work in practice?
Well, we’ve done the theory. Onto the practice.
My return journey between Birmingham and Southampton Is split as follows (both ways)
- Birmingham to Banbury
- Banbury to Oxford
- Oxford to Basingstoke
- Basingstoke to Southampton Central
So, 8 tickets in total. You can collect them from a ticket machine, like any reserved ticket. I chose a quiet machine in Birmingham New Street station with about 20 minutes before departure. And that was a good thing.
What happens next is… well…
For each of the tickets, the following is produced:
- The ticket itself
- The reservation
- A receipt
So, in total, I got 24 ticket stubs.
…and split out. Shame they don’t support digital ticketing on this platform for split ticketing…
How do you use them?
Rather simply, ticket by ticket. I used the first ticket to clear the barriers and went to the platform where my train was.
I went to my assigned seat and got comfy. Even though the ticket has been split down, I did not need to get off at each split stop – rather, I presented my tickets. As long as the train stopped on the tickets on the voucher, I could travel through using the 4 tickets as a single journey, or the 8 tickets as a return.
Eventually the train manager/train conductor/guard/whatever Arriva calls them these days comes around. Unfazed, the tickets were crimped – and that was that.
Although the ticket punch is a little… basic.
End the journey was easy enough – I used the last portion of the ticket to exit the barrier at Southampton.
For my return, I used the first portion (Southampton to Basingstoke) and then rode on the rest of the tickets to Birmingham. Again, I didn’t need to get off the train – I just used each portion of the ticket for each part of the journey, with the train manager punching them all at once.
Exit again was simple – the barriers were open at Birmingham New Street.
It’s easy to use Split Ticketing.., but keep track of your tickets!
Split ticketing used to be a very dark art -or one that’s shrouded in confusion. Thankfully sites like RailEasy does a lot of the heavy-lift for you. There is also a useful guide at Money Saving Expert where more the process is explained (and how to do it manually). Certain routes are very “easy” to get split tickets on (typically CrossCountry routes, but there are savings to be had across the network).
If you are prepared to change trains, there are further savings to be had (depending on your level of risk).
However, it shows the holes there are in UK rail ticket and ticketing system. There is a consultation to change this (and hopefully make idiosyncrasies like split ticketing a thing of the past, as well as making the ticket system… easier to understand)
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