REVEALED: How rail companies aren’t telling you the cheapest fares

Photo credit: Lauren Hurley/PA Wire PPP-161001-154349001
Photo credit: Lauren Hurley/PA Wire PPP-161001-154349001
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  • Ticket splitting allows customers to purchase fares for longer routes at a discounted price
  • Process involves buying multiple tickets for a single journey
  • Rail companies currently not obliged to offer split tickets
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Train passengers in Portsmouth may be able to save more than a third on their normal tickets - and there’s an easy way to find out how.

As a trial is announced on making it easier to find the the cheapest fares, passengers can make these massive savings on tickets using a method known as split ticketing.

Rather than buying one ticket to cover your whole route, you can buy multiple tickets for different parts of the journey, often at a discounted price.

For example, a day return ticket from Portsmouth to London could cost you just £48.30 - a saving of £23.50 on the standard price of £71.80 (or 33 per cent).

But there’s a catch, as it requires separate tickets to be bought between Portsmouth and Petersfield, Petersfield and Godalming, and finally Godalming to London.

The discounts have been calculated by ticket website TrainSplit, part of Raileasy, which operates similar to regular ticket sites but instead automatically divides up the journey to help passengers get the best price.

“Passengers should not have to rely on split ticketing to get the best deal and moves toward fairer, simpler ticketing are long overdue.”

James MacColl from Campaign for Better Transport

The website offers customers the chance to buy split tickets, and shows which stations they are split at.

The website says that while a regular day return from Fareham to Manchester costs £233.30, ticket splitting can cut the price to £98.90 - a massive saving of £134.40 (or 58 per cent).

But get ready to spend some time at the ticket machines, as you’ll have to buy separate tickets between Fareham, Basingstoke, Oxford, Banbury, Coventry, Wolverhampton, Stafford and Manchester.

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What are the rules?

Splitting up the journey is perfectly legal under the National Rail Conditions of Carriage, as long as the train you travel on stops at all the points where the ticket is split.

If the journey doesn’t include any changes, there is no need to even leave the train.

Passengers who buy flexible tickets can travel on earlier or later trains, but they must make sure the alternative train also stops at the splitting points.

Split tickets can be found on both fixed time advance fares and on flexible fares at peak times.

These tickets are not offered by station ticket machines or any train company websites.

Ticket clerks may be able to split tickets on request, but staff are not obliged to do so, and given the complexities of the UK train fare system, will not always know the best combination of tickets to buy.

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Should rail companies offer split tickets?

James MacColl, from the Campaign for Better Transport, said train companies need to do more to help passengers choose the cheapest fare possible for them.

He said: ‘It is no wonder that many commuters are angry at annual fare rises when they see little or no improvement in the service they receive, with ongoing overcrowding and delays.

‘On top of these fare hikes passengers also have to endure a complex ticketing system that leaves them unsure they are always getting the cheapest available fare, either online, at a vending machine or at the ticket office.

‘Passengers should not have to rely on split ticketing to get the best deal and moves toward fairer, simpler ticketing are long overdue.’

Legally, train companies are not required to offer split tickets as cheaper fares, and as a result more expensive fares will be provided on machines and at ticket offices.

Denis Fryer, a co-ordinator of the South Hampshire Rail Users’ Group, has travelled regularly between his home in Calmore and London for years, and said tickets over long distances are becoming less affordable.

He said: ‘The whole ticketing system has gone a bit crazy.

‘For the train companies there is an obligation to sell the cheapest tickets but going beyond that and selling split tickets might be too complicated.

‘Rail tends to be one of the most expensive ways of travelling because of the infrastructure needed. At some point the tickets become unaffordable unless you are very well off.’

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What do the train companies say?

The Rail Delivery Group, which represents train operators, did not directly answer the question of why companies do not offer a split ticket option to customers.

A spokesman told The News it is committed to getting the ‘best possible deal’ for passengers when they travel by train.

Last month the RDG, along with the Department for Transport, Which? and Transport Focus agreed measures to improve ticketing information for passengers and to make it easier for people to choose the best fare.

These improvements, due to be carried out this year, include better explanations of the restrictions on certain tickets, and ticket machines giving advice to people on whether another time or service would be cheaper for them.

Although the plans for this year do not mention split ticketing specifically, in the long-term vision it states that options could be considered to move ‘to single-leg pricing for longer distance journeys.’

A RDG spokesman said: ‘We want customers to get the best possible deal every time they travel by train.

‘We want to work with government and passenger groups to reform the rules and regulations that govern rail fares, to make it simpler and easier for people to get the right ticket for their journey.

‘Train companies offer a wide range of good value fares and discounts which are attracting record numbers of people to the railway.’

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What does Raileasy say?

Raileasy spokesman Joe Sikking said: ‘People should take advantage of ticket splitting because our customers are finding split ticket savings on 71 per cent of journeys and are paying on average 28 per cent or £26.94 less for their journeys than they would have if they’d bought their tickets on any other site.’

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To find out more about how to split your tickets, go to trainsplit.com.