Monday 20 October 2014

Good News for Rail Passengers?

Or is it?
Many blog readers will be familiar with the above site
Martin Lewis OBE, Money Saving Expert, is an award-winning campaigning TV and radio presenter, newspaper columnist, author and, according to Google, the most searched-for British man. An ultra-specialised journalist, focusing on cutting bills without cutting back, he founded in 2003 for £100. It's now the UK's biggest money site, with over 14m monthly users and 9m receiving the Martin's Money Tips email – and he remains its full-time Editor-In-Chief.

In 2012 Martin sold his web site to the Money Supermarket group which includes ...
... and:-
Recently "Martin" sent out a special email which has set tongues wagging.
New free TicketySplit tool takes on train pricing farce
Same train, same time, even the same seat
just pay less by splitting your tickets 

We've finally cracked it. Our new advanced tickets TicketySplit tool takes on the ridiculous train ticket pricing anomaly that means buying two separate tickets sometimes costs less. It can save some regular travellers £1,000s. Here's an example...

Birmingham to Newquay advance single = £150

This train stopped at Cheltenham so instead the tool suggested...

Birmingham to Cheltenham advance single (£21) plus Cheltenham to Newquay advance single (£44) = just £65.
There are dangers with this site.

Some fares are "Advance" fares offered on specific trains. If you miss a connection, your Advance ticket becomes invalid and you have to pay again. Your "cheap" fare could become very expensive indeed.

The site is linked to "The" which charges booking fees. Most rail company sites charge no fees and for many of them postage is free. You are warned about this on TicketySplit BUT many people will just go ahead and waste a few pounds. It is hard to see why any potential passenger should use The Trainline as all its fares are available on all rail company sites and at ticket offices.

Individual rail companies often have web site special offers for journeys exclusively on their trains. These special fares and discounts are not on The Trainline or Tickety Split.

More seriously, TicketySplit does not (yet!) do returns, justifying this by saying that returns are "often" more expensive than singles. WRONG! With the exception of "Advance" tickets and their accompanying risks (used by only about 3% of rail passengers) return "Saver" (the fare-type most people buy) fares are ALWAYS cheaper than two singles.
So fbb tried a journey, one which he has often used; namely Axminster to Sheffield.

TicketySplit gave fbb a choice of schedules, of which he chose ...
... remembering, as always that these fares were with a Senior Railcard. Clicking on the Split button offered this option.
Savings can be made provided that you don't miss your connection and thus lose the "Advance" leg.
What about coming back? This for a return later the same day.
The Split saved money again ...
... a grand total of 5p!

TicketySplit wants fbb to spend £117.55 (£77.05 plus £40.50).

The National Rail web site (and all other rail company sites) advises exactly the same trains.
But look at the price. 
The off-peak return offers a saving of £31.75 compared with TicketySplit and no restrictions. Any train can be used after 0900 from Axminster.

The return journey (again with some morning peak restrictions) can be on any day up to one month later.

Can our readers spot the best deal?
TicketySplit says "we've finally cracked it." No, they haven't. Without the inclusion of returns, there is a very real possibility that people using the new site will pay more than they need.

All credit to the sponsors of the site for trying their best but fbb would advise EXTREME CAUTION in taking its advice.

On one specific type of query, the system can be helpful. fbb wanted to travel to Truro for the day, but before senior railcards and day returns are available. TicketySplit found an outward single "split" which got him at full price to a point where discounts were available, thereafter discounted. Under these circumstances "Anytime" returns can often be bettered with a mixture of full price singles and discount singles or returns.

Some guidelines.

By all means consult TicketySplit

Avoid fees : don't buy from The Trainline

Check the price of (e.g.) Saver Returns

Remember that returns are nearly always cheaper than two singles**.

Check rail company sites for special operator specific offers.

Beware the dangers of "Advance" fares

** but you may be able to do better if you are lucky enough to find two super-cheap Advance singles.
Just for the record, Tickety Split's example quoted a Birmingham to Newquay fare of £150 SINGLE. The Saver (non OAP) return is ...
... with no significant restrictions. Two single Advance tickets with burdensome restrictions or complicated "splits" might improve on that - if you are lucky and land your ball in the correct slot of the Roulette Wheel on the right day. Remember always that "Advance" fares are dreamed up by a "Deep Throat" computer program and availability is totally unpredictable

What is needed is a complete re-think of ALL rail fares to remove the anomalies at source. Messrs Cleggeron and Faraband could win a hefty number of extra votes if they set such a rethink in motion. One day, when fbb feels confident and/or stupidly brave, he will write a blog explaining how easy it would be to sort it out.

But it would need a complete re-jig of the whole financial structure of the railways and, fbb suspects, no government of any hue has the guts to do it; if, that is, any of the politicians understood it all in the first place.

The political will is not there.
 Next bus blog : Tuesday 21st October 


  1. I fully agree with your analysis. However there are many people who have little understanding (or interest!) in the intricacies of public transport options - and The Trainline is able to take advantage of that by creating awareness of its offering. Just to extend/complicate your observations, it is sometimes cheaper to take advantage of Rover tickets. For example - travelling from Manchester to Truro I book an off peak return to Cheltenham then a Freedom of the South West 3 in 7 ticket which with a railcard is £3.45 cheaper than a return and effectively offers a free days travel whilst down there!

  2. I should clarify that splitting the above journey at Cheltenham saves money in any event compared to the purchase of a "through" ticket - in this case overall saving £10.95.

  3. Encouraging people to book return journeys as two transactions is just crazy as you have shown.

    Our splt ticketing site - - is still an early iteration but it is designed to help the average traveller take advantage of the existing anomalies.

    You've only got til the end of tomorrow to respond but there is an ORR Retailing Review going on where you could submit your ideas about a "rethink".