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Cheaper train fares with split ticketing

Splitting your journey into several tickets is often much cheaper than buying a single ticket. For instance if you’re travelling between London and Leeds, it can work out around 15% cheaper to buy two separate tickets: London–Doncaster and Doncaster–Leeds rather than a direct ticket. There is no need to get off the train, you simply need to travel with an extra ticket and you also have to take a train that stops at the intermediate station.

The Rail Easy online booking service is the easiest place to find cheaper split ticketing fares.

How does split ticketing work out cheaper?

There are several reasons why split tickets work out cheaper:

You may be departing during peak hour but arriving at your destination off peak. Rather than buy a peak fare for your entire journey, with a split ticket you can buy a peak fare for the first leg of the journey and an off-peak fare for the remainder of your trip.

You may have a regional Railcard (such as the Network Railcard), which gives you discounted train fares in a specific geographic area. By splitting your tickets you can take advantage of the discounted fare for a specific part of your journey while paying for the cheapest available ticket for the remainder of your trip.

Split ticketing lets you take advantage of promotions that different rail companies offer on advance purchase tickets. For instance Chiltern Railways and London Midland offer £6 advance purchase fares between London and Birmingham. If you’re travelling between London and Shrewsbury (which goes via Birmingham) it is cheapest to book split tickets in advance and pay £19.80 rather than pay the standard £31 advance purchase fare.

Sometimes split ticketing simply works out cheaper because different train companies have calculated their fares differently. The differences are usually not so great for trains departing from London, however the savings can be quite substantial if you’re travelling between two places and bypassing London altogether. For instance a London–Penzance train may not offer any split ticket savings, but purchasing split tickets on the Birmingham–Penzance route can give you a 55% saving. Routes operated by CrossCountry Trains often give you the best split ticketing savings.

Is split ticketing legal?

Condition 19 of the National Rail Conditions of Carriage states that it completely legal to travel with split tickets (as opposed to a single through ticket) on the condition that your train stops at all the stations where your ticket is split. You don’t need to get off the train, but it must be possible to.

Do I need to change trains?

It depends on the ticket, but in most instances you simply stay on the train. However if you are splitting trains to take advantage of promotional fares offered by different train operators you may need to change trains.

The cheapest advance purchase tickets are valid for a specific train journey only. If you have a ticket for a specific journey and your earlier train is late you may need to purchase another ticket. This is a risk of trying to get the cheapest possible ticket, however you can minimise this risk by booking your second or subsequent tickets around half an hour later to allow a little more time to make your connection.