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How ‘split ticketing’ could save you hundreds on UK train travel

Your guide to gaming the country’s ridiculously spenny rail network

Ed Cunningham
Written by
Ed Cunningham

When it comes to the UK’s mega-expensive train network, finding any kind of loophole, trick or bargain feels pretty bloomin’ great. So here’s one you might not have heard of. It’s called ‘split ticketing’, and while it’s been around for a while, these days it’s getting much, much more popular.

So what exactly is split ticketing? Well, it’s the practice of buying two or more tickets for a single journey. Routes with less demand are usually priced lower, so by chopping up your route into shorter, lower-demand bits, there’s the potential to save quite a bit of cash. Provided you’ve booked the same train (and, of course, that the train stops at the places you’ve bought tickets between), you don’t even have to get off. 

Not only is split ticketing totally legal, but some websites actively help you do it. Online train ticket retailer Trainline has boasted a SplitSave service (though only for users of its app, rather than the website) since January 2020, offering cheap split tickets on applicable routes.

And it isn’t just ticket retailers getting in on the act. LNER (the main operator which runs routes between LondonYorkshire, north-east England and Scotland) has trialled a ticket category called Smart Save. LNER’s service is a bit swisher than Trainline’s, simply because it allows passengers to keep one seat for the entire journey.

Now, you may well be wondering why LNER doesn’t just price its tickets lower in the first place. And, honestly, we’ve no idea. We assume that, given all the nuances in timetables and ticket types and stuff, it’s all much more complicated behind the scenes than you might think.

In any case, split ticketing could save you a few quid on pretty much any train journey, gaining you hundreds of pounds in the long run. Aside from the SplitSave and Smart Save tools above, a few more sites that make splitting your ticket a bit easier include Train Pal, TrainTickets and TrainSplit.

Did you see this handy map tool, which shows all the direct trains you can get from European cities?

Plus: an exciting new rail service could soon link London and South Wales.

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