Lonely Planet Writer

Is there a cheaper way to get train tickets in the UK?

The UK is one of the most expensive countries for rail travel in Europe but split-ticketing is a practice that provides passengers with cheaper train fares.

Travel News - Split-ticketing
The practice of split-ticketing is becoming more mainstream in the UK. Image by Peter Muller/Getty

What is split-ticketing? The clue is in the name. Essentially it's a practice of splitting your train journey into segments and buying multiple tickets for each one as it usually works out cheaper than buying a single ticket for the whole journey.

We tested it by pricing a journey from Edinburgh to Manchester, departing at around 7am midweek with one week's notice. The journey requires a change of trains at York. The through Anytime fare (usually the most expensive option) is £127.50. But if you buy separate tickets for each leg – even within the same time frame – you save more than £100. The Edinburgh to York is £22.10, while the journey from York to Manchester is £20.

The UK is one of the costliest countries in Europe for rail travel with constantly inflating prices. So split-ticketing is a way of playing around with fares to get a better deal. It does come with risks though. You have to time your trip carefully and if your train is delayed and you miss your connecting train, you'll more than likely need to buy a new ticket for the next leg.

Despite that, it's becoming more mainstream. Especially as rail travel grows in popularity. Earlier this year, Virgin Trains launched a new app for its customers that delivers a split-ticketing function; automatically calculating if a cheaper combination of fares for one journey is available, without the customer having to change train or purchase multiple paper tickets.

Travel News - Split-ticketing
More companies are offering split-ticketing as an integrated part of their booking service. Image by Mark Liddell/Getty

And French company Loco2 launched a similar feature called Pricehack, which works pretty much the same way by making the split-ticketing feature an integrated part of its booking process. The feature launched this month and the company says it expects to save passengers up to 50% on one-way ticket fares across 200 million rail journeys in the UK. Other companies offering split-ticketing services include Ticketysplit, Trainsplit and rail platforms like Trainline and Trainpal.