Major changes to the ticketing system for train travel in Britain have been proposed which aim to stop the need for split ticketing - a trick used by savvy travellers to cut the cost of their journey.
Industry body the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) has published a series of measures it claims will simplify the fares system so everyone is able to get the best deal and avoid the need for splitting tickets.
Some fares would go up and some would go down under the RDG’s proposals, which are designed to be "revenue neutral".
- So, what is split ticketing?
Split ticketing is currently used by savvy travellers to pay less than the price of a single ticket on some routes at certain times - the loophole involves buying multiple tickets for different sections of the same journey.
- Why does this happen?
Passengers do this to save money. Britain’s complicated rail ticketing system means it can be cheaper to buy tickets from A to B and B to C, even if you are travelling on a single train from A to C.
- How easy is it?
Consumer website MoneySavingExpert.com says it normally takes five to 10 minutes for passengers to find the price of different combinations of fares to check if it is worth splitting tickets for their trip.
It can be much quicker to use one of a number of websites which search the fares database to find the cheapest option. Some of these take a cut of the savings.
- What savings are possible?
Examples of trips where passengers have reported savings include:
– Manchester to Edinburgh split at York (£150 fare reduced to £92.20) – Doncaster to Southampton split at London (£50 fare reduced to £20) – Taunton to London split at Pewsey (£105 fare reduced to £42.70)
- How complicated is it?
In one extreme case in 2017, a Newcastle United supporter bought 56 tickets to cover a return journey for him and his girlfriend to travel to Oxford for an FA Cup match, saving him £30.
- Is it legal?
Split ticketing does not break the railway’s conditions of travel, but a train must call at the stations where tickets are bought for.
- When will split ticketing end?
Trials of changes to the fares system are expected to begin later this year. The new system could be rolled out on an operator by operator basis over the next three to five years.
But the RDG it says it needs the support of the Government to make any changes.
Until that happens, travellers will continue to save cash by splitting tickets.
Britain’s rail ticketing system is underpinned by regulations which are unchanged from the mid-1990s, and have not kept pace with technology or how people work and travel.
Several layers of complexity have been added through individual franchise agreements over the past three decades, meaning around 55 million different fares exist.
A KPMG survey commissioned by the RDG found that only one in three (34%) passengers were “very confident” they bought the best value ticket for their last journey, and just 29% were “very satisfied” with the ticket-buying experience.
The RDG is calling for a switch to a single leg pricing structure which would allow passengers to “mix and match” the types of tickets they buy.
The existing regime means some single tickets for long distance trips are just £1 cheaper than getting a return.
Single leg pricing would help with the roll out of pay as you go systems and the use of mobile phones to pay for travel.
The RDG is also keen to see regulations around peak and off-peak pricing changed to spread demand for train travel across the day.
Passenger research commissioned by the RDG found that 73% of people want the need to split tickets to save money to be eradicated.