The UK’s leading state-run train operator, LNER, is taking on Trainline with its own version of “split ticketing” – the increasingly popular technique to cut the cost of rail journeys.
Because of Britain’s extraordinarily complex rail pricing system, travellers can save cash on many journeys by buying two or more tickets for a single journey. The practice is perfectly legal as long as the train stops at the intermediate station(s).
Several websites have sprung up to allow travellers to search online for the optimum combination.
Splitting tickets became mainstream when the independent retailer Trainline began to offer them routinely to users of its app with the “SplitSave” badge.
LNER, which runs trains on the East Coast main line from Scotland, northeast England and Yorkshire to London King’s Cross, is trialling a ticket category called “Smart Save”. Users of its app are sometimes offer a discount on the “point-to-point” price if a split ticket is cheaper.
Smart Save deals are available only for users of the LNER app, and can be presented as e-tickets on smartphones or printed at home.
The train operator’s version is more sophisticated than the “SplitSave” option offered by Trainline, because it allows the traveller to keep the same seat throughout the journey.
With Trainline and other providers of split tickets, the passenger is often faced with having to change places at the station where a split takes place.
LNER says: “Smart Save gives you the same great saving (or better) but without the hassle. No confusing handfuls of tickets or having to change seats mid-journey (who wants to do that?).
“Relax knowing you’ve got the same seat for your entire journey (you might not always get that if you buy somewhere else, crazy we know).
“One simple ticket, so you’re not juggling a handful of tickets (and trying to figure out which to show the train manager – which can happen, if you buy from other websites).”
An example seen by The Independent offered a saving of £2 on a £24 ticket from York to Peterborough. But a series of test bookings indicate that Smart Save appears to be in a very limited trial.
On a Peterborough-London King’s Cross journey on Saturday afternoon, the £18.50 Advance ticket could be reduced to £13.60 by splitting tickets at Stevenage – saving over a quarter of the fare. But it was not offered as a Smart Save option.
Neither did Trainline offer the saving, and indeed the firm increased the cost of the £18.50 ticket by 5 per cent by adding a booking fee.
The LNER innovation applies to both advance and flexible (off peak or anytime) tickets. Passengers with railcards qualify for a further discount.