This week, I’m going to show you an app which can exploit a loophole in Britain’s Byzantine train ticketing system to save you money. It’s called ‘split ticketing’, whereby you buy two or more tickets to cover one journey, which cost less than one through ticket.
The app is called Tickety Split Lite, and it’s available as a mobile-friendly web app and as a native iPhone app, both of which are free. It has been developed by Money Saving Expert, a site that which I cannot recommend enough for finding ways of saving money and which I’ve linked to on here several times in the past.
It makes splitting tickets – previously quite a difficult task if you don’t know where to start – much easier, as you simply enter your origin and destination and it does the hard work for you. The journey in the screenshot involves at least two changes, for example, and each stage would be with a different train operator. But, by buying two tickets rather than one, I would save £7.10.
There are, naturally, caveats. The app only looks at so-called ‘anytime’ fares – the most expensive. There are cheaper ‘advance’ fares available on most operators, so if you are planning to travel at a later date, then you may be able to make greater savings when booking online. You can, of course, follow its advice and split the tickets when doing so.
The app doesn’t have a way of actually buying the tickets once you’ve looked them up, so you will need to use its advice and then buy the tickets yourself; either online or in person at a ticket office. It’s best not to use a ticket machine at a station as these will generally only sell you tickets from that station.
In my testing, I found the app timed out when faced with particularly complex routes – I gave it a route involving a traversal of central London and after three minutes there was no response. The iOS app also pre-dates the iPhone 5 and so it will show black letterbox bars on this handset.
Finally, be aware that sometimes splitting tickets will cost you more than a through ticket, not less. For example, Sowerby Bridge to York – a journey I made at the weekend – would cost more if I split it at Leeds than a through ticket. This is because the journey from Sowerby Bridge to Leeds is counted as a connection for the Leeds to York service, and therefore the ticket from Sowerby Bridge to York will cost the same as Leeds to York.
If you are travelling a reasonable distance by train, it’s worth taking the time to see if you can do it more cheaply with the app. Christine and I went to Chester a few weeks ago and we found that we could split the tickets at Todmorden (which is already covered by our West Yorkshire MetroCards). Consequently, the tickets dropped from around £40 return to £20 each.
The app is currently free, but in the FAQ it states that it runs at a loss. Therefore there could be adverts in a future version, or that it may cost money to download. I’d download it now if I were you.
For more on buying train tickets, see my guide from June 2010 and a post from exactly a year ago about Red Spotted Hanky which is where I buy most of my train tickets from.