Beware using your railcard doesn’t cost you more money than it should

Well of course railcards cost you money- you have to buy them in the first place. However, most people purchase a railcard because they believe they will save money by dint of cheaper fares if they do so. A fair assumption to make given the concept of railcards. However, it has come to our money-saving attention that using a railcard in certain situations could actually end up costing almost twice as much as it should do.

Imagine you live in Birmingham. It’s lovely and full of friendly, regionally accented people. There are great shops and at least one quite good football team. Everyone’s happy. Say you have to leave lovely Birmingham and go to that London. You might buy a train ticket to whisk you from Birmingham New Street to London Euston in a mere hour and some change. Good job we’ve got HS2 coming to speed things up around here.

Anyway, say you don’t actually live at New Street station, and so have to get a connecting train in. A connecting train that costs, say, £6.75 return for an adult and a child. You might think it would be easier and less hassle to just buy your connecting ticket at the same time as your expensive trip to London. Sometimes it even costs the same, saving savvy travellers that £6.75.

If we don’t have a railcard, the sums are easy. vtrains2Without a railcard, the cost of the connected  journey on a weekday morning (next week) for one adult and one child is £132. Without the connecting train in, the cost falls to £125.25. You haven’t saved the cost of your connecting train in, but you are only paying £6.75 extra- the cost of the two connecting train tickets.

Now add a railcard. The fare is considerably cheaper, with the full journey costing £74.80. That’s a saving of 44%. That’s even better than the advertised third off. Great money saving.

vtrains1However, if you remove the connecting train, the price for one adult and one child from Birmingham New Street to London, on the exact same trains is only £37.80. That’s £37 cheaper. Even if you deduct the cost of paying for the connecting train separately, that’s still a £30.25 additional saving. The journey from Birmingham to London now costs just 30% of the standard advance price. Now that is a great saving, and at the 'cost' of the hassle of buying a connecting ticket at the local station.

Of course, advance tickets (even 1 day advance) are normally cheaper than standard on-the-day fares, and you can book online (from a website that doesn’t charge card or booking fees) and claim cashback too.

While we have heard of split journey pricing before (i.e buying a ticket from Birmingham to Milton Keynes, and then one from Milton Keynes to London), we have not come across this type of penalty pricing for connecting trains before. The images are taken from Virgin Trains website, but the same prices show up on any ticket comparison site. Definitely worth knowing.


  • FC
    I've been travelling from Birmingham to London for a while now using Virgin Trains with my 16-25 railcard and this penalty for using a connecting station within Birmingham has been present for at least a year and a half and as such is nothing new. Definitely worth pointing out for those who may not be aware however as it can add up to be quite an expensive lesson otherwise.
  • Kevin
    I can't see the way it works with this one but often if you just put in the start and end destination and put in a 'via' choice (on thetrainline,com anyway) it will give you the cheaper price anyway and allow you movement on any route between those two points. It's when you add it as a separate journey it plays with the prices, railcard or not.

What do you think?

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