Search online for “Didcot dodge”. In fact, to save you the trouble, I did just that. It will lead to an article from 2018 titled “Trains are getting better, but rail fares are still a mess”.

It begins: “Don’t you like the peak £105 fare from Bristol to London? Our irrational pricing system allows you to save £43 by implementing Didcot Dodge. ”

As you might expect, the mayhem continues – with savings on “separating tickets” having grown by a pound. If you don’t know the technique, all you do is buy a ticket from Bristol to Didcot Parkway and another from there to Paddington station in the capital, and make sure you get on a train that stops at the Oxfordshire junction (although you don’t have to jump down and jump back).

This railway hack is the most famous example of ticket fraud: exploiting multiple anomalies that are incorporated into the national fare structure. (The rush hour trip from London to Southampton? The key to saving cash is Woking.)

Until the online age, split-journey was a minority sport, which involved queuing and waiting for the booking agent to print out a complex series of tickets.

Thanks to ticketing apps, organizing a split journey is easy – especially when the giant retailer, Trainline, moves in. If very friendly technology has convinced you to make it your airline ticket provider (although they have to pay a surcharge), you’ll be familiar with the SpiltSave feature that automatically searches for the best deal for you.

Effortless – but not necessarily painless. I’m a frequent splitter, but when two or more Advance tickets are combined, the reservations are almost always in different carriages.

I was therefore delighted to find another provider that guarantees a fraction of the savings where you can sit idly by – and be surprised to find it’s London North East Railway (LNER).

It is a state-run train operator connecting London with Yorkshire, north-east England and Scotland on the east coast mainline.

LNER promises: “Same great savings as a split ticket but we do all the hard work, meaning you can sit back and enjoy a great savings without any hassles. any trouble.”

The operator has already started testing the Smart Save offer when it sells an app that mimics the Train Line – but with the addition of securing the same seat.

LNER owns the warehouse for each train and is therefore able to make this a reality.

While it’s very much in limited beta (I’ve been trying to find more savings examples), this move is exactly what we needed. Not only that, but the discerning traveler can save a bit during the cost of living crisis. And not only to refute another nonsense story about how flying from Newcastle via Spain to London is cheaper than a train to the capital, raising awareness that rail fares are inexcusable. can pay. It is essential as a step on the road to one-way pricing, as pioneered by easyJet 27 years ago.

We now accept the concept that the price of airfare to Europe depends on the date, time and demand. An evening flight on easyJet from Gatwick to Nice on Monday 18 July costs £29, but by lunchtime the following Saturday the fare is nine times higher.

For a properly developed and competitive railway, we need pricing to stimulate travel at times of high availability and reduce demand when everyone wants to travel.

You might have the same nasty thoughts as I do about the LNER move, as applied to the company’s advance fares: the company is selling a combined ticket from A to B and B to C for less than a price from A to C. So why not just cut back later?

Even so, LNER Smart Save deserves praise. The state-owned operator is vying as an up-and-coming innovator, providing the disruption we really need on the rail line to get through the ridiculous jumble of train fares.

It remains to be seen whether ministers – especially the prime minister and transport minister – have the courage to implement the much-needed fare reform. The point is, while many journeys will be cheaper, others will increase.

As the Didcot Dodge article concludes: “One-legged pricing – the only sensible solution – will eventually prevail. A politician brave enough to say so deserves a first class return.”


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