Is pay as you go the future of rail travel?

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  • Bath_VIP

    Quite unexpectedly, I seem to have found a new way to pay for my rail travel and I wondered what people’s thoughts were?

    I’ve just completed a 3-day triangular trip of Bath > Newcastle > Lincoln > Bath. For reference, an off peak return from Bath to Newcastle (not via London) costs £115 in standard class and £300 in 1st class with a railcard discount. The journey time of 5 1/2 hours is more or less the same whether you go via London (GWR + LNER) or via Bristol (Cross Country) and as much as possible I try to go 1st class.

    Due to some uncertainty about the times I would be travelling, I didn’t book in advance as I would have done normally. Instead my journey unfolded as follows.

    Day 1 – Bath to Newcastle
    I hummed and hawed over whether to go via London and Bristol and at the last minute an advance fare of £100 in 1st class one way via London with GWR+LNER became available and I snapped that up.

    Day 2 – Newcastle to Lincoln
    I was aiming to leave around lunchtime but overnight rain between Edinburgh and Newcastle caused chaos and it took a while to figure out what was still running. I had a choice of LNER via Newark or Cross Country + Northern via Sheffield. In the end I went with the latter because no decent 1st class fares was available on LNER and the trains looked crowded. So I ended up paying £72 walk up fare for 1st class to Sheffield.

    The interesting bit happened at Sheffield. I hadn’t bought the Sheffield to Lincoln ticket and checking my app on the platform I saw Northern were offering an advance fare for the next train for only £5 which I paid for on the app.

    Day 3 – Lincoln to Bath
    By now I realised I was in pay as you go mode and this day was always the most problematic because of late strike action that meant no trains to Bath arriving after 6.30pm. That forced me to go via London but it was complicated by engineering works that meant no direct LNER trains to Kings X.

    Instead, I took EMR to Peterborough (£12 off peak single paid for on my app as I was arriving at the station). At Peterborough I had a choice of Thameslink for £15 off peak but my app showed a slightly later train on LNER in 1st class for £19 so paid for that on arrival at Peterborough. By now I was clear that I would be catching the last train to Bath and was concerned it would be overcrowded (and it was). This time I paid for an off peak single for £24 but made a point of a reserving a seat.

    Pay As You Go is the Future?
    In total I paid £235 for a journey via London of which was 80% in 1st class with practically all tickets paid as I went rather than in advance against a reference of £300 rtn not via London. All in all more than I usually pay but never with this degree of flexibility.

    I’ve never had a journey quite like before but I now wonder if this is the future? The following elements have come together to make this a way of travelling by rail.

    1. Apps and mobile ticketing – the fact that you can buy a ticket anywhere and have the ticket for inspection immediately on your phone.
    2. Advance fares now available up to departure – using your app, it becomes easy to figure out which trains are most cost effective and advance fares can be bought on the spot.
    3. The uncertainties of rail travel today due to strikes, etc – it feels harder to plan journeys in advance and one has to be adaptable.

    Split ticket as you go?
    One day I plan to split ticket as you go. Normally I split in advance and have all the tickets ready before I board. Now I could pay for the 1st split to board and once on the train, check my app for the next split for advance fares and pay as I go.

    I’d be interested to know if anyone else has done something like this?

    2 users thanked author for this post.


    My word train travel is complex.

    I generally use Train Line for my relatively short haul train tickets, including tomorrows journey to Heathrow from suburbia London (via Elizabeth line).

    However, I would be grateful to hear from the train experts, how do you get paperless tickets for the train? Even using the mobile app I need to go to the station to collect from the ticket machine..

    1 user thanked author for this post.



    I no longer use trainline because of the fee they now charge.

    Instead use an app from one of the train companies for all your UK bookings. I use the GWR app since they are my usual company but you can book tickets for any company through GWR app which it what I did for my journey.

    What’s changed these days is that you no longer need to print the tickets out. You can now get etickets on the app with a barcode that can be displayed on your phone and the ticket barriers and inspectors will recognise them.

    Note my journey covered 5 train companies (GWR, LNER, X-Country, Northern, EMR) and could have been 6 (Thameslink). All accepted and scanned the etickets without any issues.

    It is the combination of etickets on your phone and advance fares being available up to departure now that prompted the realisation that pay as you go rail travel is now an option.

    Hope this helps.


    Thanks Bath_VIP.

    Downloaded the app and the same journey on GWR (Thames Link and Elizabeth Line) was £16.10 (GWR) instead of £11.89 (The Train Line).

    Presumably though GWR will issue a bar code ticket, which The Train Line on my app, didnt..

    If it was after 9pm, I could have used my Oyster 60+ card all the way to Heathrow on tube or most of the way on Elizabeth Line.

    Any idea why the cost is more on GWR?



    Have uou had a look at Raileasy – split tickets?

    There are a couple of cons to split ticketing, however it can save a small fortune, on some journeys.


    Hello Bath_VIP

    If only we in the UK could purchase a 3-day all line rail rover.

    It would make life easier for the traveller.

    Right now UK rail offers a 7-day pass priced at £540 standard class. (First class is £818)

    Railcard reduction brings the standard cost down to £356.40. So a 3-day pass would equate to roughly what your collection of tickets cost.

    There are early morning time restrictions with some TOCs on some lines.

    The pass is not promoted at all.

    It must be bought from a railway ticket office and from what I’ve read in the railway press some staff are unaware this pass exists.

    It was hoped that


    would simply fares for the travelling public.

    But GBR has been placed on the back burner.

    Details of All Line rover.



    I’m not claiming GWR is the best app. All train company apps should be similar.

    In the example you quote, is the trainline fare a split ticket? this is the one advantage that trainline should have over the train companies that they can offer split tickets. If it isn’t then I am not sure why there should be a fare difference.

    I have to say I don’t understand trainline does not offer you an eticket option. All the train companies do so they are clearly missing a trick there.


    Rover tickets would be great but in the example you quote the fare is still notably more expensive. £350 for all standard class vs my £240 for mostly 1st class.

    Rovers need to be a lot cheaper and as you say advertised more. The problem with rovers though is they are as easy workaround for commuting into London so unless they are restricted at peak times into and out of London, they are going to be expensive.

    I have found regional rover fares to be much better e.g. Wales, Devon/Cornwall, etc.


    Yes I am familiar with the split ticket sites and I often split my tickets.

    The issue this time is that I was making decisions at the last minute on which train to catch which ordinarily makes it hard to book split tickets. But they are definitely a useful tool especially if they allow last minute bookings and give you etickets.


    Of course I understand Bath_VIP. I was suggesting that the rate would be lower were a 3-day pass to be placed on sale.

    A 3-day pass would have offered flexibility and less time and hassle in having to buy that collection of tickets.

    I admire your ticketing skills and enterprise however.


    Trainline charge booking fee!!

    why anyone uses them I have no idea

    Download Quicdco app and then Transpennine app

    book all tickets on there; any operator

    cashback through Quidco and no booking fee!


    Trainline is the engine behind most, if not all of the ToC sites, anyway 🙂


    Hi BathVIP

    Glad this worked out for you. Just so you know that the £300 fare (routed not via London) would most likely have been valid for the break of journey in Lincoln on the return – though would have necessitated a route of Lincoln – Peterborough – Birmingham – Bristol – Bath for the return to avoid London for the last bit. I think your route was probably much simpler!

    Most engines if you put this route in don’t realise that on Off Peak returns section of a ticket you can break mid journey. In the past I often purchased a Manchester return from Brighton and then stop in Nottingham on the return (but could be anywhere on a valid routing). Technically can only break journey once in the 1 month you have to make the return journey on these ticket types.

    So if you ever have a trip encompassing say Edinburgh and Manchester from Bath and you want to train the whole thing – always try and do furthest point 1st and 2nd point as a stopover on the return (I have “advance” tickets as like flexibility to jump on any train).



    I wondered about that.

    I knew you could break the journey on the same day i.e. if I had done Newcastle-Lincoln-Bath on day 2 (via Birmingham as you said) but can you break the return over 2 different days like I did? I thought you couldn’t do that.

    As it turned out the strike action meant I had no choice but to come back via London.


    Hi Bath VIP

    Yes you are allowed to break the return on an Off Peak ticket overnight – well I’ve been doing it for 25+ years without issue. And done some very creative routes.

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