I'm planning to visit the UK in November, and for reasons of logistics it may be easier to leave from a different airport than I arrive on.

I checked train prices online, and getting a single journey from Manchester airport to Loughborough is listed as £43.80, the same journey with a return ticket 10 days later is listed as £44.10; that's basically the same price‽

They should be ‘off-peak’ tickets, and the prices are the same on nationalrail.co.uk and thetrainline.com ... I actually continued the booking process up to the point where I had to pay to make sure this price was correct (and not £44.10 × 2).

Did I miss something? Is there a trick to get decent prices for single journeys? I find it hard to believe that a return is the same price as a single ticket, that makes no sense at all to me, in The Netherlands, a return trip is just twice the price of a single trip…

Here's the booking information: single journey, (screenshot) return journey (screenshot)

  • 2
    Unfortunately this is correct. Makes no sense to us Brits either! I always book through National Rail myself (or buy tickets from the machines on the day if the tickets prices don't change for a particular route). You have to pay a booking fee on thetrainline.com, so the tickets work out more expensive.
    – emmalgale
    Oct 6, 2014 at 9:47
  • 1
    Train ticket prices in the UK are weird. Sometimes you can book a train journey in two parts and save money (buy ticket A->B, ticket B->C, pay less than A->C).
    – gnasher729
    Oct 6, 2014 at 16:35
  • Indeed, single tickets subsidise return tickets in the UK, which is annoying if you need several singles or an "overnight return" rather than a day return. Oh, and going via London is sometimes cheaper, even if longer, just to encourage more congestion :)
    – nsandersen
    Jun 27, 2017 at 17:41
  • It can make sense: If it is known in advance that the return train has free seats, there is no extra cost involved. Dec 6, 2019 at 2:53

2 Answers 2


No, you're not missing things this is standard ticketing policy in the UK. Single tickets frequently cost almost as much as return tickets.

Article in The Telegraph discussing train fares

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    Thanks! This really defies common sense, though... :-/ Oct 5, 2014 at 16:50
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    You should summarise some of the content in that article in the answer itself. As it stands this is a link only answer. If that link goes down or the article gets deleted this answer is virtually useless.
    – user9533
    Oct 6, 2014 at 13:03
  • Several times I've tried to book a single ticket and been told it's cheaper to buy a day return. Oct 6, 2014 at 13:57
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    @Liam the answer to the question is given. The link is just to a source verifying the answer and containing additional information about the topic. If the link goes down the answer is still perfectly correct.
    – MJ Walsh
    Oct 8, 2014 at 13:39

As this journey involves changing trains at Sheffield, two different train companies are used. This often means that the cheaper ticket types are not available. You can circumvent this by buying separate tickets for each leg of the journey.

For example, using the East Midlands Trains website, for 11th November I found Loughborough to Sheffield Advance single for £13 and Sheffield to Manchester Airport Advance single for £8.

The disadvantage of this practice is that, if you miss a connection, you may have to buy a new ticket for the second part of your journey.

  • If you miss the connection because of the fault of another train company, your allowed to use any later train despite the normal restrictions. However, if you miss a connection due to your own fault (eg not keeping track of time), then you're out of luck
    – Gagravarr
    Oct 6, 2014 at 15:49
  • @Gagravarr That is debatable if you use two different tickets for a journey (as they are strictly two independent journeys).
    – neo
    Oct 6, 2014 at 17:14
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    You may need to get one train company to annotate the 2nd set of tickets to indicate the reason for the delay, but you are protected across two AP tickets. See links from questions like this one
    – Gagravarr
    Oct 6, 2014 at 22:49

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