Just like flights, hotels and Uber rides, train ticket prices rise when rail operators anticipate there will be increased demand for their services. It often leaves passengers scrambling to find a combination of tickets that won't break the bank, even when they're booking weeks before they travel. Train companies obviously want to protect profits by keeping their pricing structures a secret, but independent ticket retailer The Trainline believes it can now accurately predict when things will start to get expensive.
Appearing in The Trainline app from today, the Price Prediction tool uses the company's "billions of data points" to suggest when ticket prices will rise. When a user performs a search for a specific route, the app will list the cheapest price, indicate when the route could sell out and then list incremental price changes depending on the date of booking.
"Our data scientists have used historical pricing trends from billions of customer journey searches to predict when the price of an Advance ticket will expire. We now share this information in our app to allow our customers to get the best price possible for their journey," Jon Moore, Chief Product Officer at Trainline said. "We're introducing more advanced machine learning every day so naturally our predictions will get increasingly accurate. Our mission is to make train travel as simple as possible and price prediction is the first in a long line of predictive features we have planned to help customers save time and money."
To demonstrate its tool, the company took an Advance single fare between London Euston and Manchester Piccadilly. If booked 80 days before the day of travel, that ticket will cost £32, rising to £38 at 41 days before. Wait until 13 days before and the price rises again to £42, then more than doubles 48 hours beforehand. On the day, that 160 mile journey will cost a whopping £126.
The feature isn't particularly groundbreaking, lots of companies provide similar tools for travel and accommodation all over the world. However, The Trainline is the UK's biggest independent ticket retailer and processes 125,000 customer journeys across Europe every day, meaning it has a better understanding of the nation's train travel habits than most.
Booking months in advance will always deliver the most value, but if you're umming and ahhing over whether to book that ticket, the company's new tool could provide some further clarity on the situation.