Trainline is one of those companies where I don’t understand how they can still exist and make money in this day and age.
I know a lot of it is because they’re a relatively old company and so have had a long time to get themselves stuck in peoples brains when it comes to thinking of where to buy train tickets. To the extent that people think that they’re the only place to look and there isn’t any alternative.
But. They don’t sell any tickets themselves, they’re basically an aggregator and will look up the various train company prices for you and then act as a middleman for you, and get a booking fee for doing so.
So why not cut out Trainline and book with the train companies direct? If Trainline find a GWR ticket for you and want to sell it to you with a booking fee on top, why go and buy it directly from GWR for the same price with no booking fee? That seems like a no-brainer to me.
I always suggest to people that they use National Rail to look up tickets instead. It basically does the same aggregation as Trainline, but rather than act as a middleman when you want to make a booking, it directs you straight to the relevant company instead, so you’re always booking direct.
That’s not even considering the split ticketing sites, which are there if you’re determined to try and save as much money on trains as you can.
Now, I may be missing a trick, I may be passing up a golden investment opportunity, but all the above is why I will not be investing in Trainline and why I can’t see doing so making any money. I can’t see the genuine value they add that would make a booking fee worth it, and I can’t see a future where people never realise that Trainline are basically taking money for nothing. Therefore, sooner or later, they will surely struggle.