I'm sure train ticketing was supposed to have got more easy to understand. This weekend I took a train from Shelford to Harpenden - travelling down the Liverpool Street line to Tottenham Hale, getting the Victoria Line tube to Kings Cross St Pancras, and then getting a train from St Pancras to Harpenden. Apparently the off-peak return for this journey should have been £52.50 - but when I went to buy one from the ticket machine at Shelford station this ticket wasn't available. In fact the machine refused to believe Harpenden even existed - so in a rush not to miss my train I bought the first return I could think of to London - an off-peak return to London Terminals costing £22.60.
So I got to Tottenham Hale - and since I'd thought I would have a cross-London ticket with me I hadn't brought my Oyster Card - and had to pay the full price single fare from Zone 3 to Zone 1 - which is £4.30. At St Pancras I bought my return to Harpenden which was another £22.50. I had an utterly fantastic time at Heather's HenFest (see photos on Facebook) before coming home again on Sunday, and paying another £4.30 on the tube. This took my total fare to £53.70 - amazingly only £1.20 more than the off-peak return should have been. And in fact if I'd had my Oyster with me it would have been *cheaper* to split the tickets this way.
Not being 100% sure I'd actually been supposed to use a London Terminals ticket to Tottenham Hale (though the guys checking tickets on the way in and out just waved me through they did barely glance at it) I figured I'd have a quick check online - and it turns out that though an off-peak return to London Terminals (valid from Shelford to Liverpool Street) is £22.60 the off-peak return to Tottenham Hale (one stop shorter on the same train) is supposed to be £30.20! I'm now completely baffled to say the least!
I do wonder if I should complain to Greater Anglia though, given that their machine failed to sell me a ticket which would have been cheaper than the ones I did get! But I'm also wondering if in future I may be able to find other journeys which are cheaper on two tickets plus Oyster than on the cross-London fare!
(Edit: I've just checked and the zone 1-3 off-peak Oyster fare is £2.60 - which would have reduced the total price to £50.30 - so if the Terminals ticket *is* valid to Tottenham Hale it looks like it really is actually cheaper to buy two returns and use Oyster on the tube than buy a return all the way through).