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Driving in Britain is cheaper than travelling by rail

By raccars Published

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New research shows that rail travel in the UK is more expensive than car ownership. Here's why.

Car owners in the UK have found their pockets squeezed by the rising costs both of getting on the road in the first place and of keeping a car running. Even if you can afford to learn to drive and pass your test, you then face the cost of buying and then taxing, insuring and filling up your car with fuel.

Those who struggle with the expense of car ownership used to consider getting around by train as a more cost-effective alternative. Less convenient perhaps, but more affordable. Commuters who also find themselves stuck in traffic congestion on a daily basis and forking out more and more on parking are also pretty fed up and may once have looked at travelling by train instead to save time.

However if you are starting to wonder whether or not it's worth investing in a car and driving in Britain under these circumstances, think again...

Study favours driving in Britain over taking the train

A recent investigation suggests that steep rises in rail fares combined with lower fuel prices have made travelling by train more expensive than making the equivalent journey by car in many situations. Long distance journeys, in particular, have turned out to be not only easier and more comfortable by car but can also be significantly cheaper. In some cases travellers can pay up to £158.70 extra to travel between Britain's major cities by train rather than by driving.

The study analysed the price of an open return rail fare between some of Britain's busiest stations including Birmingham, Leeds, London and Glasgow. It also worked out how much it would cost in fuel to make the same journey in three of Britain's most popular cars: the Audi A3 Sportback, the Ford Fiesta and the Nissan Qashqai.

All the models used for the purposes of the investigation had petrol engines: the Audi was a 1.2 litre model, officially returning 57.6mpg, the Fiesta was a 1.0 litre unit claiming 65.7mpg and the Qashqai used a 1.6 litre engine which, according to manufacturer figures, returns 47.1mpg. While manufacturers' efficiency claims are widely disputed when applied to real world driving situations, they are useful for comparison purposes.

Track vs tarmac

In only one case was it cheaper to travel by rail than by car. Some journeys demonstrated a dramatic difference in cost. Notably the return journey from London to Newcastle was almost £160 higher by train than by car, while a return from London to Edinburgh was £149.77 cheaper by car and London to Leeds was £133.27 cheaper via tarmac and four wheels.

The only example in which the train was cheaper than the car was a return ticket between Glasgow and Carlisle, where rail travellers made a marginal saving of £1.11.

Time vs cost

The researchers also explored whether rail journeys are faster than driving by car, but found the cost vs time ratio was also pretty poor. Travelling from Leeds to Cardiff by car costs £71.67 more than taking the train but only takes an extra ten minutes.

London to Cardiff by rail costs an extra £66.76 but the journey is only 22 minutes shorter than it would be by car. A number of journeys proved to take longer by train than by car, such as from Glasgow to Inverness, Leeds, Newcastle, Norwich or York; Birmingham to Norwich; and Leeds to Carlisle or Sheffield. The average delay by rail in these cases was about 35 minutes compared with travelling by car, but the slower train journey cost on average £47 more than the car trip.

Finally, the stated costs were based upon single travellers, but groups save even more by travelling by car compared with buying multiple or group rail tickets.

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