Oliver Smith writes:
It is more expensive to travel around Britain by rail than it is to fly on about 50 per cent of popular routes, research by Telegraph Travel has revealed.The study comes after it was announced this week that train fares are to rise by between five and 10 per cent, and would appear to undermine both the ongoing efforts of the Government to discourage Britons from taking domestic flights, and VisitEngland’s recent advertising campaign urging more Britons to consider a holiday at home this summer.
We compared the cheapest available return fare when travelling by plane, train, coach and car, for those booking at a week’s notice (for travel on August 20, returning on August 27) and for those booking in advance (for travel on October 15, returning on October 22), on various routes around Britain. Departures were limited to sociable hours, and - where possible - for travel on direct services. Travelling by coach proved to be the cheapest mode of transport on 47 of the 50 journeys selected, with only advance rail fares to Great Yarmouth from London, Manchester and Edinburgh proving more cost effective. On the 24 journeys that could be tackled by both train and plane, air travel was found to be cheaper on 13 occasions; in some instances travelling on the rail network was found to be almost twice as expensive as flying.
For example, the best available rail fare from London to Edinburgh and back, found using the “Best Fare Finder” on the National Rail’s website, was £121.40, whether booked at short notice or in advance. The same journey could be made with easyJet for £111 or £63, respectively, while a National Express coach ticket would have cost a little over £50. Despite soaring fuel prices, travelling by car proved cheaper than taking the train on 16 of the 50 journeys. Anyone wishing to make a return journey from London to Newcastle by car, a 570-mile round trip according the AA’s online route planner, can expect to fork out around £98 for petrol.
This was calculated using the fuel economy of Britain’s best-selling family car, the Ford Focus – around 35 miles to the gallon, according to the motoring website HonestJohn.co.uk – and the average cost of unleaded petrol. The same journey by train, when booked a week in advance, cost £117. These figures don’t take into account car purchase, depreciation and servicing, however, nor do they make allowance for the fact that several travellers can share the cost of fuel on a car journey. A spokesman for The Campaign for Better Transport said the latest rises in rail costs were “worrying”. According to its research, some fares for equivalent journeys on the Continent are 10 times cheaper than in Britain. He added that while average rail fares in Britain rose by 17 per cent in real terms between 1997 to 2010, air fares fell by 35 per cent.
A spokesperson for the Association of Train Operating Companies, said: “Train companies have doubled the number of cheap Advance tickets over the last few years – almost a million are now sold every week. “Improved journey times, more frequent services, good value deals and recognition of its green credentials all mean that rail travel is more popular now than at any time since the 1920s.”