Car travel being cheaper than train travel?

Vespa

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At what point do you decide that cars is cheaper than trains on long distance routes ?

With rising fares and convenience there must be a point where you find it easier and cheaper from one point to the other even with parking working out cheaper per mile.
 
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birchesgreen

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Never as i hate driving for more than about half an hour and especially to somewhere i don't know. If the rail fare is too expensive i just decide to go somewhere else.
 

Ianno87

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I'd only generally choose driving long distance if I'm going somewhere remote from a transport connection.

If aim going to a city centre (say), then it's almost always train that wins for the convenience. Usually booked in Advance for a better fare.
 

Ken H

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It usually is. Especially if I travel with the missus. I am afraid public transport is only considered when part of the day out, not as a means of getting from a to b. But 1 person going to Leeds getting a plus bus ticket is worth a shout.

Sad as I used the train a lot up to about 10 yrs ago.
 

yorkie

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Most people seem to consider all the costs associated with cars as zero except petrol, and for their time spent driving to be considered as zero cost and therefore the value of being able to either be productive or relax on a rail journey is deemed to have a value of zero.

While such attitudes persist, the car will be deemed the winner by most people, most of the time.
 

Ianno87

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Most people seem to consider all the costs associated with cars as zero except petrol, and for their time spent driving to be considered as zero cost and therefore the value of being able to either be productive or relax on a rail journey is deemed to have a value of zero.

While such attitudes persist, the car will be deemed the winner by most people, most of the time.

This is what trains really need to push - the added value of stuff you can't do when driving.

For example, I wouldn't generally dream of driving for work purposes - the working time on the train is too valuable, and driving is just wasted time.

Similarly, I can interact with my kids on a leisure journey on the train, which I can't do in the car.


Even my petrol head brother had come to realise this pre-pandemic.
 

Ken H

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Most people seem to consider all the costs associated with cars as zero except petrol, and for their time spent driving to be considered as zero cost and therefore the value of being able to either be productive or relax on a rail journey is deemed to have a value of zero.

While such attitudes persist, the car will be deemed the winner by most people, most of the time.
Hit the nail on the head there. But if I take the train to carlisle, how much would those fixed costs reduce. Tax and insurance. No. Servicing? 160 miles done, service interval 10,000 miles. Depreciation? My car is a 10 plate with 170,000 on the clock. Tyres. Well a bit. But even if I were to factor those in it is still way under the rail fare.
And going to Carlisle would be a jolly so productive time isn't relevant to me.


I got the real jolt when I was charged over £7 for Giggleswick - Wennington. I have become more wary of the cost of the train since then.
 

Harpers Tate

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Most people seem to consider all the costs associated with cars as zero except petrol, and for their time spent driving to be considered as zero cost and therefore the value of being able to either be productive or relax on a rail journey is deemed to have a value of zero.

While such attitudes persist, the car will be deemed the winner by most people, most of the time.
Indeed, and therein lies the problem.

To understand that very problem we first have to acknowledge that - whether it be through absolute genuine necessity or simply perceived "necessity" (eg driven by lifestyle choices, or the belief that little Jimmy wouldn't be safe walking to school, or whatever) - a large proportion of us think that we "need" daily, easy, access to a car. And it will be genuinely the case in a proportion: those whose daily commute isn't possible otherwise; those who carry equipment; and so on. And all points in between this and simple convenience. Indeed, even for those who do find train travel more appealing (eg for work while onboard) a good proportion of them will still need to find their way to a (possibly quite distant) train station - most probably by car.

Once we acknowledge this, then it becomes obvious that the car will exist; it will be paid for (or being paid for); it will be taxed and insured; it will depreciate; and it will be serviced and tested - whether or not is is used for any one specific trip. With those things already accounted for regardless, the "cost" of making any one such trip is therefore limited to marginal costs - fuel (most immediately) plus wear on tyres and other components, and (only in more extreme cases) increased depreciation and more frequent servicing. Thus most or all of these are effectively sunk costs.

Second - in many cases (and I'm thinking perhaps more specifically about leisure travel here) any public transport offering is likely to be less attractive (other than to "enthusiasts"). It leaves when it wants to leave, not when the user wants to leave; it may involve protracted waits en route, may well not be direct, will in almost all circumstances take much longer, may well be uncomfortable and/or cramped, and so on.

And third - one does not pay for fuel per use. This is a psychologcal effect only. Set out with a full tank and this trip is free at the point of use. There is a disconnect between paying for the trip and making the trip itself.

So the question becomes - given the above - who EVER chooses to pay a premium for an inferior product? The cost premium isn't that large, on average, for a solo traveller. It may even be negative. But once you become a couple then (notwithstanding railcards, duo offers and so on) the premium increases hugely.

From here to Scarborough (a leisure trip I might make) is around 100 miles each way. It takes about 2 hours by car - and, yes, I do know alternate routes to avoid congestion at busy times, and I do know where I can park for free). 5 gallons at £6 = £30 fuel cost. Double that to allow for other marginal costs (probably generous) = £60. Go when I want; come back when I want; no pre-booking. Change my mind if the weather looks bad and go somewhere else instead; and so on. Best flexible train fare (without discount) just shy of £40 with a trip time well in excess of 3 hours plus any wait time (for the departure schedule at each end), plus 1 hour walking (or another £8 for 4x bus fares) to get to and from the station at this end. As long as I come back the same day. Or £50 if I don't. Double those fares for a couple and there is no longer any contest on price.

From here to Mablethorpe (ditto); forget it. No rail service. Which brings me right back around to already having use of a car.
 

EssexGonzo

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I think it’s implied above but one of the biggest drivers of the car over train decision is the fact that many people already have a car for the journeys that the train will NEVER cover. Local journeys, camping holidays, large loads, shopping etc.

On that basis, even when the cost is marginal or positive in favour of the train (in isolation), the decision is often made to “sweat the asset” i.e. I’ve sunk a load of cost into the car, I might as well get my moneys worth.

Having said that, very regular journeys for me and my wife are Essex to Leeds and/or Bolton. The train can’t get close on cost or time, even when I factor in ancillary car costs and breaks of journey.
 

steamybrian

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It depends whether the journey is quicker/cheaper than by car. Some while ago had to make a 70 mile each way journey on a Sunday morning. In advance I found it there was planned rail engineering works on the route which with several changes would have taken me over 3 and half hours to get there even with planned connections. I made the journey by car in less than one and half hours with clear traffic free roads.
I agree with above that on holidays (particularly self- catering) there are luggage, large loads, shopping, etc as well as the location which may be a long way from the nearest train or bus route.
 

Dai Corner

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I enjoy driving as much as I enjoy train travel, so my decision is as much about whether the journey will be more interesting by one mode than the other as the (perceived) cost.
 

pdq

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I do figure in the added value of train travel - it's relaxing and part of the 'day out' etc. I also consider parking, the mileage, fuel and wear/tear on my car, but not the other costs like insurance, tax and the actual vehicle cost, as I have to pay those whatever. Nevertheless, the biggest barrier to train travel is definitely cost, even factoring in the 'experience'.

A few weeks ago we decided we'd head to Scarborough 'tomorrow' as the weather looked good. The cost by train for a family of four was £130. We could have bought a FF railcard which would have brought the total to the £100 mark including the railcard purchase. Door to door journey time was just over 2hrs, so pretty comparable to the car.

Car costs - 150 miles round trip. Car would be heading for 50mpg on this kind of journey so say a conservative 15l at £1.30 comes to £20 for fuel plus a fiver or so for parking (but parking at the station would be £4). We are guaranteed to sit together, in our private, comfortable, quiet box where the A/C is more or less guaranteed to work. You can see that the thought of making the journey by train didn't last long.

I don't know how the railway can square this circle. What's a reasonable premium to pay simply for not having to drive for 4 hours, whilst being on a potentially busy train? I'd pay some extra but certainly not £80.
 
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Bletchleyite

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I think it’s implied above but one of the biggest drivers of the car over train decision is the fact that many people already have a car for the journeys that the train will NEVER cover. Local journeys, camping holidays, large loads, shopping etc.

On that basis, even when the cost is marginal or positive in favour of the train (in isolation), the decision is often made to “sweat the asset” i.e. I’ve sunk a load of cost into the car, I might as well get my moneys worth.

Or just because on an average mileage most costs of car use are roughly time-based, not mileage-based. For instance tyres will often, if not driven aggressively, need replacing through being perished rather than being worn to the legal limit. And servicing mileage intervals are often 15 or 20K these days, which means the "one year or" kicks in for most drivers.

Thus, you effectively pay a "membership fee" for the "owning a car club", and journeys are based on fuel cost (and a tiny amount of brake wear) on top of that. A club which provides great convenience and lifestyle advantage.

Using the 45p/mile figure doesn't make any sense for personal journeys and never will, because owning a car is mostly not just about making certain journeys cheaper on that basis, it's about convenience and freedom.
 

Bletchleyite

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I enjoy driving as much as I enjoy train travel, so my decision is as much about whether the journey will be more interesting by one mode than the other as the (perceived) cost.

This is also a good point. I personally don't enjoy motorway miles, but I probably do enjoy a scenic country road more than I do sitting on Thameslink.
 

gordonthemoron

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Most people seem to consider all the costs associated with cars as zero except petrol, and for their time spent driving to be considered as zero cost and therefore the value of being able to either be productive or relax on a rail journey is deemed to have a value of zero.

While such attitudes persist, the car will be deemed the winner by most people, most of the time.
exactly, I want to arrive at my destination relaxed, not knackered from several hours driving/stuck in traffic jams. Plus I can't see in the dark
 

Ianno87

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A lot of the time train is even less relaxing due to e.g. severe overcrowding.

Personal taste. I'd rather stand on a train** and be moving than be stuck in a traffic jam / dealing with other motorists "standards" of driving.

**Not that it happens regularly anyway for anything other than relatively short journeys.
 

Ianno87

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People here are skilled at getting good value. "Normal" passengers are often ripped off due to the absence of that skill.

I look around the railway at weekends, full of returning leisure travellers, who are reasonably price-conscious. That doesn't appear to be people who are "ripped off" to me.
 

Bletchleyite

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I look around the railway at weekends, full of returning leisure travellers, who are reasonably price-conscious. That doesn't appear to be people who are "ripped off" to me.

I've personally noticed that the demographic of the returning passengers is very interesting - it is predominantly younger people (20s) and much older people. People who may well not even own cars, and are eligible for Railcards.

That might tell you that the prices are about a third too high, possibly?
 

Dr Day

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For me the choice is generally more about the relative door-to-door journey time and relative stress than cost per se. On the rail side the journey to and from the station at either end are often the most significant factor - can I actually even get to my final destination? Is there a bus or will I need a taxi or have to ask to be picked up? Is there a footpath? Will I get wet walking to the station, will there be a space in the station car park, will the bus turn up on time? This is on top of the risks around trains not showing up, being late, missing connections, not getting a seat.

Degree of flexibility, weather, type or road, whether travelling alone or not and how far in advance trip is being made are also factors, independent of the cost benefit of booking Advance fares for longer distance trips.

As @Bald Rick has mentioned previously - many rail staff even with free or heavily discounted train travel still make an awful lot of trips by car
 

Bald Rick

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As ever, cost is but one of the three main factors in choosing how to travel:

cost
time
quality (convenience / comfort).

everyone has their own opinion of the relative importance of each. Some people are happy to pay peanuts to sit on a coach for 6 Hours when the train takes 3 ; some will happily pay first class fares to be more comfortable and have more space.

e.g. as an extreme example. Visiting the in laws with my family - the cost of motoring would have to be an awful lot more than it is now for me to even consider taking the train, even though all of us would travel first class for free. The convenience of the car for timing and the amount of stuff we take, the car is quicker, we need a car at the other end, etc. means it will win until diesel is £5 a litre. Even then we’d probably just go less often.

As an aside, I rather enjoy motorway driving, it just needs to be at the right time - typically after 8pm any day except Friday, and early Sunday mornings).
 

cactustwirly

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Most people seem to consider all the costs associated with cars as zero except petrol, and for their time spent driving to be considered as zero cost and therefore the value of being able to either be productive or relax on a rail journey is deemed to have a value of zero.

While such attitudes persist, the car will be deemed the winner by most people, most of the time.

But if you're driving for a leisure trip, then the time is surely free? Tbh I do prefer driving as you are occupied for the journey, long train journeys can be quite boring.

Plus the associated costs are very marginal if you already have a car. My car is diesel and very efficient so I'm not spending a huge amount on fuel which is the biggest cost.

There is also the convenience, a lot of journeys to the north from the South East require multiple changes in London which adds time and is very inconvenient. The car is direct and you can avoid London.
 

Ianno87

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Whereas you'd pay to use the Tube between London terminals?

Yes. Because I don't have to deal with middle lane hoggers, white van men and tailgaters on the tube. Oh, and I'm less likely to die too.
 

cactustwirly

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Yes. Because I don't have to deal with middle lane hoggers, white van men and tailgaters on the tube. Oh, and I'm less likely to die too.
But then you'd have to stress about making connections, and squeeze yourself and luggage onto a packed sweaty tube
 

Ken H

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Another thing about travelling by car is the ability to carry stuff. People seem to want to travel with everything including the kitchen sink. Older people struggle to carry stuff, lug it onto luggage stacks etc. With a car you just chuck it all in the back.
On the train, you have to pack carefully, make careful decisions about kids favourite toys. and cant take bulky items.
 

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