Edinburgh to London, Train Vs Plane

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me123

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I travelled to London twice this month, once by plane and once by train. I thought it would be an interesting idea to compare the two modalities, which I’ve not seen done for a while. The journey is from my house in Livingston to King’s Cross Station. King’s Cross was chosen as the only common point to both journeys.

My first trip was to the London Monopoly Challenge meet, and I went down and back in a day. I chose to travel on British Airways, as it was the only way of doing a same day return on a Saturday. I flew into Gatwick, and out from Heathrow. My second trip was for a few nights, and also for leisure purposes - this time I traveled Virgin Trains East Coast, which would be my normal choice. I treated myself to First Class travel. As such, I am comparing the two “premium” products between Edinburgh and London. However, I have travelled on the cheaper tickets (Advance tickets on the railways, hand-luggage only fares on the flights).

Each leg of each journey will be scored out of 100, giving a mark out of 200 for each return trip. As some elements of the price are equally applicable to both the outward and return portions of the trip, where this is the case the costs have been equally divided between the two legs (for example, my £3.50 parking cost at Edinburgh Airport).

SCORING
Punctuality 10
Actual Time (End-End) 10
Pre-Departure Experience 10
Comfort 10
Service 10
Food and Drink 10
Arrival Experience 10
Carbon Emissions 10
Price 20
TOTAL 100

I had planned to provide photographs, but as you will find out that was not possible because of a mobile phone malfunction on the flight. In the spirit of fairness, neither segment will have photos. Unfortunately this means that I've just got a huge block of text for you to read without any pictures to break it up. Sorry about that.


(Anticipated) Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Are you crazy? 

A: Yes.

Q: Why choose King’s Cross as the end point? Does this not give the train an advantage?

A: King’s Cross Station was the only common point for my two journeys. As I have done this as an “incidental” trip report, I did not go out of my way to find another common point for timing purposes. It may give the train a slight advantage, but it is still a central point within London.

Q: BA is not a premium product, it’s economy class only.
A: British Airways offer the only “premium” domestic product in the skies at the moment, in that it offers a “full service” product. This is the best match for VTEC’s First Class, which also offers premium perks. I would suggest that standard class on VTEC would be more comparable to easyJet and Ryanair.

Q: Why did you not travel on the cheaper flights?
A: BA was the only way to do a same-day return to London on a Saturday, and I wanted to travel FC on VTEC.

Q: How have you scored subjective elements?
A: Based on my own experiences.

Q: How have you scored objective elements?

A: Where there is a measurable difference (e.g., carbon emissions, price, journey time), the best performing modality will score full points, with others scoring proportionately fewer. 1 point will be deducted for each 10 minutes of a delay (or proportions thereof).

Q: What costs have you counted? Have you excluded any costs? 

A: Ticket prices, connecting journey costs, parking, and all other essential costs that were required to make this trip. Non-essential costs, such as any food eaten at the airport/railway station, tips for taxi drivers, and so on were not counted. Delay repay was not factored in.

Q: Did your luggage vary between the two journeys?
A: Since I was traveling for a day trip on the first occasion, and for a few nights on the second, I used two different bags. However, the larger overnight bag I used on the train would comfortably be accepted as hand luggage on BA.

Q: Isn’t your scoring just arbitrary?

A: Yes, but it is the same for both products. I’ve weighted the scores equally for both, based on the factors that are important to me. You may score your experience differently if your priorities are different.

Q: Do you realise how environmentally unfriendly the plane is? How do you sleep at night? 

A: Yes, that’s why I’ve considered the environmental impact in my scoring. I sleep quite comfortably at night, and wouldn’t ordinarily fly between London and Central Scotland, but as there was no other option to make this trip, if I was going to London I had to fly.

Q: How did you calculate your carbon emissions?
A: I input my data into this website. CO2 emissions from my own car and from private taxis have not been included, as these are relatively negligible on the short journeys taken compared to the CO2 emissions from the train and plane.

FLIGHT

OUTWARD FLIGHT 


BA2931 (A320-200, G-MEDK)
Scheduled Time
Depart EDI 06:40
Arrive LGW 08:15

I actually left my house at 04:30 in the morning, and drove down the quiet M8 toward Edinburgh Airport. Barely another car was in sight, and the short journey took me to Secure Airparks.

I’m going to put in a plug here; if you’re ever flying from Edinburgh, I highly recommend Secure Airparks. Very cheap parking (this cost me just £3.50), within a short distance of the airport. Buses run at least every ten minutes (often more frequently). Very reliable service. You park your own car, so you can keep your keys. Everything just works smoothly, and doesn’t cost airport prices.

Anyway, I parked my car and caught the shuttle bus to the terminal. I had not released that this was the Easter Holiday, so the bus was unusually crush loaded, even at 04:50am! The journey to the airport was a short 5 minute ride though (two minutes more than usual because some eejit was trying to park their car in the bus stop :roll:) , so it wasn’t exactly a problem. Access to Edinburgh Airport from the bus stops is not a pleasant experience, as you are funnelled through a multi-story car park which serves as the airport’s drop-off/pick-up area. And it was busy. It is not a pleasant experience to negotiate a narrow pavement littered with a slalom of suitcases.

Online check-in means that you don’t have to stand in a check-in queue any more, and I had my boarding pass on my phone. So I did not need to join the busy queues on this occasion. I could walk straight to the security. At Edinburgh Airport, security is not a pleasant experience. It’s busy, unfriendly and needlessly complicated. As with all airport security, most passengers seem to disengage their brain and make the experience even more painful (on a previous trip, I genuinely heard a woman ask if water counted as a liquid). It has, however, become a much quicker experience. Nevertheless, whilst I was emptying my pockets, I was knocked by another passenger and dropped my phone. It would only be twenty minutes later that I would realise that the phone’s screen was broken, and I had to get a paper boarding pass issued at the gate (they were able to issue both outward and return passes).

Edinburgh Airport was busy, as I’ve already said, and the airport is still far too small for it’s increasing passenger volumes. It was simply not a nice experience to navigate around. There was limited seating, which limited even further by the general state of disrepair in the terminal. What room there was was further decreased by the bizarre need to queue up half an hour before boarding commenced - a side effect of budget airlines, although it’s completely unnecessary when you have allocated seating and a generous hand luggage allowance. Boarding was in order of frequent flier status, and then by row number (which once again made the pre-queueing pointless). It was relatively painless once underway, and complimentary quality newspapers (and the Daily Mail) were available in the airbridge. I picked up a Scotsman.

BA do have a lounge in Edinburgh, which is only open to invited passengers (those connecting onto premium products, and those with premium frequent flier status). You can also pay for lounge access, at approximately £24/head. I did not.

I was in Seat 6D. I prefer window seats, but one of the side effects of the hand-luggage only fare was that you cannot select your seats. Our flight was full, seemingly mostly with people connecting to Orlando for Easter. This meant lots of young children, who I have to say were impeccably well behaved for the short flight. Legroom was very generous for domestic flights, and I was able to stretch my legs in relative comfort. The seat was one of the most comfortable I’ve had on the domestic sector, and was more than adequate for a short flight. The crew were certainly polite and polished, but lacked any friendliness or sincerity. It felt very much like they were “going through the motions”. The safety demo was performed, and we took off on time heading South West and flying directly over the house I left just over two hours before. We turned left and levelled out.

The flight was smooth, and I was very comfortable throughout. Shortly after take-off, the breakfast service began. A choice of continental and Full English breakfasts were available, and I chose the latter. To give them credit, the small sausage was very tasty and far exceeded my expectations. However, the rest of the hot breakfast was dismal, with soggy potato cubes, tasteless scrambled eggs, limp bacon and baked beans. This was served with a stodgy, refrigerated roll, and concentrated orange juice. This was subsequently followed by a tar like substance which was passed off as “tea”. I know they’re very limited with what they can provide on a plane, but I wouldn’t rely on this for a full breakfast.

From what I could see out the window (and latterly found out on FlightRadar24), we flew down towards the Isle of Wight, turned left three times to make an approach from the East and landed at Gatwick slightly early at 08:01. A short taxi to the North Terminal, and we were off quickly.

I’d never been to Gatwick before, and I think it’s fair to say the domestic area at Gate 55 was showing its age. It felt a bit like the old Terminal 1 at Heathrow. Quite a long walk to arrivals, and the exit wasn’t entirely clearly signposted once you got to the carousel, but it was an easy walk. Not as easy was finding the shuttle, which I found was quite poorly signposted. The Shuttle itself was easy enough to negotiate, and I was soon in the station. Although I got through the airport relatively quickly, I had a long wait for the 08:40 Thameslink service to St Pancras, which was lightly loaded. The seats (which resembled ironing boards) were not particularly comfortable. I’d be tempted to say that they were sufficient for a short trip, but since I spent about the same amount of time on a much more comfortable plane, I wasn’t overly impressed. I arrived at St Pancras International at 09:34, and made my way over to King’s Cross for 09:40.

Total Cost
Air Fares £48.07*
Parking £ 1.75*
Rail Travel GTW-STP £ 4.00*
Diesel £ 0.87**
TOTAL £54.69

*Half total for round trip
** 11.2 miles at 60mpg

SCORING
Code:
Punctuality			On Time		10		  10
Actual Time (End-End)		5h10		 8.26		  10
Pre-Departure Experience			 2 		  10
Comfort						 6		  10
Service						 5		  10
Food and Drink					 3		  10 
Arrival Experience				 7		  10
Carbon Emissions		0.11tCO2 	 2.73		  10
Price				£54.69		20		  20
[B]TOTAL						63.99		 100[/B]


RETURN FLIGHT
BA1460 (B767-300ER, G-BNWA)
Scheduled Time
Depart LHR 21:50
Arrive EDI 23:10

I left from King’s Cross at 19:30, and entered (for about the dozenth time that day) the Underground network. After a day bashing around the East End, I may not have been relishing another hour on a tube train, but it is by far the cheapest way of getting to Heathrow (and actually often the quickest, depending on exactly where you’re going from and to). Anyway, I got to the Piccadilly Line platforms. Unusually, I had to let quite a few trains go by until I found one going to Heathrow Terminal 5. I got on board and managed to snag a seat for the long crawl out to the airport. Quite a long drag out to the airport of course, but reasonably comfortable when you have a seat. The journey took about an hour, depositing me at the bottom of Heathrow Terminal 5.

Again, I did not need to check in. My mobile boarding pass was downloaded the day before, although as before could no longer be displayed as above. The paper pass issued at Edinburgh allowed me to pass straight into security. Security was massive in Terminal 5 (understandably so, given the huge number of flights this terminal processes every day), but the North security checkpoint had only one scanner operating. It was quiet, but it still took me about 10-15 minutes to get through. Nevertheless, I had plenty of time to have a short wander around the very airy terminal building (which is very similar to Terminal 2, suggesting that the design has been very successful) before I made my way to a quiet Gate A8, ultimately just a few minutes away from the security checkpoint. For those with frequent flier perks, again the BA lounges are available, but mere mortals like myself are not invited. Private lounges are also operated, with an entry fee of £29.99 per head. With only half an hour to spare, spending £1/minute for a slightly more comfy chair seemed like poor value for money.

Not many people waiting to board the aircraft, which is one of BAs remaining 767s on the short haul sector, and instead of the usual boarding order everyone was called forward at once (although they just sat there looking blank, and required a second call…). A different selection of quality newspapers was available for collection in the airbridge; this time I chose an “i”. I was first on board and courteously welcomed and directed to seat 23A, overlooking the massive wing on the wide body jet.

Understandably, on a large jet with a load factor of less than 10% (I reckon), balancing the aircraft becomes very important. As such, although there were a mere handful of people onboard, we were all bunched up together and I even had someone sat next to me. As I understand this, it really didn’t bother me. If I had problems sitting next to strangers on public transport, I would have driven. However, the middle aged “lady” that would be sitting next to me kicked up a fuss as soon as she realised that she wouldn’t have two seats to herself and launched into a verbal tirade at the cabin crew: “Do you think we want to sit next to each other?”. Although she never addressed me, I have to say I found it hard not to take this personally, and with hindsight perhaps I should have said something as her behaviour really soured my experience of the flight. Nevertheless, she was told she would have to sit there for take off and landing. She grudgingly sat beside me for half an hour, and as soon as the seatbelt sign went off, she disappeared never to return.

The 767 was very comfortable again, perhaps slightly more so than the A320 that took me down in the morning. Great legroom for a domestic flight, and plenty of shoulder and elbow room (the woman sitting next to me for taxi and takeoff made a point of nudging me as much as possible, but that was her behaviour and nothing to do with BA). Of note, the front rows of this plane had business class converter - type seating, in which no-one was sat (I suspect it is used for longer European flights with a business class provision).

Heathrow is of course a busy airport, but given the time of night we pushed back and made our way quickly to runway 09R for takeoff (safety demo on the overhead video screens, which were not used for anything else), and almost immediately entered the clouds and turned due North. We flew almost straight up to Edinburgh, and had a smooth flight. Shortly after the seatbelt signs went off, a complimentary service of drinks and snacks was available. I had a coke (as I was driving :( ) and small pack of crisps, which were perfectly adequate for the hour or so we spent in the sky. After breakfast, this is all that BA offer domestic fliers (although having had their breakfast earlier in the day, I was quite relieved that there would be further attempts at hot food!).

As we descended back to terra firma, the captain announced that he would be performing an “automatic landing”, and specifically requested that all electronic devices be turned off (and not just to flight safe mode). An unusual request with which I was unable to comply (with my broken phone unable to display a screen, but still functioning in flight safe mode), although I don’t think anyone else bothered to be honest. My travelling companion decided not to return, thankfully, and no-one bothered her to move back to her designated seat. After a smooth flight, I realised that fog had descended upon the Lothian region (hence the reason for the “automatic landing”), and the landing was very bumpy. Even when we touched down (with an almighty thud), I could barely see the runway. A quick taxi to the gate followed. For the first time today, we did not get an airbridge (EDI airport having precious few stands with an airbridge connection) and had to wait a few minutes for the steps to arrive. Arriving at Stand 17 meant a relatively long walk back through the terminal building to get to Domestic arrivals, from where I walked straight to the bus and was quickly back at my car.

A short, foggy drive later, I was comfortably back at home and in my bed, arriving home at 23:45 (and after a long day, falling asleep just a few minutes later!).


Total Cost
Air Fares £48.07*
Parking £ 1.75*
Rail Travel GTW-STP £ 4.00*
Diesel £ 0.87**
TOTAL £54.69

*Half total for round trip
** 11.2 miles at 60mpg

SCORING
Code:
Punctuality			On Time		10		  10
Actual Time (End-End)		4h15		10		  10
Pre-Departure Experience			 7 		  10
Comfort						 7		  10
Service						 6		  10
Food and Drink					 5		  10 
Arrival Experience				 9		  10
Carbon Emissions		0.10tCO2 	 3		  10
Price				£54.69		20		  20
[B]TOTAL						77		 100[/B]

Whilst BA offer the closest thing to a “premium” service in the skies for travel between the two capital cities in the 21st century, it is reasonable to say that it’s not a first class service. You are served food and drink, but it’s not particularly exciting or memorable. Whilst all the staff were certainly professional and courteous, I did feel that the service (even on the lightly loaded return flight) was somewhat distant and lacked any personal touch. However, BA do offer a competent product. Both my flights were punctual, the seats were above my expectations for a domestic flight, the hand baggage allowance is generous, and the fares are often not as expensive as one might think. The fares I found were very reasonable, in fact, and competitive with easyJet and Ryanair.

TRAIN

OUTWARD TRAIN
1E06 (91117)
Scheduled Time
Depart EDB 08:00
Arrive KGX 12:41

I awoke at 5am to prepare for my journey, a slightly more civilised start time this morning. I took my time getting ready before heading towards Livingston’s North station. I left at 06:10am and walked to my nearby taxi rank. I withdrew some cash en route, and had a short journey in the minivan towards North station. Rather than leave my car at North station for a few days, I felt the taxi was a more sensible option in spite of the cost penalty, not least because I’d be hoping for a few drinks on the return journey! I arrived in plenty of time for the 06:34 Scotrail service to Edinburgh (2M40), which this morning was headed by 334007 leading one of its unidentified sister units. The train was not busy, even with the Edinburgh to Glasgow works, and I’m not sure the service warranted the six carriages (although undoubtedly its return working getting into Glasgow at the height of the rush hour would!).

I had allowed myself extra time at Waverley station, just in case of any cancellations. Everything going smoothly thus far, I had just over an hour to kill. One of the benefits of First Class on Virgin Trains East Coast is the ability to enjoy lounge access, and I spent my time in the lounge making use of the complimentary wi-fi. The lounge has been refurbished, and I have to say is looking very smart. I had a comfortable chair overlooking Platform 4, a spot to charge my phone. I was able to enjoy a couple of cups of tea. Unfortunately it was Yorkshire Tea, so I took the unusual step of choosing a nice Earl Gray instead (I know I’ll inspire the wrath of many a Yorkshireman for saying so, but I really don’t like Yorkshire Tea, although it’s probably because I don’t take milk). I had never visited the lounge in the morning, so was quite disappointed to see that there was no difference in the offering available to later in the day (aside from a jug of orange juice). Maybe some breakfast pastries would be more appropriate than having crisps and biscuits at 7am? I suppose it’s a bit immaterial when you’re going to be getting the onboard service in little more than an hour. Complimentary copies of The Times were also available.

I left the lounge shortly after I saw my train pull into the station from Craigentinny Depot at 07:40. 91117 would be doing the honours this morning. I finished my tea and wandered over towards Platform 19, more than slightly pleased that unlike most people around me I was not going to work this morning! The service was quite lightly loaded on leaving Edinburgh, in spite of it being a Monday morning. My single seat, facing backwards with a view out to the East, was very comfortable with excellent leg room available and plenty of space to work or simply watch the beautiful and dramatic scenery of Scotland slowly transform to the more placid scenery in the South. Wi-fi is complimentary in First Class, and I was actually quite impressed with the speed available. I was downloading PDF documents to read, and even though some of them were image heavy I’d say the download speeds were comparable to what I have at home. A vast improvement since I’ve last used onboard wifi.

The onboard catering crew were initially Scottish, and promptly served a choice of tea or coffee. I then had a tasty warm croissant with jam, and was served my Full English shortly after Dunbar. It certainly wasn’t the best such breakfast I’ve had, featuring a lacklustre selection of sausage, two rashers of bacon, egg flan, mushrooms, grilled mushroom and potato fritters. However, it was tasty and a sufficient size. As the service continued, I enjoyed a total of four cups of tea and two orange juices, although I was slightly disappointed that no other food was offered - a midmorning biscuit wouldn’t have gone amiss! Otherwise, I was more than satisfied with the food offered. The same couldn’t be said for a lady nearby, who vociferously complained that she couldn’t get a G&T. At 9:30am. :roll: The Scottish crew were very friendly and stayed with us until York, where I suspect it was a London crew that took over (judging by accents alone) - still very professional and courteous, but the friendly touch just wasn’t there.

This was one of East Coast’s slightly slower trains, calling at Alnmouth, Newcastle, Durham, Darlington, York, Doncaster, Newark and Peterborough en route to The Big Smoke. The train gradually became busier as we proceeded South, although never overcrowded. I noticed that quite a few people did not hold seat reservations which I found surprising - this implies that they’re on walk-up first class tickets! The train lost a few minutes on its way South, but made up the time easily and arrived promptly into King’s Cross at 12:40 after a comfortable and productive journey. Although this wasn’t my final destination this morning (I proceeded on the tube to my hotel in Ealing), this is where I’ve stopped the clock in order to make both my journeys equal.

Total Cost
Rail Fares £49.15
Taxi £ 6.90
TOTAL £56.05

SCORING
Code:
Punctuality			On Time		10		  10
Actual Time (End-End)		6h60		 6.54		  10
Pre-Departure Experience			 7 		  10
Comfort						 8		  10
Service						 8		  10
Food and Drink					 7		  10 
Arrival Experience				 7		  10
Carbon Emissions		0.03tCO2 	 10		  10
Price				£56.05		19.51		  20
[B]TOTAL						83.05		 100[/B]

RETURN TRAIN
1S26 (43296 and unidentified sister power car)
Scheduled Time
Depart KGX 17:00
Arrive EDB 21:20

I returned to King’s Cross at 16:00 in preparation for my trip back North on the 17:00 service. Although the East Coast lounge is allegedly subject to a £5 charge for those of us on Advance tickets, I decided to investigate on the back of reports on this forum that the charge was not levied. I was not charged on this occasion, and entered the moderately busy, modern looking lounge, where I spent 40 minutes browsing RailUK Forums with a complimentary Diet Coke and cookies. A much more relaxing (and much warmer!) environment than the bustling concourse at the start of rush hour. I made my way to the platform at 16:45, walking along the bridge to Platform 1 where 43296 would provide the rear power car for my trip back North.

Boarding was already well underway when I shower up, and I was pleased to see that I’d be sampling one of the refurbished HST carriages. I was sat in M13, another single seat with a view to the East, this time facing forward. Of course, the legroom was unchanged, but I have to say that the new seats (which I had my reservations about) are more comfortable IMO.

Prior to departure I was offered a cold drink, and had a second diet coke. Have never been offered a drink prior to departure before - a very good welcome on board! This was followed by another drinks round prior to reaching Finsbury Park. No drought tonight! The carriage was (I think) 100% full on leaving - probably not surprising in the evening rush from London. After a swift run out of The Cross, we were slightly delayed by emergency engineering works at Hadley Wood, so it was not long before we slowed down and moved onto the slow lines at New Barnet. We moved back onto the fasts at Potter’s Bar, but being stuck behind a Peterborough local until Hitchin left us 13 down. In the meantime, dinner orders were taken and I was treated to some lovely sweet & salty popcorn.

It wasn’t long until the dinner was served. The Guinea Fowl portion was modest, but sufficient. Roasted beetroot is an odd choice of vegetable, but I thought it was all very tasty. Would have preferred a drinks run beforehand, though. This was followed by hot and cold drinks together (for some reason), so I had a cup of tea and a glass of red wine. Orders for desserts were taken too, and shortly afterwards I had the warm apple tart with custard. The custard may have been pre-made, but I have to say that this was delicious, very warming and very tasty. Followed, to finish the meal, by a Lindt Lindor chocolate just before we passed through Doncaster (I think - the scenery wasn’t really holding my attention!). A lovely dinner all in all, served by a friendly and professional crew. We arrived into York 24 minutes down, and sadly signalling problems North of York delayed us further on the platform. Sadly, we ended up sitting in York for quite some time, leaving 63 down.

Thankfully, we were kept fed and watered as we waited in York, with another run of drinks and snacks. The remainder of the trip passed uneventfully, with another couple of drinks runs and more hot food for those joining later in the trip. All in all, I had a can of coke, two glasses of wine and a hot drink. In addition to the meal, there was some popcorn and biscuits. The wifi proved a bit less reliable on the return trip, and at one point prompted me to pay(!). It was generally a but slower and more prone to drop outs - more like what I’m used to from on-train wifi. Not being in a rush, I was relatively pleased to see my train expected to arrive 68 minutes late, meaning that the journey, food and drink was delivered essentially free of charge!

Thankfully we weren’t so late that I’d be stranded in Edinburgh, ultimately arriving 72 down. We arrived on Platform 2, which unfortunately meant a long hike for those of us in First Class, but I still had plenty of time to get to the West side of the station where a pair of unidentified 334s were ready to take me back to Livingston on the 22:49 service to Garscadden. This train was thankfully up to time, and I got into Livingston at 23:12 - exactly one hour later than I had anticipated. The final leg of my journey would be a taxi, coming in at £5, which I had already booked and was waiting for me. It was 23:20 exactly when I walked through my front door and collapsed into bed. Just enough time to finish this report and submit my delay repay before snoozing off.

Total Cost
Rail Fares £57.75
Taxi £ 5.00
TOTAL £62.75

SCORING
Code:
Punctuality			-60 mins	 4		  10
Actual Time (End-End)		7h20		 5.81		  10
Pre-Departure Experience			 8 		  10
Comfort						 9		  10
Service						 7		  10
Food and Drink					 9		  10 
Arrival Experience				 5		  10
Carbon Emissions		0.03tCO2 	 10		  10
Price				£62.75		17.43		  20
[B]TOTAL						75.24		 100[/B]

East Coast provide a fast rail service between the two capitals, but as my return journey proved, rail travel can be subject to delays en route. Even though we left bang on time (punctual to the second), two incidents led to a significant delay. For premium travellers, this can be off putting. However, it is far more pleasant to sit in a first class rail carriage than in an airport lounge, and the onboard service continued in York station despite the standstill. In terms of quality of service, the at-seat service on East Coast (subject to much moaning on here) is still very good. Good service, good quality of food, and I do not think anyone would have starved.

PLANE TOTAL = 140.99
TRAIN TOTAL = 158.29

The train wins! At least, based on my scoring system.

COMPARISON

In terms of punctuality and time taken, the plane wins hands down. Whilst two return trips do not fairly represent either the entire rail industry or the entire airline industry, I think it’s fair to say that rail struggled to compete with the plane in terms of end-to-end journey times for my journeys. Of course, the experience may be very different if you picked a different origin and destination - a city centre to city centre journey would favour the train more. But even allowing for security and transfers, flying had a considerable time advantage that must surely attract passengers.

In terms of cost, there was not very much in it. Less than £10 difference between the cheapest and the most expensive leg. Again, there were more ancillary costs with air than with rail - and again this would be completely different with different origin and terminating points. Of note, I do hold a 16-25 railcard, and if you are not a railcard holder the rail fares would be more expensive than I’ve quoted here.

It will come as no surprise that the green credentials of the plane are far inferior to those of the railways - I expect that I’ve actually underestimated the CO2 emissions from my flight, particularly for the extremely empty 767.

Whilst I have billed BA as the “premium” product in the skies, it is very clear that it falls far short of what can be offered on the trains. Of course, BA only sell “domestic” class on these flights, so it’s not being actively marketed as a premium product. But it is the only full service product between Scotland and London, and in comparison to the railways it is lacking. The food and drinks service was far superior on the trains. The seating was far superior on the trains. The service was far superior on the trains. You get the idea - the railway offers a far better product if you’re looking for premium travel with all the perks. Furthermore, when I was on the train I was able to work, study, check up on this forum and so on. I had little opportunity to do so on either of my flights. I may have spent longer on trains than I would have on a flight, but that is six to seven potentially productive hours versus four to five hours with limited opportunity to work.

Whilst I have pronounced the train the winner based on my arbitrary scoring system, I think it’s very true that both modes of transport still have a role to play. The train has many strengths as I’ve already celebrated, but considering end-end journey times, the plane can still be considerably quicker. Of course, one of the reasons I’m doing this trip report is that I had no option but to take the plane for a day return - the planes offered me an option that simply was not available on the rails. I can imagine that it’s the same for some people flying to London for a day trip to work. The plane will offer them superior arrival and departure times for normal office hours, and for this group in particular less time traveling

So I’m going to go ahead and call it a tie. The plane wins on speed, the train wins on service. I really don’t think I could blame you for picking either one. Thanks for reading (if you’re still with me at this point). Criticism, comments and questions are most welcome.
 
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causton

Established Member
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What a very thorough report and one on which I have trouble finding any faults with! You came to the conclusion I would have expected - planes have their uses and so do trains. Looking forward to my Plane Relief tickets now though and glad I booked First Class :D

Anyone not aware yet - Plane Relief is £15 standard class or £30 first class Advance singles (non-refundable, nor changeable) valid on seemingly any train - I got the 1700 off the Cross so £30 for an evening meal is not bad!

https://www.virgintrainseastcoast.com/planerelief

(The flight bit does not limit when you can book the journey as far as I am aware)
 

fishquinn

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That report must have taken you hours! It was very good and very thorough! I'm really looking forward to travelling VTEC in 1st for Inverness in June now!
 

EssexGonzo

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Very thorough and very interesting. Thanks for taking the time to post.

It's your scoring system and your decision, so the outcome is all yours, but........:D:lol:

Giving the same weighting to, say, food and drink and elapsed time on a 1-hour domestic flight is not what I'd have done. On a 4-hour train journey, maybe. With the plane for this journey, you spend more time in airports than you do in the air so you'd really need to include the airport catering available too.

Personally, rating short-haul in-flight food is irrelevant. I also don't place any value on "free" food in 1st class. It's overrated and not why I pay for 1st.

For me, time is the biggie for this journey (which I do a lot, 99% of the time by plane). End to end time is important and as I live 25 minutes from City Airport the plane wins hands down every time. But If I had the time I'd take the train every time. Much more relaxing and great views on the way.

But an excellent read!
 

Bletchleyite

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I in most cases rate usable time over elapsed time - for MKC to EDB, say, you can have a solid 5 hour block (if you take the slow train via Birmingham) to do something useful or indeed watch a film, or if preferred shorten it slightly and have 2 blocks of about 2 and a bit hours with a change. Flying via Luton is much quicker, but you're never in one place for anything more than about an hour.

Similarly when commuting I will take a slower train to enhance the usefulness/enjoyableness of the journey by ensuring a seat. I'm by no means the only person who does this.
 

EssexGonzo

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That's a good point. Living in Shenfield, I'll be on the end of Crossrail. Whilst day-to-day that is of no use to me whatsoever (fast trains to LST and SRA are not Crossrail) it will give us an easy journey to Heathrow. Longer than the fast train plus a change but as you say, a seat on a relatively comfortable single train all the way there.
 

me123

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That report must have taken you hours!

Particularly for the trains, I wrote it as I went along. So it took some time, but it was all in pieces so it didn't take too long.
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
Giving the same weighting to, say, food and drink and elapsed time on a 1-hour domestic flight is not what I'd have done. On a 4-hour train journey, maybe. With the plane for this journey, you spend more time in airports than you do in the air so you'd really need to include the airport catering available too.

Personally, rating short-haul in-flight food is irrelevant. I also don't place any value on "free" food in 1st class. It's overrated and not why I pay for 1st.

I can understand where you're coming from with this. It is true that there are opportunities to purchase food and drink elsewhere.

The decision I made was to consider what was included with the fare. VTEC did offer lounge access to FC ticket holders, but BA do not (unless you are a frequent flier, or connecting onto a premium travel class). Had I been charged for lounge entry at KGX (as I should have been according to the website), I would not have factored this in. I could not have eaten in the airports unless I paid extra, either for lounge access or for a breakfast at one of the eateries. There were, of course, plenty of opportunities in both journeys to buy food at the airports and railway stations. I did actually buy drinks on both my journeys, but I've not included them as they are "optional extras". I was trying to draw a direct comparison, and this seemed the fairest way to do so. To add in the tea I bought at Edinburgh Airport and the coke I bought at Waverley station would be compounding factors, as this varied between each journey. I have considered the relative merits of each in the score - BA's bar service scored relatively highly as a result.

It is true that you have more time on the train to enjoy a meal and ongoing service than you do on a short flight. However, BA and VTEC both offer full cooked breakfasts to their passengers - I think it is reasonable to compare the two. Historically, BA did offer evening meals on its flights but this has been curtailed to a bar service - I would agree that this is fully appropriate for the journey being made.

I do consider FC to be the full package - I know a lot of people would disagree with this, but when I'm paying for FC I expect to get everything on offer. That includes the larger seat, quieter surroundings and more space to work that you get in standard class. The food and drink IMO is also important - it was quite a big draw for me as I'd be traveling at meal times, so I'd have put a bit more weight on these than I would have done at other times (for a 2pm departure, the food would be less important).

Of course, my rating system is my own, and I've rated what is important to me. Your opinion on the same service may well have been different. But thanks for the feedback. :)
 
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30907

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Interesting that, ignoring the carbon emissions, the scores are very similar. However, by scoring actual journey time AND delay you've doubly penalised VTEC, though it's only a couple of percent.
 

Bald Rick

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A good study, and a great write up, it could be from Which? magazine.

The most surprising part of this (for me) is how poor Easyjet's LON-EDI service is on a Saturday. Presumably this is because there is more profitable holiday traffic to Europe on Saturdays.
 

Bletchleyite

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I do consider FC to be the full package - I know a lot of people would disagree with this, but when I'm paying for FC I expect to get everything on offer.

Certainly I expect to be provided with everything that is part of the package which was proposed when I chose to purchase - I have no time for the "complimentaries" line, it is all part of the price. But I would prefer the price was lower and allowed me to choose if I wanted to purchase food etc or not. Though, because of the very low cost of provision and civilised nature of it, I probably would keep free tea/coffee/water, with other items purchased, and served on proper plates, as required.
 

edwin_m

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I in most cases rate usable time over elapsed time - for MKC to EDB, say, you can have a solid 5 hour block (if you take the slow train via Birmingham) to do something useful or indeed watch a film, or if preferred shorten it slightly and have 2 blocks of about 2 and a bit hours with a change. Flying via Luton is much quicker, but you're never in one place for anything more than about an hour.

This is my approach too. To take a recent example a meeting in Glasgow is five to six hours door to door, but I can use the laptop for most of that. By flying I could save about two hours (assuming one of the few flights in the day is at a convenient time) but would do virtually no useful work on the way. So I try to explain to project managers that even if the fare is a bit more and I book more time to their project that day, it is time I would otherwise have to spend doing the work on a different day and they are winning overall!
 

30907

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A good study, and a great write up, it could be from Which? magazine.

The most surprising part of this (for me) is how poor Easyjet's LON-EDI service is on a Saturday. Presumably this is because there is more profitable holiday traffic to Europe on Saturdays.

Indeed, or simply relatively low demand. And it's not only Easyjet and their ilk. Unless you are flying to a major hub (Frankfurt with LH, Schiphol with KLM...) or on a holiday route (ski or sun) there's rarely any flights between Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon. Certainly true for NW England to Germany.
 

Techniquest

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A thoroughly interesting read all the way through! It took a while but the detail was very welcome. If you read my trip reports regularly, you'll already know I like to include detail.

An interesting insight into domestic BA flight service, something I've always wondered about. I've never flown with BA but I would love to one day. I was going to do so on a trip to Vienna this November, but at £233 for two people (I know that doesn't sound like much, but for two people on tight budgets it is!) it is difficult to justify. Mind you, the alternative are Eurowings from Stansted for £219 for two, or Easyjet with their ridiculously annoying huge charges for booking extra legroom seats (£13.99 per flight, per person is too much in my eyes) from Gatwick for £215-ish. I'm having a serious think, and apologies for going rather off-topic, I am going to start my own thread on these things soon.

As for whether plane or train would win for me, I'd have to aim for a mix of both. Each has their pros and each has their cons, which will vary hugely depending on your needs on a trip. Which may well change again if you were making the trip on different days etc!
 

Techniquest

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Not when we were looking it wasn't, front row was what we looked at and they wanted £13.99, Speedy Boarding was included but we don't care about that!
 

Bletchleyite

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Front row is in heavy demand and is indeed more expensive, but exit row will give you more than adequate additional legroom unless you are heading towards a 40 inch inside leg.


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me123

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However, by scoring actual journey time AND delay you've doubly penalised VTEC, though it's only a couple of percent.

Quite deliberate - time is quite important to me, and both the delay and overall journey time factors represent that.

The most surprising part of this (for me) is how poor Easyjet's LON-EDI service is on a Saturday. Presumably this is because there is more profitable holiday traffic to Europe on Saturdays.

It's also low demand. As you have read, I flew home on a 767 with a load factor that I would say was less than 10%, and that was the only way I could go home on a Saturday night! Clearly, there is very little demand for traveling at that time. On the other hand, Saturday is one of the biggest days for holiday travel, and easyJet can capitalise on that. Makes good business sense.

An interesting insight into domestic BA flight service, something I've always wondered about. I've never flown with BA but I would love to one day. I was going to do so on a trip to Vienna this November, but at £233 for two people (I know that doesn't sound like much, but for two people on tight budgets it is!) it is difficult to justify. Mind you, the alternative are Eurowings from Stansted for £219 for two, or Easyjet with their ridiculously annoying huge charges for booking extra legroom seats (£13.99 per flight, per person is too much in my eyes) from Gatwick for £215-ish. I'm having a serious think, and apologies for going rather off-topic, I am going to start my own thread on these things soon.

easyJet's extra legroom is IMO worthwhile. The priority boarding can be useful if you've got hand luggage - you can get it into the overhead locker before the scrum board. You also get a second smaller piece of hand luggage, and the extra legroom is welcome. It's actually quite competitively priced for such a product - Virgin Atlantic would charge upwards of £100 for a similar seat on a transatlantic crossing by comparison (and that's without the added benefits).

The fares for Vienna really are much of a muchness. If price is your big concern, you could argue that the costs of getting to the airport are going to be the deciding factor.
 

Techniquest

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Fair point on the legroom and so forth, I think I've got a winner deal with BA going on but I need to conference with my mate James before I can book it. Flight and hotel for the money they're asking, and it's a decent looking place, is a bargain. Just a pain it's so late into the evening (1935) back into Gatwick, no way we'd get back to Hereford via Evesham that night.

Anyway, I've gone well off-topic now! However it's fair to say I've been inspired to try BA now, although I think they codeshare on LGW-VIE
 

Bald Rick

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Re extra leg room - I'm 6'4", most of which is legs, and can cope with regular easyjet seats. A beer helps, although for the price you pay on board, it's almost as cheap to get the exit row seats.

Re BA. Second only to Ryanair in my 'refuse to fly with' book.
 

Kristofferson

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I was considering trying air travel for one of my jaunts this year as I've only been on short haul international flights (and hated it, but am willing to give it another chance), and the other half has never been on a plane.

Having read your report, flying sounds as god awful as I remember it being and I'll stick to the train! I must express disbelief at the ridiculous liquid restrictions and security theatre applying to domestic flights...


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GWRjake

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What a very thorough report and one on which I have trouble finding any faults with! You came to the conclusion I would have expected - planes have their uses and so do trains. Looking forward to my Plane Relief tickets now though and glad I booked First Class :D

Anyone not aware yet - Plane Relief is £15 standard class or £30 first class Advance singles (non-refundable, nor changeable) valid on seemingly any train - I got the 1700 off the Cross so £30 for an evening meal is not bad!

https://www.virgintrainseastcoast.com/planerelief

(The flight bit does not limit when you can book the journey as far as I am aware)

This has really taken my fancy, however do you need evidence of actually having booked a flight or what exactly? Thanks! :)
 

route:oxford

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This has really taken my fancy, however do you need evidence of actually having booked a flight or what exactly? Thanks! :)

I didn't.

It's very easy for them to check though. Just need to look-up amadeus with the flight reservation number and surname.
 
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