Alan's Blog



Let the Train take the Strain?


Until last weekend I hadn't used our rail system for more years than I can remember. However, I was under the misguided impression that it might be a good thing to do when we all went to meet Grace upon her return to the UK following her trip overseas.

I bought an off-peak return ticket from our local station to the airport. JP used his discount railcard and Kanga travelled free. Grace had already bought her off-peak return ticket before she left to go abroad.

Off we went.

The journey to the airport passed in reasonable comfort, excluding the fact that we were seated near to the toilet (the only place where Kanga had sufficient space to move around adequately) which almost everyone on the train seemed to need to use and afterwards left the door open.

The return journey was much less comfortable as the train was crammed almost to overflowing, people standing where they could find space and adding to the crowded entertainment was a group of party revellers who could only communicate by shouting at full volume to the person standing next to them – and breaking into song every now and again. Peaceful our journey was not. One could scarcely think above the racket. One of the reasons for the overcrowding was that 2 out of 3 trains had been cancelled! Travelling to your destination to arrive at a specific time is unlikely when two-thirds of the trains don't even run.

The scheduled journey time for this service which stops at every possible station én-route was 1 hour and 26 minutes. There were no changes of train to make. The return journey therefore would have taken 2 hours and 52 minutes (172 mins).

The cost of my off-peak only ticket alone was £18.70 plus the compulsory booking fee of £0.79 – A total of 19.49. Grace had paid £25.90 plus the booking fee (£0.79) for her ticket making a total of £26.69. Our son's ticket was about 60% less if I remember correctly, being generous, let's say £10 give or take a bit. So, the total cost for us all would have been in the region of £56.

The journey from our home to the airport is 51 miles each way and under normal driving conditions should take about 53 minutes according to Google Maps. The total trip length being 102 miles, which should take about 1 hour and 46 minutes (106 mins). At the price of £1.79 per litre of diesel that I paid on the day of the trip, the fuel cost (at 37 mpg) would have been £22.43. The only additional expense would have been a fairly minimal car-parking charge for the short time I would have been parked at the airport. This would have been more than offset by the cost of getting from our home to/from the railway station had we used a taxi.

So, for a journey that took 1 hour and 6 minutes (about 62%) longer than a car journey we paid about 2.5 times more (an extra £33.57) and suffered all sorts of discomfort and noise to an almost tortuous extent.

Cost-wise, this makes for a sad comparison with some other countries where for example, in Luxembourg you can travel free on all public transport or in Germany where you can now buy a ticket for 9 Euros that will give you a full month of travel (in June, July or August) anywhere in the country on all services except the Intercity classes of IC, ICE and EuroCity – but you can still get to where you want to go on other services without difficulty.

As usual, the UK is lagging behind in every respect when it comes to public transport.
This trip was a useful reminder as to why I stopped using UK trains all those many years ago. I won't be using them again, that's for sure. Let the car take the strain – it's quicker and cheaper.





Extra by Train (%)

Time (mins)




Cost (approx.)






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