In Part One of this post, we compared four different options for a 400 mile trip from our garage: car, train, plane and coach. This time, we’ll finish our comparison and see if it’s possible to come to an overall verdict.
The Story so Far
So far, we’ve pitted the car against three other transport options, travelling from our garage to Glasgow. We used two criteria: speed and cost. Bearing our hefty set of assumptions in mind (see Part One), this is how things panned out:
To us, that looks a pretty convincing argument for air travel. But before we leap to any conclusions, there are another couple of factors to consider.
Convenience and Pleasure
If we only chose the fastest and cheapest methods of travel, the cruise ship industry would go out of business tomorrow. There’s also the matter of convenience and travelling pleasure, so we should look at those too. Of course, here’s where our comparison gets completely subjective. One person’s Travel Hell is no big deal for another. So, get a huge pinch of salt ready — the ratings below are just our opinion.
Travelling by car has some obvious drawbacks: there’s the stress of traffic, tailbacks and having to concentrate for hours at a stretch. Plus, if you have things to do, it’s a massive dead space in the day. On the other hand, you have complete flexibility — you can take a break anywhere you fancy, and if you want to leave at 2am to avoid the traffic, there’s nothing stopping you. Except maybe going to bed at 7pm the night before. In addition, the car seals you within your own comfortable little bubble, where you can listen to your rubbish music at full volume and sneer at other motorists for their terrible driving. Overall, we’ll rate it 3/5.
We think the train scores high for convenience and pleasure. First, it’s dead easy: you’re not required to do anything other than show your ticket occasionally. You can also gaze out of the window at trees, read a book or pretend to work on your international business portfolio. The only downside is Loud Bloke on his mobile phone and tinny music from other people’s headphones. Nevertheless, 4/5.
In terms of convenience and pleasure, we think it’s mainly bad news. There’s an awful lot of queuing or being herded around like a forlorn sheep. Security is a hassle. And being crammed into a comparatively small space with other people isn’t our idea of fun. However, being in the air is still pretty amazing. On balance, we’ll give air travel 1.5/5.
Coach travel is also a mixed picture. Like planes and trains, you have time to do other things. Although it’s as cramped as a plane, the lack of queuing or security makes life easier. However, the real problem with long-distance coach travel is that you can’t really get up and move around — and that can make a long coach journey a killer. For that reason, it’s again 1.5/5.
So…is the car the best option for a 400 mile trip?
Ah, you saw it coming. Sorry, but the short answer is that there’s no clear winner. It depends on what’s important to you. Starting close to a major transport hub like we are, it breaks down like this:
- If you’re strapped for cash, there’s only one option. The coach is around a third of the price of the others.
- If you want an easy life, pick the train. It’s as fast and as cheap as driving, without the hassle. But book early or you’ll pay through the nose.
- If you’re in a hurry, choose air travel. Even when you factor in the waiting, it’s twice as quick as the nearest rival.
- If you love planning your own itinerary, and find other people annoying, it’s the car for you.
Of course, we should have factored in the environmental cost of the four options, but that’s an article in itself.
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