Just as rail fares are about to go up (again), a survey by respected consumer group Which shows that the rail service is the 2nd least trusted consumer industry, second only to car dealers.
When you need to get from point A to point B as cheaply as possible, the first thing many people who don’t own a car would think of is public transport. For short journeys, a ride on a bus or tram is fairly convenient way to get around without too much outlay. They’re slow, a little pricey and often too crowded at peak times, but for a trip of a few miles, they do the job. For longer journeys though, train travel would probably be the next choice. Until you start to look at the ticket prices!
In a pre-Beeching world, (before the 1960’s) the national rail network did have it’s faults, but it was fairly comprehensive, fairly reliable and fairly affordable, today, however, it’s none of those things. No matter which City or major town you’d like to travel between, chances are that you can still make the trip by train, but for many, it’s just not a viable option for several reasons.
So just what is it that makes people hire a car rather than travel by train?
Travel by Train is Too Expensive
The whole point of mass transit networks is that they allow a very large number of people to move in the same direction quickly and efficiently while sharing the cost and by doing so pay less individually. For many rail trips however, the price is so insanely high that pretty much any other form of transport would be cheaper. If there ever was a case for the rail network’s failure then this is it.
Many of us would have seen in the news last year, an enterprising student, who needed to get from Newcastle to London worked out that flying to London via Menorca in Spain was cheaper than getting a direct train, working out at roughly a third of the price! He spent some of his savings on a budget hire car to make the best use of the 12 hours in between flights while there and still have more cash to spare than if he’d have travelled by rail. Similarly, another story, this time from 2016, tells of another youngster who flew from Sheffield to Essex via Berlin because the flights cost less than the direct rail fare.
Earlier this year, we read the tale of a man from London who found that buying a second-hand car (including road tax, insurance and fuel) to take a day trip to Bristol was a little cheaper than buying a train ticket to make the same journey. Given that he could have potentially got a partial refund on his road tax afterwards and sold the car on, it seems this option was incredible value compared to rail travel.
Train Travel is Notoriously Unreliable
For those who rely on train travel to get to work, the current fiasco with schedule changes is the latest in an endless litany of frustration and failure by rail operators. Anyone whose caught a train will no doubt at some poit have experienced the frustration of having their train delayed, or even not show up at all. For single trips this is annoying enough, but when there are connecting journeys, one broken link can break the whole chain.
It seems that the weather, no matter what the weather is can cause problems for trains. ‘Leaves on the line’ was a headline we’ll surely all remember, snow and ice build up in winter and buckled rails in summer, all being potential problems for trains. Add to that the seemingly never ending strikes and threats of strikes from rail staff and it’s sometimes a surprise that trains turn up at all. Of course, many don’t.
Compared to the famously reliable train service in Japan, where a delay of more than five minutes results in a ‘delay certificate’ being issued by the railway company and in 2012 an average delay of just over 30 seconds was recorded and a delay of over an hour might make the news, it’s clear that our railways have a long way to go in terms of reliability.
Trains are often overcrowded
For those who use trains at rush hour, getting on and off can give them a newfound empathy with the common sardine. Rolling stock is often overcrowded, sometimes so much so that there’s no room for additional commuters, leading to people being left on the platform, forced to catch the next train.
Overcrowded trains are bad enough at the best of times, but during the summer, when people are jammed together shoulder to shoulder, even nose to armpit, an overcrowded train carriage can be a distinctly unpleasant place to be, even for short journeys.
Train Fares are confusing
A major review was announced last year to counter the bewildering array of train fares on offer, but for the most part, especially so for those unaccustomed to train travel, the structure and absurdities of the train fare ticketing system make it very difficult to be sure that they’ve bought the best-priced tickets for their journeys.
It is, of course, possible to buy train tickets online in advance and it has to be said that there can be very worthwhile saving to be had from doing so, but even then, there are a dizzying array of options which can take a great deal of time to sift through, compare and understand.
Compare Train Travel to Car Hire
Train travel should be fast, it should be efficient, it should be affordable and it should be reliable, but it isn’t and until improvements are made, virtually any other way of getting around will be a better option. Next time you’re considering a train journey in between cities, we invite you instead to compare the time spent travelling, the time spent waiting, the anxiety of not knowing whether your train will turn up on time (or at all) and naturally the cost of the train fare, with the cost of hiring a car from Priory.
Of course, you should consider the train ticket booking process with our wonderfully personable service, the cost of hiring a car (plus the cost of the fuel) versus the cost of the train ticket. You could even try factoring in the potential delays caused by any congestion en route, with the potential delays on the equivalent train routes, but even with all this considered, we’re confident that a fair evaluation between hiring a car and travelling by train will show car hire as being by far the superior way to get to where you need to go.
Do your comparisons, do your sums, then get in touch with Priory to make your booking, we’re sure you’ll never look back!