Planes, trains or automobiles… what’s best for UK travel?

So what’s the best way to travel around the UK? Are you playing fast and loose with your wallet as you book your train ticket or reach for the petrol pump? Read on to find out the true route to domestic travel bliss…

From planes and trains to cars, we’ve travelled the UK to see just which mode of transport makes the most sense for you. Looking at everything from cost, to time and environmental impact, we’ve the essential information you need to plan your trip. We’ll also give a rough estimate of ‘free time’ during the trip where you can, read, relax or get on with work.

At-a-glance: Our trips revealed

See the facts and figures as we compare planes, trains and cars… Click through the four ‘trips’ below for the headline figures, then scroll down for the in-depth review of each trip including cost, time and how we decided the winners…

Click the graphic for each trip to be taken directly to the in-depth analysis.

     

As you can see, we’ve taken a whistle-stop tour of the UK in an attempt to reveal the most attractive way to travel. We started from addresses served by London and Bristol airports. We’ve included all travel costs and based journey times on congestion- and delay-free models. So, sit back and enjoy the trips…


Horsham, Sussex – Manchester

First up is a trip to Manchester, but which mode of transport will win?

First up is a trip to Manchester, but which mode of transport will win?
(image credit)

Travelling from: Cambridge Road, Horsham, RH13 5ED
Travelling to: Premier Inn, 112-114 Portland Street, Manchester M1 4WB

We’re off to Manchester for a three-day conference, leaving from an address in Horsham, Sussex. Here are the details for each mode of transport…

Plane:

Heading out from Horsham we drive to London Heathrow, where we use long-stay airport parking booked through APH.com and take a BA flight to Manchester International airport. We’re taking one bag. Arriving in Manchester, we take a train to Manchester Oxford Road station – a five-minute stroll from our accommodation at the centrally located Premier Inn hotel. We sleep through most of our conference then return to Horsham using the same modes of transport. Here are the details…

Manchester Airport

Manchester Airport (image credit)

Date of travel: Friday, June 6
Date of return: Sunday, June 8

Total cost: Horsham – Manchester (return)
Total cost of fuel to airport parking: £17.97
Long-stay airport parking: £24.95
Return air fare: £95.63
Return train fare from hotel to airport: £8.20
Carbon offset cost: £0.65*

Journey time: Horsham – Manchester (return)
Total drive time: 2hr 30m (including transfers to and from airport parking)
Check-in time: 3hrs (including maximum check-in time of 90 minutes)
Total Flight time: 2hr 05m
Total train time: 40m
Walk from station to hotel: 10m

Flying from Horsham Manchester:
Total cost: £147.40
Free time: 5hr 45m
Total time: 8hr 25m

Car

Heading out from Horsham we drive straight to the UK’s motorway network, starting with a short haul up the M23 before joining the M25 and heading past Heathrow to take the M40. As we the head of the M40, we swerve the congestion-infested cauldron of Birmingham and take the M6 Toll and then M6 on towards Manchester. We’re driving a 2.2-litre diesel-powered family saloon, with a litre of diesel costing 136.26 (source: AA April fuel price update). We’ve taken official safety advice on rest breaks while driving, while also adding a little time to cover fuelling and comfort breaks. The total time added for each trip is one hour, which – considering we’re travelling on two of the UK’s busiest motorways – could be considered a rather conservative estimate. Taking a car will also mean we need parking, which the hotel provides at a discounted rate of £13.50 per day. Anyway, let’s get going…

M60, Manchester (image credit)

M60, Manchester (image credit)

Date of travel: Friday, June 6
Date of return: Sunday, June 8

Total cost: Horsham – Manchester (return)
Total cost of fuel: £96.90
M6 Toll: £10.30
Hotel discounted parking: £40.50
Carbon offset cost: £0.93*

Journey time: Horsham – Manchester (return)
Total drive time: 7hr 50m
Total rest/comfort: 2hr

Driving from Horsham to Manchester revealed:
Total cost: £148.63
Free time: 2hr
Total time: 9hr 50m

Train

We’ve an early train, so we catch a taxi to Horsham station, where we catch the 9.20am train to London Victoria. Next we switch to the underground and head for Euston, where we join the 11.00am service to Manchester Piccadilly. Our last leg of the trip takes us out to Manchester Oxford Road station where we alight and enjoy the five-minute stroll to our hotel.

Piccadilly Station, Manchester ( image credit)

Piccadilly Station, Manchester ( image credit)

Date of travel: Friday, June 6
Date of return: Sunday, June 8

Total cost: Horsham – Manchester (return)
Train ticket: £91.40
Taxis: £10.00
Carbon offset cost: £0.00*

Journey time: Horsham – Manchester (return)
Total train time: 8hr 8m
Total taxi time: 15m
Walk to hotel: 10m

Train from Horsham to Manchester:
Total cost: £101.40
Free time: 7hr 49m
Total time: 8hr 33m

Verdict: Horsham, Sussex to Manchester

The train wins

Graphics: Liz Winstone

Price-wise, the train is well ahead of the competition in the race from London to Manchester, however, anyone living in a town that’s not served by a railway station will be hit by higher costs and longer journey times. Surprisingly, perhaps, flying takes second place in cost, but is equal to the train in journey time. Both train and flying offers far more time to relax than driving – which comes a poor third.


Horsham – Aberdeen

We take the plane, train and car to Aberdeen from Horsham in Sussex

We take the plane, train and car to Aberdeen from Horsham in Sussex
(image credit)

Travelling from: Cambridge Road, Horsham, RH13 5ED
Travelling to: Premier Inn, West North Street, Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire AB24 5AS

Once again we’re off to a conference, but this three-day jolly is taking place in Aberdeen – where we’ll be staying in the city centre Premier Inn. Here’s how the various journey options compare…

Plane

We leave home and drive the short distance to the Long-Stay South Terminal car park at Gatwick Airport, where we have booked our parking through APH.com. We then head to the easyJet check-in desks and get ready to board our flight to Aberdeen. Once in Aberdeen, we catch a handy bus straight to Aberdeen city centre and take a five-minute stroll to our central Premier Inn hotel.

Aberdeen Airport

Aberdeen Airport (image credit)

Date of travel: Friday, June 6
Date of return: Sunday, June 8

Total cost: Horsham – Aberdeen (return)
Total cost of fuel to airport parking: £5.86
Long-stay airport parking: £32.42
Return air fare: £122.98
Return bus fare from airport to city centre: £4.50
Carbon offset cost: £1.30*

Journey time: Horsham – Aberdeen (return)
Total drive time: 1hr (including transfers to and from airport parking)
Check-in time: 3hrs (including maximum check-in time of 90 minutes)
Total Flight time: 3hr 15m
Total bus time: 60m
Walk from station to hotel: 10m

Flying from Horsham to Aberdeen:
Total cost: £167.06
Free time: 6hr 15m
Total time: 7hr 25m

Car

We’re ready for a long drive as we head out of Horsham and on to the M23, where we start a mammoth motorway trek that will take in the M25, M40, M6, A74(M), M74 before we finish the trip on the A9 then A90. We’ll be taking at least 90 minutes in rest breaks during both legs of the journey, which is the absolute minimum we should consider to be safe. Parking is three minutes from the hotel and charges £7.00 per day.

Date of travel: Friday, June 6
Date of return: Sunday, June 8

Total cost: Horsham – Aberdeen (return)
Total cost of fuel: £221.44
M6 Toll: £10.30
Local parking: £21.00
Carbon offset cost: £4.12*

Journey time: Horsham – Aberdeen (return)
Total drive time: 17hr 28m
Total rest/comfort: 3hr

Driving from Horsham to Aberdeen:
Total cost: £256.86
Free time: 3hr
Total time: 20hr 28m

Train

The taxi picks us up from home in time to get us to Horsham station for the 8.09am train to London Victoria, where we switch to the tube and make our way to King Cross where join the direct service to Aberdeen. Finally, we stretch our legs with a five-minute walk to the hotel.

Aberdeen Railway Station

Aberdeen Railway Station (image credit)

Date of travel: Friday, June 6
Date of return: Sunday, June 8

Total cost: Horsham – Aberdeen (return)
Train ticket: £163.50
Taxis: £10.00
Carbon offset cost: £0.00*

Journey time: Horsham – Aberdeen (return)
Total train time: 17hr 53m
Total taxi time: 10m

Train from Horsham to Aberdeen:
Total cost: £173.50
Free time: 15hr 53m
Total time: 18hr 03m

Verdict: Horsham to Aberdeen

crop4

Graphics: Liz Winstone

It’s a resounding victory for air travel for our visit to Aberdeen. The total price – including airport parking through APH.com – was £10 cheaper than the train, but the plane journey’s total return travel time of 7h 25m destroyed the opposition with the next best contender coming in at a sloth-like total of just over 18 hours. Once again, for a single traveller, the car failed miserably with an eye-watering cost of £256.86 and an eternity of motorway driving that exceeded 20 hours.


Bristol – Glasgow

This time it's Bristol to Glasgow - but who'll win for time and cost?

This time it’s Bristol to Glasgow – but who’ll win for time and cost?
(image credit)

Travelling from: Machin Road, Bristol, Avon, BS10 7HQ
Travelling to: Premier Inn, West 77 Argyle Street, Glasgow, G2 8LL

Another week and another conference. This time we’re travelling from an address in Bristol to a three-day event in Glasgow city. Here’s how the various journey options compare for price, time and relaxation.

Plane

Leaving home we load our prepaid luggage allowance into the car and head to the long-stay car park at Bristol Airport that we booked through APH.com. The car park is onsite so there’s no need for a transfer bus. We check in and take the easyJet flight to Glasgow Airport where a bus drives us to the centrally located hotel.

Glasgow Airport

Glasgow Airport (image credit)

Date of travel: Friday, June 6
Date of return: Sunday, June 8

Total cost: Bristol – Glasgow (return)
Total cost of fuel to airport parking: £5.70
Long-stay airport parking: £29.99
Return air fare: £145.98
Return bus fare from airport to city centre: £ 8.50
Carbon offset cost: £1.06*

Journey time: Bristol – Glasgow (return)
Total drive time: 54m
Check-in time: 3hrs (including maximum check-in time of 90 minutes)
Total Flight time: 2hr 25m
Total bus time: 34m

Flying from Bristol to Glasgow:
Total cost: £191.23
Free time: 5hr 32m
Total time: 6hr 53m

Car

Heading out of Bristol we join the M5, before swapping to the M6 where we use the toll road to save time and avoid congestion around Birmingham. We then take the A74(M), M74 and M8 to Glasgow. On the way we stop for 90minutes to rest and eat, with the same on the return journey. We park at the hotel’s discounted car park, which will cost us £6 per day.

M8 in Glasgow

M8 in Glasgow (image credit)

Date of travel: Friday, June 6
Date of return: Sunday, June 8

Total cost: Bristol – Glasgow (return)
Total cost of fuel: £151.84
M6 Toll: £10.30
Local parking: £18.00
Carbon offset cost: £2.65*

Journey time: Bristol – Glasgow (return)
Total drive time: 11hr 12m
Total rest/comfort: 3hr

Driving from Bristol to Glasgow:
Total cost: £182.79
Free time: 3hr
Total time: 14hr 12m

Train

The taxi picks us up from home in time to get us to the local railway station, Sea Mills, where we join a service to Bristol Temple Meads. From here we travel to Manchester Piccadilly, where we catch a connection to Glasgow Central. Finally, it’s a 0.4-mile stroll to the hotel.

Glasgow Central Station

Glasgow Central Station (image credit)

Date of travel: Friday, June 6
Date of return: Sunday, June 8

Total cost: Bristol – Glasgow (return)
Train ticket: £168.50
Taxis: £10.00
Carbon offset cost: £0.00*

Journey time: Bristol – Glasgow (return)
Total train time: 14hr 14m
Total taxi time: 10m

Train from Bristol to Glasgow:
Total cost: £178.50
Free time: 14hr 24m
Total time: 14hr 24m

Verdict: Bristol to Glasgow

Glasgow

Graphics: Liz Winstone

Our trip from Bristol to Glasgow provides a fascinating set of results. The plane provides the most expensive option, but with a premium of just £12.76 over train’s winning fare of £178.50, the huge time-savings offered by flying make it impossible to deny that air travel makes the most efficient mode of transport for this trip. Paying £12.70 to save around 7.5 hours of travelling time is a small price to pay. Finally, despite a much-improved performance on time and cost, the car narrowly trails the train in third place.


Bristol – Newcastle

Our final contest takes us from Bristol to Newcastle... via plain, train and automobile

Our final contest takes us from Bristol to Newcastle… via plain, train and automobile
(image credit)

Travelling from: Machin Road, Bristol, Avon, BS10 7HQ
Travelling to: Premier Inn, Newbridge Street, Newcastle Upon Tyne, NE1 8BS

Our final conference takes place in the North East as this time we head to Newcastle. Here’s how the various journey options compare for price, time and relaxation.

Plane

Leaving home for the final conference we load our prepaid luggage allowance into the car and head to the long-stay car park at Bristol Airport booked through APH.com. The car park is an on-site facility so there’s no need for a transfer bus. We check in and take the easyJet flight to Newcastle Airport where we catch a bus to reach the centrally located hotel.

Newcastle Int. Airport

Newcastle Int. Airport (image credit)

Date of travel: Friday, June 6
Date of return: Sunday, June 8

Total cost: Bristol – Newcastle (return)
Total cost of fuel to airport parking: £5.70
Long-stay airport parking: £29.99
Return air fare: £124.98
Return bus fare from airport to city centre: £4.40
Carbon offset cost: £0.90*

Journey time: Bristol – Newcastle (return)
Total drive time: 54m
Check-in time: 3hr (including maximum check-in time of 90 minutes)
Total Flight time: 2hr 10m
Total bus time: 1h 14m

Flying from Bristol to Newcastle:
Total cost: £165.97
Free time: 6hr 23m
Total time: 7hr 17m

Car

Heading out of Bristol we join the M5, the M42, M1 and A1 towards Tyne and Wear. We take a 60-minute break on each leg of the trip and once we reach the hotel, we pay £8 a day in the adjoining car park.

A167 to Newcastle

Heading to Newcastle (image credit)

Date of travel: Friday, June 6
Date of return: Sunday, June 8

Total cost: Bristol – Newcastle (return)
Total cost of fuel: £120.52
Local parking: £24.00
Carbon offset cost: £2.10*

Journey time: Bristol – Newcastle (return)
Total drive time: 9hr 14m
Total rest/comfort: 2hr

Driving from Bristol to Newcastle:
Total cost: £146.62
Free time: 2hr
Total time: 11hr 14m

Train

The taxi picks us up from home in time to get us to the local railway station, Sea Mills, where we join a service to Bristol Temple Meads. From here it is straight to Newcastle city centre.

Newcastle Railway Station

Newcastle Railway Station (image credit)

Date of travel: Friday, June 6
Date of return: Sunday, June 8

Total cost: Bristol – Newcastle (return)
Train ticket: £155.50
Taxis: £10.00
Return bus fare from station to hotel (1 mile): £2.30
Carbon offset cost: £0.00*

Journey time: Bristol – Newcastle (return)
Total train time: 11hr 34m
Total taxi time: 10m
Total bus travel: 14m

Train from Bristol to Newcastle:
Total cost: £167.80
Free time: 11hr 58m
Total time: 11hr 58m

Verdict: Bristol to Newcastle

Newcastle

Graphics: Liz Winstone

Another interesting result, with the car taking pole position in the cost stakes for the first time in our experiment. Additionally, rail has tumbled to the bottom of the list, narrowly losing out to air travel by around £2.00.

However, flying can’t be beaten for time, with air travellers relaxing in Newcastle around four hours sooner than drivers and rail travellers. Would the £20 extra it costs over road travel make it worthwhile? Business travellers would certainly see a benefit from less time out of the office, so we have no alternative but to declare cars and planes as joint-winners in this leg of our cross-country transport battle.


Overall verdict

Surprisingly, perhaps, air travel performed extremely well in the majority of our tests, with only the London to Manchester trip providing a poor prospect for flyers.

Of course, results are sure to vary by address, type of car, or route driven, but our use of random starting points and trips to varied cities, proves that it’s certainly worth comparing all forms of transport when travelling – whereas many might instinctively dismiss air travel.

For single travellers, those on business trips, or students checking out universities, for example, it’s clear that flying could offer the perfect solution for cost- and time-effective travel. It’s also easy to help contribute money to relevant projects to off-set your carbon footprint, as we’ve shown.

If you’re planning a domestic trip, why not use the resources below to cost your trip and let us know the result in the comments box at the bottom of this page. We’d love to hear from you.

APH Compares Frequent Fly Schemes Across Major

Scope your own trip

Use these tools to work out how each mode of transport will cost you

Use these tools to work out how much each mode of transport will cost

If you’re heading off on a trip within the UK, why not find out how much it’ll cost by air, road or rail. Simply use the following resources to find costs and travel time.

Let us know of how the three modes of transport compare from where you are.

Fuel costs:
www.rac.co.uk/route-planner/mileage-calculator/

Airport parking:
www.aph.com

Mileage and journey times:
www.google.co.uk/maps

Flight prices:
www.cheapflights.co.uk/
Train fares and journey times:

www.thetrainline.com/

Bus and taxi fares:
www.google.co.uk

Calculate and offset your carbon footprint:
www.climatecare.org/home.aspx

*Carbon offset
How much to buy carbon offset tokens as calculated by www.climatecare.org. Money raised is given to projects that tackle climate change and stimulate social development.

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