In our pursuit of sustainable living, many of us are exploring train travel as a viable option for travelling between destinations. As we strive to adopt more eco-friendly habits, we are encouraged to leave our cars at home and embrace sustainable modes of transportation, including walking, cycling, or utilising public transport.
The logic behind this choice is quite sound. While cars offer convenience, they contribute significantly to pollution levels, which can have adverse effects on individuals with Asthma or respiratory problems. Moreover, their operational expenses can be quite high, and the unpleasant experience of being stuck in a traffic jam on a sweltering summer day hardly adds to the enjoyment.
When embarking on longer journeys, opting for train travel appears logical; however, in my experience, the cost of train tickets, forces me to reconsider this choice as a viable option.
The cost of train travel in the UK is eye-wateringly expensive. For many, it isn’t a cost effective option, regardless of the environmental benefits.
When I Was Commuter
Having commuted from Kent to Central London for nearly six years. The moment arrived for me to retire my season ticket for train travel as I ventured into self-employment. Throughout my time as a commuter, the expense of my season ticket consistently escalated each year. Culminating in a staggering £6,776 for my final annual pass. This ticket not only covered my travel on the High Speed service, with a duration of 40 minutes each way, but also included a travel card for the underground network.
Although I loved my job, the annual increases were not something I was able to sustain in the following years. The cost of train travel was one of the factors of why I became self-employed. Today’s cost (Aug 2023) for the same ticket would be £8,552.
For many commuters, public transport is the method of travel people opt for, despite the astronomical cost. We have to get to our workplaces to earn money.
Train travel for Leisure
A great way to save money for train tickets is by booking far in advance. Although, this is great in principal, it reality, life doesn’t always work that way.
I moved to Leicester at the end of 2022. I was looking at train tickets for myself, my partner and my 8-year-old daughter to travel to London for the day. For three of us to travel costs £134.85 for an open return and £150.15 to return on the day. That’s before you even think about grabbing lunch, venue entrance fees. It’s cheaper for us to drive from Leicester to Borehamwood, Barnet or even Cockfosters and travel on the underground.
With costs like this, what incentive is there to encourage people to use public transport?
Train Travel in Europe
Germany recently relaunched (yes! relaunched) their scheme where travellers pay €49 per month for unlimited train travel. The point of this? to promote sustainable travel!
In Spain, a train ticket from Valencia to Alicante, a 3-hour journey, is just €9 (£7.80).
France have banned internal flights where rail journeys are available and less than two and a half hours.
What’s the solution
Sadly, the rail in the UK was privatised a long while ago. Everyone’s financial situation is unique and, ultimately, you have to do what is affordable for you. If you’re in a position to book far in advance, you can really make a saving on your train travel.
There are many railcard discounts available – network rail card, disabled persons railcard. If you’r eligible for these railcards, they can go some way to making train travel a little cheaper.
If the UK want to encourage us to use public transport, the cost of train travel needs to be a lot cheaper than it currently is. The networks needs to be improved so people who live in small towns and villages are able to access them.