Long Distance from South Wales — Does the Car Beat Everything Else? Part One

We’re travelling four hundred miles from our garage in South Wales. Should we go by car?

As you might expect at Welsh VW Specialists, we’re die-hard motorists. So our first instinct for taking a long distance journey is to zoom off in the car. But recently, we’ve been wondering. With congested roads and fuel costing about the same as plutonium, are there any better options? Could we even — brace yourself — take public transport?

So we did a little thought-experiment. Let’s say we want to travel 400 miles in the UK. How do the different travel options compare in terms of time, speed, convenience and pleasure?

In this two-part post, we’re going to find out.

Our Assumptions

Obviously, how the results turn out will depend on a bunch of assumptions. The first is where we would be travelling to. We’ve picked a destination that we think isn’t unrealistic for a lot of people  — a hotel in the middle of a UK city. It turns out that Glasgow is almost exactly 400 miles from our garage. So we’ll imagine we’re travelling there and stopping at the rather posh DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel, because…well, why not?

To keep things simple, we’ll keep it as a one way trip and assume that we’re only taking hand luggage.

Ready? Off we go…

Option No 1: Car

Ah, the car. The freedom of the open road beckons. We wanted to price the car journey using a comfortable but reasonably economical car. So from of our extensive fleet of vehicles, we’ve picked a VW Passat 1.5 TSI Evo Petrol.

Just hop in, set the SatNav and fill up down the road.

Travel time

Google Maps (we know it’s not perfect!) reckons on 6 hours 47 minutes. But as we haven’t got titanium bladders, we need to factor in breaks. Two short breaks is pushing it, but let’s go for that. At 20 minutes each, that adds 40 minutes to the journey time. Total travelling time: 7 hours, 27 minutes.

Cost

We reckon that on a long trip, the Passat is good for 45 mpg. For a 400 mile trip, we make that 8.89 gallons, or 40.4 litres. And as the average price of petrol is currently £1.29 a litre, that makes £52.19.

Option No 2: Train

How about the train as a long-distance option? One issue that we found immediately was the need to book early to avoid higher prices. Even looking a month in advance, most of the cheaper tickets had already sold. Most cost north of £150.

Travel time

From our start point at the garage, we’ll assume some kind soul has given us a lift to Cardiff Central. That’s a 6 mile trip that’s going to take around 20 minutes in typical traffic. We’ll arrive with 5 minutes to spare.

It’s 6 hrs 37 minutes on the train. Arriving in Glasgow, it’s a six minute walk to the hotel.

That makes a journey time of 7 hours, 8 minutes.

Cost

We’re trying to present the best case scenario for each travel type. So, whilst noting the more expensive tickets, we’ll go with the cheapest tickets we could find. These were £43.50.

Option No 3: Plane

For this option, we’re going to be shot through the sky in a metal cylinder at over 500 mph. Using exploding kerosene. Hang on to your hat!

Travel time

Again, we’re going to assume that the same kind soul is taking us to Cardiff airport. That’s 6.3 miles from the garage and takes about 18 minutes. The flight takes just 1 hour and 15 minutes. However, the gate closes 30 minutes before departure and we think it’s reasonable to allow 30 minutes to get through security. At the other end of the journey, it’s the Glasgow Airport Express Bus. This takes 25 minutes to get to the bus station, then it’s a 7 minute walk from there. We’ll allow 10 minutes to get through the airport.

That brings the total travel time to 3 hours, 5 minutes.

Cost

Incredibly, the flight costs just £32 with FlyBe and the airport bus is £8, for a total of £40.

Option No 4: Coach

Like many people, the only time we usually take a coach is for a day trip to some special event. But is it time to consider the coach for getting from A to B?

Travel time

Presumably, the coach goes via Belgium, because the quickest one we could find took 9 hrs 25m. With seven minutes walk from Buchanan bus station, this adds up to 9hrs, 31 minutes.

Cost

However, the good news is that even without booking weeks in advance, the coach costs a mere £15.30.

The Verdict

So, the results for cost and price are in. Does the car still win out over the alternatives? Not so fast (as we might say on the coach). There are still some other comparisons to do. Stay tuned for next time for a verdict. Sort of.

The Welsh VW Specialist blog covers a wide range of automotive topics, from the contentious to the light-hearted. We are an independent garage specialising (as the name suggests!) in all the VW group marques, including Audi, Volkswagen, Skoda and SEAT. Welsh VW Specialists provide services, repairs and MOTs, delivering a main dealer level of care at affordable prices. To book your vehicle in, or for any enquiries, get in touch.