• 20 journeys around Britain at peak and off-peak times show the car as cheaper every time
  • Some journeys cost over £200 more by rail than road at both peak and off-peak times

New research by PetrolPrices.com has revealed that it is cheaper to travel by road than by rail, with analysis showing that train fares are up to 13 times more expensive than driving.

The comparison of 20 journeys around Britain at peak and off-peak times showed that taking a car was cheaper every time – even though the cost of petrol has recently reached a six-month high. Some fares were over £200 more expensive than the same journey by road and this applied to across peak and off-peak fares.

Peak journeys ranged from three to thirteen times the price of driving, and off-peak journeys ranged from just under three times to nearly ten times the cost of driving.

As part of the research, fuel information site and app, PetrolPrices.com looked at the fuel cost for 20 journeys travelling in Britain’s best-selling cars, the Ford Fiesta (petrol) and the Volkswagen Golf (diesel). These figures were then compared with the cost of a peak return rail ticket, booked a day in advance, leaving at around 8am and returning at a similar time the following day.

Peak Travel: Rail versus road
Journey Cost of peak return ticket* Cost of unleaded petrol in the Fiesta Difference in price Rail more by
Luton to Cambridge £84.60 £6.40 £78.20 x13
Southampton to Bath £125.70 £11.79 £113.91 x10.5
London to Manchester £327 £33.97 £293.03 x9.5
Luton to Liverpool £289 £31.29 £257.71 x9
London to Birmingham £170 £19.87 £150.13 x8.5
York to Bath £344.70 £40.59 £304.11 x8.5
Oxford to Newcastle £326.40 £46.17 £280.23 x7
Leeds to Bath £257.60 £36.75 £220.85 x7
Oxford to Manchester £170.20 £27.88 £142.32 x6.1
Birmingham to Manchester £86.90 £14.83 £72.07 x6
Luton to Newcastle £202.30 £43.38 £158.92 x4.5
London to Edinburgh £101 £32.94 £68.06 x3
Petrol costs from PetrolPrices.com based on distance travelled and cost of fuel in the starting town or city. Calculations for a Ford Fiesta based on a 1litre engine and manufacturer’s claimed fuel economy of 65.7mpg and based on return journey. Rail prices quoted on the trainline.com, leaving around 8am on Weds May 8th and returning on Thursday May 9 at around 8am, with quotes obtained on Tuesday May 7.
Off Peak Travel: Rail versus road
Journey Cost of off-peak return ticket* Cost of unleaded petrol in the Fiesta Difference in price Rail more by
Luton to Cambridge £63.20 £6.40 £56.80 x9.9
Southampton to Bath £32.40 £11.79 £20.61 x2.7
London to Manchester £89.60 £33.79 £55.81 x2.7
Luton to Liverpool £75.70 £31.29 £44.41 x2.4
London to Birmingham £56.70 £19.87 £36.83 x2.85
York to Bath £124.75 £40.59 £84.16 x3
Oxford to Newcastle £153.10 £46.17 £106.93 x3.3
Leeds to Bath £261.60 £36.75 £224.85 x7.1
Oxford to Manchester £80.55 £27.88 £52.67 x2.9
Birmingham to Manchester £39.60 £14.83 £24.77 x2.7
Luton to Newcastle £125.30 £43.38 £81.92 x2.9
London to Edinburgh £238.00 £32.94 £205.06 x7.2
Petrol costs from PetrolPrices.com based on distance travelled and cost of fuel in the starting town or city. Calculations for a Ford Fiesta based on a 1litre engine and manufacturer’s claimed fuel economy of 65.7mpg and based on return journey. Rail prices quoted on the trainline.com, leaving around 9am on Sat May 18th and returning within a month, with quotes obtained on Wednesday May 15th.

The research showed that a return from Luton to Cambridge cost £84.60 at peak times, costs 13 times more than the £6.40 spend to drive the 40 miles between the two. It was also one of the highest off-peak comparisons costing nearly 10 times more that of the car journey. Anyone travelling by train on this route is forced to change in London because there is no direct link. A peak return from Luton to Newcastle, also via London, was £202.30, while the petrol cost for the round trip in a Ford Fiesta was around £43.50.

Says Kitty Bates of PetrolPrices.com: “With some train fares costing up to thirteen times the cost of driving, our research shows that despite the recent increases in the price of fuel, road is still a cheaper way to travel than rail. Savvy drivers can save even more by checking for the cheapest or best value station stations near to their home, enroute, or at their destination. This is because fuel prices can vary massively across the country; with up to a 30ppl difference between the cheapest station and the most expensive motorway station. We have calculated that PetrolPrices members save around £200 a year by comparing petrol stations near them, with many surprised to discover nearby petrol stations they never even knew existed.”

The news comes as nationally petrol prices increased by 5p a litre last month. This is the second highest price rise since 2000, with May 2018 being the highest, and it comes as retailers pass on wholesale price increases to customers after the cost of oil increased by more than $3 a barrel. The increase is expected to add around £3 to the cost of filling up an average family car, with the average price of tank now sitting at £70. However, as the research shows taking the car over the train still works out as a more cost-effective option, especially if there is more than one passenger travelling.

PetrolPrices.com is the UK’s leading fuel price information service with one million active members saving up to £200 on average per year. Over the last thirteen years it has helped over four million people save money on their fuel by comparing prices from 8,440 petrol stations daily, sending over five million monthly price alert emails to its members.

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For more information please contact Lyndsey Evans on lyndsey@collaborativefolks.com

Notes to editors: PetrolPrices can provide regular fuel best buy tables for media to publish in return for a credit / link.