How hard/expensive is it to avoid a UK flight?

I’m going to Cambridge (from St Andrews) next weekend. My plan is to head down early Saturday 11th January, returning early evening on 13th January. Got to be back at work on the Tuesday, see. So what are my travel options:

Driving between the two cities (which are some 640km apart) is not an option. I’m not desperately keen on driving the 8 hours needed on my own and I want to be able to read my book. It would also be pretty carbon heavy. According to Defra’s emissions factors calculations, based on a medium sized car, I would emit around 256kg of CO2.

Flying might be a sensible option given that Cambridge is near Stansed, and St Andrews is near Edinburgh. It’s an average flight time of 1 hour 20 mins, although this masks the often lengthy time it takes to get to and from – and through – the airport at either end.

But flying – especially on a path to green (my first month!) – is definitely out of the equation – it most definitely has the heaviest carbon footprint. According to Defra’s figures, for a return 511km flight, it would cost 306kg CO2. Ouch!

(P.s EasyJet promise to offset the carbon from the fuel used in every single flight – more about this probably a later blog)

How about the cost comparison?

According to easyJet, the return air fare is £104.98, taxes £26, hold items £44.98 (for a 15 kg bag) making a total of £175.46. But then I’d need to add on the train journeys to and from the airports – £27.40 on the Scottish side and £16.40 on the English side. Total £219.26. Ouch again.

Next I explore the train option. I look up LNER’s train tickets and find that a return to Cambridge on the 11th and 13th would set me back £155.85. Better.

According to LNER, who have their own carbon footprint calculator, the train would be 66.56kg of CO2. Better still.

The journey would involve 2 changes and take me about 6.5 hours. I’d need a long book.

A friend of mine told me about TrainSplit (other websites available). It is a rather clever website that gets you the cheapest ticket by splitting long journeys into constituent parts, often making the overall cost lower. As they explain on their website, an off-peak ticket between Birmingham and Leeds costs £61.10 but you can get Birmingham to Derby and then Derby to Sheffield, then Sheffield to Leeds, all for £40.10. Even taking into account the 10% cut they take off the amount you save.

I looked it up for this journey. The total was £139.41. It involves 2 changes and, like the LNER option, takes about 6.5 hours. Not bad.

This is the cheapest option, but is it the best? With TrainSplit, I get loads of tickets, even though I’m staying on the same train. It also means that because my tickets are split, I might be in trouble if I miss a connection, and I might not be eligible to compensation if bad weather hits and there are delays.

Now this is a lot of tickets

But as I’ve never done it before, and I have limited time and energy to do all the research, I’ve gone with the cheapest option and bought my tickets with TrainSplit. It’s the cheapest and the greenest, so big brownie points for me!

I’ll let you know if it works .. Maybe I’ll get stuck somewhere in the midlands and my next blog will be a rant.

Now there’s something to look forward to.

Addendum- I should have pointed out the source of the Defra figures – https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/greenhouse-gas-reporting-conversion-factors-2019

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