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Plane, train or coach – national travel options


Given increasing fuel costs, an ever competitive transport market and mindboggling selection of online travel booking options, the process of booking transport is likely to leave some in a greater state of turmoil than a stock trader speculating peak-oil.

On booking a coach, train or air fare, the state of customer’s purse will vary depending on range of factors, including length of stay, time of booking and the number of people actually making reservations. Below is an investigation into the choice factors influencing domestic travel, focussing on flights, coach or rail travel between Edinburgh and London.

The early bird catches the worm

Whilst coaches frequently offer the cheaper option for travellers, they fail to provide the convenience of flying or rail travel. With this in mind, many domestic travellers still head for the train station or airport, but with flights boasting a 3.5 hour lead in travel time, you would be forgiven for asking why anybody chooses to take the train instead of flying.

'On track for business', a report published by Transform Scotland, cites better value for money, a comfortable working environment, and environmental performance in selecting train travel over flying. Transform Scotland Director, Colin Howden states "Our report makes a compelling case to Scottish business of the financial and productivity benefits of using the train for business travel to and from London”. This affordability is reflected in the enormous number of passengers travelling by train every year. In 2011 East Coast Trains alone carried a total of 18.7 million passengers and numbers are not expected to drop significantly anytime soon.

Lets not forget the slow coach

Albeit a longer journey, coach services such as National Express generally offer the cheapest tickets for coach travel within the UK, but facilities are more limited than on a train. Those travelling for business purposes, or who desire greater freedom on their chosen form of transport, are therefore more likely to appreciate the benefits of train journeys where free movement between coaches is available and advanced bookings make sound financial sense.

Costing you more than money

As we have discussed, efficiency involves more than just cash savings; with time a precious commodity we often have too little of. On the face of it, coach travel may offer the cheapest option financially, but will arguably take considerably longer than an equivalent train journey. In addition, commercial travellers should also consider the added cost of lost billable hours spent idle on a coach, or perhaps queuing at airport security before flying.

As the principal route of East Coast trains (Formerly National Express East Coast) service, travelling between London and Edinburgh is a seamless process. Connections run directly from London to Edinburgh, roughly taking between 4 and 6 hours depending on the time of travel and the type of service selected. So, if time is the only factor, surely the decision to take the train or fly will lean in favour of the latter? Perhaps not, the services and facilities available on board your chosen transport is a reliable indicator of whether or not you have secured value for money. Access to wireless internet, the relative sanctuary of the quiet train coach and a range of light refreshments provided by the buffet car combine to make train journeys both productive and enjoyable.