'Life-hacker' who bought car 'for less than a London train ticket' actually overspends by 50%

Tom Church was apparently unaware of fully flexible rail tickets costing far less than he spent

Simon Calder
Travel Correpondent
Tuesday 17 April 2018 14:35
Simon Calder debunks story about man who bought a car claiming it was cheaper than a train ticket

A London man who helps run a “money saving community” spent more than £200 buying an old car and driving it to Bristol and back for the day, apparently unaware of the price of a flexible day trip by high-speed rail: just £140 return, with slower trains available at barely half as much.

Tom Church, from Crouch End in north London, says he bought a 1997 Honda Civic for £80, taxed it for six months and insured it for a day. He then filled it with £25 in petrol, which he claims was enough to travel the 250-mile round trip. In total he says spent £206.81.

Mr Church told BBC 5 Live: “When you go up and buy a train ticket on the day from London to Bristol as a return it’s £218.

“This is really just to show how crazy train ticket prices have become. Just buying one car for one trip was cheaper.”

“You know guys, we’ve got to do something about these train tickets because it’s crazy.”

The rail fare Mr Church quoted is based on a one-day Travelcard which also allows unlimited travel within all travel zones in Greater London.

An Anytime ticket on a GWR high-speed train from London Paddington to Bristol Temple Meads is £211.40. But no-one travelling from London to Bristol for any meaningful length of time would ever pay that amount.

While a £105.70 one-way fare applies for westbound journeys on trains up to 8.30am, all departures from Temple Meads to Paddington from 10am onwards for the remainder of the day are classed as Super Off Peak with a one-way fare of £34.30. So the most expensive realistic rail fare is £140 return.

Budget travellers, however, are well aware that much cheaper deals on fully flexible tickets are available. By buying “split tickets” — one to Didcot Parkway, where most trains stop, and another from there to Bristol — the highest possible fare is £94.70.

Another option is to travel on slower trains from London Waterloo via Salisbury to Bristol, which have a maximum Anytime fare of £73.30. The rail journey takes up to three hours each way.

Other, cheaper deals include National Express coaches, with a fully flexible fare of £48.80 from Victoria Coach Station in London to Bristol. A new “on-demand” bus operation, Sn-Ap, has a maximum fare of under £25 return.

On his website, Mr Church calls himself a “life hacker“, which he defines as “someone who uses unorthodox methods to increase productivity and efficiency in all walks of life”.

He appears to have achieved remarkable productivity from £25 in fuel, which buys about 4.6 gallons. On a 250-mile journey including a fair amount of urban driving, that works out at over 54mpg.

According to the US Department of Energy, with figures adjusted to Imperial gallons, a 1997 Honda Civic typically delivers 41mpg, with a maximum of 47mpg.

The Independent has tried to contact Mr Church to discuss his journey.

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