Wednesday, June 3, 2009


...but fortunately not planes!
Last week Mrs Ecocenturion, the little ecocenturion and yours truly popped down to Devon for a short break. We stayed with our friends in Exeter and then youth hostelled for an extra night by the beautiful River Dart in South Hams. As we don't own a car, I researched the different travel options. From a green perspective, the comparison wasn't very encouraging at first sight...
Mrs E had picked up a free promotional family railcard, so I began by looking into train travel. The railcard reduced the price of a return ticket from Brum to Exeter for the three of us from £177 to £107 (a whopping 70 quid discount), but we needed to add around £20 in bus fares to and from the station at either end. Of course we'd have to lug our own suitcases around unless we splashed out on taxis and paid considerably more!
One-way rail travel time: Local bus: 1 hr + inter-city train: 2 hrs 30 mins + local bus: 30 mins = 4 hrs
Total return travel time: 8 hrs
Cost of return travel (Birmingham - Exeter) = £127
I next turned to coach, bringing back uncomfortable memories of tortuous National Express journeys back in my student days in the late 80s. No family railcard this time, so even an apex return would set us back £94. And things don't seem to have improved much in the last 20 years - the travel time made me wince, particularly with a stir crazy 6-year-old in tow!
One-way coach travel time: Local bus: 1 hr + inter-city coach: 4 hrs 30 mins + local bus: 30 mins = 6 hrs
Total return travel time: 12 hrs
Cost of return travel booked at least a week in advance (Birmingham - Exeter) = £114
Ruling out hitch-hiking or air travel, I finally checked out car rental, using Enterprise Car Hire in Stirchley, a firm I've rented from a few times before. They offered me a brand new Vauxhall Corsa hatchback with only 200 miles on the clock for £15 a day all inclusive. They also offered to pick me up and drop me home at the end of our trip. The only extra would be petrol. From previous hires, I factored in a price of around 10 pence per mile for the three of us plus luggage.
One-way car travel time: Car journey (160 miles door-to-door): 3 hrs
Total return travel time: 6 hrs
Cost of return travel (Birmingham - Exeter) = £75 car hire + 320 x 10p = £32 petrol = £107
Which one would you have picked? There really was no contest!
In the next post, I'll be analysing these results in more detail. What do you make of it so far?


  1. It is a shame how expensive rail fares are nowadays, it really doesn't encourage the greener option!

  2. Have you tried working out the difference in carbon used?