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Commuter Confusion

Commuting into the office if you work in a big city can be a nightmare, and that’s even before you take into account the cost.   The further away you live, the more time and money you have to spend just to…

Heledd Jones
by Heledd Jones

Commuting into the office if you work in a big city can be a nightmare, and that’s even before you take into account the cost.

 

The further away you live, the more time and money you have to spend just to get into work every day, whether that’s by car, or jumping on a train.

 

But which is the most cost-effective way to make your way into the city? We’ve compared the cost of monthly season passes for trains and light rail against the cost of fuel for major commuter routes in some of the country’s biggest cities to find out, although we didn’t look at parking costs as part our research.

Rail vs. Car: Which is Cheaper?

Commuter Cities

Commuter CityRail PassDriving CostPrice Difference (%)
Manchester£140.20£67.00-109.46%
Leeds£163.94£94.30-78.05%
Bristol£215.62£129.90-77.11%
Edinburgh£189.52£116.60-64.77%
Cambridge£206.42£141.10-53.69%
Liverpool£117.94£83.10-40.80%
Glasgow£150.28£109.70-35.24%
Newcastle£139.64£116.60-29.01%
Birmingham£67.88£65.90-21.96%
London£396.56£642.8038.72%

 

Despite concerns that driving is less environmentally-friendly than taking public transport, in all but one of the cities that we looked at, driving into the city worked out as a cheaper alternative than taking the train or light rail, with the exception of London, where longer driving distances, as well as the city centre congestion charge, mean that driving worked out almost 40% more expensive.

 

Manchester was the city where drivers could save the most, with the average car commute working out almost 110% cheaper than taking the train or tram into the city.

Commuter Routes with the Biggest Savings by Car

Commuter TownDestinationRail PassDriving CostPrice Difference (%)
UrmstonManchester£88.80£34.50-157.39%
MacclesfieldManchester£252.30£102.50-146.15%
BathBristol£162.10£68.00-138.38%
WilmslowManchester£144.80£68.00-112.94%
NewmarketCambridge£140.60£67.00-109.85%
BradfordLeeds£104.10£50.00-108.20%
CramlingtonNewcastle£96.40£48.00-100.83%
HarrogateLeeds£160.60£81.00-98.27%
FalkirkGlasgow£227.00£117.00-94.02%
DunfermlineEdinburgh£172.80£91.00-89.89%

Commuter Routes with the Biggest Savings by Rail

Commuter TownDestinationRail PassDriving CostPrice Difference (%)
SloughLondon£260.40£579.5055.06%
GuildfordLondon£342.60£618.5044.61%
HarlowLondon£358.30£615.0041.74%
ChelmsfordLondon£392.90£664.5040.87%
Hemel HempsteadLondon£367.90£594.5038.12%
St AlbansLondon£367.50£584.5037.13%
CoventryBirmingham£72.60£113.5036.04%
LutonLondon£413.60£629.5034.30%
ReadingLondon£442.00£666.5033.68%
OxfordLondon£504.60£741.5031.95%

 

Three of the UK’s five routes where you could make the biggest saving by taking the car over the train were to be found in Greater Manchester, with Urmston to Manchester being the biggest saving, with a 157% saving of almost £55 per month.

 

Seven of the routes we look at were at least twice as cheap as the rail alternative, while only 13 turned out to be cheaper by rail, with ten of these being found in London.

Most Expensive Commuter Routes

When looking at the overall most expensive commutes, it’s clear that London’s commuter hubs are by far the most expensive when it comes to both rail and car travel.

 

As well as the general higher cost of living in London and the South East, many of these towns are much further out of the city than those in smaller cities, so it stands to reason that they would be the priciest, especially if you factor in the congestion charge when driving.

 

Rail
Commuter TownDestinationRail Pass
Milton KeynesLondon£515.80
OxfordLondon£504.60
ReadingLondon£442.00
LutonLondon£413.60
ChelmsfordLondon£392.90
Hemel HempsteadLondon£367.90
St AlbansLondon£367.50
HarlowLondon£358.30
GuildfordLondon£342.60
MarchCambridge£274.20

 

Car
Commuter TownDestinationDriving Cost
OxfordLondon£741.50
Milton KeynesLondon£734.00
ReadingLondon£666.50
ChelmsfordLondon£664.50
LutonLondon£629.50
GuildfordLondon£618.50
HarlowLondon£615.00
Hemel HempsteadLondon£594.50
St AlbansLondon£584.50
SloughLondon£579.50

Cheapest Rail Commuter Routes

Routes in the Northern and Midlands cities worked out to be amongst the cheapest that we looked at, with Walsall, Northfield and Sutton Coldfield to Birmingham cheapest by rail and Urmston to Manchester when driving.

 

Each of the five cheapest routes by rail were found in Birmingham, where you can get a monthly nTrain pass for all five zones for just £72.60, or even cheaper for fewer zones. Cities with light rail services also worked out amongst the cheapest, including Sunderland to Newcastle on the Tyne & Wear Metro for £76 per month and Ormskirk to Liverpool on Merseyrail for £90.20.

 

 

Commuter TownDestinationRail Pass
WalsallBirmingham£66.60
NorthfieldBirmingham£66.60
Sutton ColdfieldBirmingham£66.60
WolverhamptonBirmingham£67.00
CoventryBirmingham£72.60
St HelensLiverpool£72.60
SunderlandNewcastle£76.00
UrmstonManchester£88.80
OrmskirkLiverpool£90.20
CramlingtonNewcastle£96.40

Car
Commuter TownDestinationDriving Cost
UrmstonManchester£34.50
Sutton ColdfieldBirmingham£39.00
NorthfieldBirmingham£39.50
CramlingtonNewcastle£48.00
BradfordLeeds£50.00
WalsallBirmingham£52.00
BoltonManchester£61.50
St HelensLiverpool£65.00
NewmarketCambridge£67.00
OrmskirkLiverpool£67.50

 

A great way to cut back on travel costs is to consider car sharing, which could save you hundreds of pounds on fuel costs and is more environmentally friendly than driving alone.

Sources/Methodology

Rail

Monthly season tickets are taken from Trainline, with the following exceptions:

 

 

Car

Monthly fuel costs calculated based on the petrol cost per mile of a Ford Fiesta, according to Next Green Car (two journeys per day, five days a week).

 

Congestion charge information is taken from Transport for London.

Heledd Jones
Heledd Jones

I passed my driving test about 15 years ago. I commute to my local train station daily and at weekends I'm mostly driving to children's parties and softplay centres!

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