I’m going to London in April, and as the environmentally aware person I am, I would prefer not to fly. The problem is that I live in Gothenburg, Sweden, which isn’t connected to the British isles in any way. Really, it’s not far, but there are a few obstacles in the way – look at a map and you’ll understand. Ferry would be ideal, but the last connection was shut down a year ago – outcompeted by RyanAir. So what am I to do?
Since there are no ferry lines anymore, the only alternatives are by land. This leaves me with bus and train, since I have no car of my own. I have gone by bus to Berlin and Paris, and even though it takes more than 12 hours, I don’t mind. It’s comfortable enough and it gives me time to read, and I’m in no hurry, a day or two more time away is not a problem.
The sad thing is that in the end it comes down to money. I’m prepared to pay around €200-250 for a return ticket, which is more than three times what it usually costs to fly with RyanAir, but it turns out that this is not enough. €250 could just barely get me there by bus if I can claim student or youth discount (which could be possible) but train is just ludicrous. Even with youth discount, a one way ticket is in excess of €440, there is however the possibility of buying an InterRail card to make a little bit cheaper.
Going by bus from Gothenburg to London takes 25 hours and I would have to change four times. If I consider the level of comfort in the decision, bus is not an option. Had it been 18 hours and two changes then perhaps.
The train takes 21 hours and would require three changes. This is more on the lines of what I’m prepared to put up with, especially considering the level of comfort when going by train, but the price is just mad. Even if I would buy an InterRail card for €160 (which would give me free train rides in Europe on five over a period of ten days) the cost would still exceed €250 because of booking fees and the folly that I would have to cross a border before the card would be valid. It is also very hard to book anything in advance, so it is likely that it would take considerably longer than 21 hours because I would have to buy the tickets as I went.
Flying is quickest and cheapest, but also the most polluting and the least comfortable – remember this is a short flight, less than two hours, so most of the time is actually spent waiting in uncomfortable chairs or going from and to the airport, and the time in the air is more or less comparable to a busride.
As the nerd I am I have put together a comparison between the different methods of transportation, with the relevant issues. The traveltime is the time the whole journey would take from station to station (which means that it includes going to and from the airport). The ideal comfort level is a subjective measurement of how comfortable it is compared to a busride. The ideal comfort level does not take into account the travel time, which is why I have also included the actual comfort level, which includes travel time and the number of changes and so on.
|Method of transportation||Price (return)||Traveltime (one way)||Ideal comfort level||Actual comfort level|
* this includes €40 for going to and from the airports. ** this includes the time it takes to get to and from the airport and the two hours that you need to sit and wait before you can board the plane.
Flying is cheapest but least comfortable, even when taking the whole journey into consideration, I really hate all the waiting, the security checks which makes you feel like a criminal, and don’t particulary like the time in the air either. Even if it hadn’t been for the pollution I would still try to avoid flying. The busride is not very much comfortable than flying, mostly because of the four changes and the 25 hours taken and going by train is very comforable in the ideal case (going to Stockholm or Copenhagen, for example), but 21 hours is a very long time and having to change tree times is bad enough, not to mention the hassle of not being able to book the whole journey in advance.
In the end I actually bought a ticket to fly to London, but I plan to spend almost twice the cost of the ticket on CO2 emmission rights. It’s really sad that buses and trains can’t compete with the airlines. I have a hard time believing that it can be impossible to arrange a train ride from here to London for less than three times what it costs to fly. My guess is that it comes down to