When my car, a dirty diesel, failed its last MOT it was judged too expensive to repair. I had to choose whether it was best to buy another ‘cheap’ car or commute to work by train. It was a major decision after commuting from Leicestershire to Lincoln for thirteen years. A commute (totalling three defunct cars) that stretched to almost four times round the planet.
It was often a stressful journey and tiring. For anyone with small children waking up continuously in the night it is hard, if not impossible, to get a good night’s sleep. Driving is the last thing you want to do.
Breakdowns were a regular occurrence. There was one accident (and an impromptu interview on BBC Look North) and once stuck in heavy snow on the Swanholme estate. Waiting on the side of a cold busy road waiting to be picked up by the recovery service is nobody’s idea of fun. Other times I nearly crashed from crushing exhaustion and sleep deprivation.
Those were times I would not want to repeat.
Like many, I fret about pollution and climate change (the car failed its MOT on high emissions), the spiralling cost of fuel, and the fuel crisis when it was near impossible to fill up the tank.
Other commutes were more pleasurable – like watching the sunrise gently arc over Newark’s fields or when driving meant a buffer zone between work and home in the days before lockdown.
Then considering alternatives meant reviving memories of public transport.
My mind casts itself back to early evening platforms on East Croydon station waiting for an overcrowded diesel train that may or may not be on time. Or the endless wait outside Norwood Junction with no explanation why the train wasn’t going anywhere. Purgatory in Norwood as I nicknamed it. Time itself was held in suspension as I could do nothing apart from wait; the passenger is at the mercy of the rail network.
I recalled catching tube trains heading home, falling asleep until someone woke me up saying it was the end of the line, or reading a book that looked intellectual on the cover, but I found it dull and laborious.
Commuting by train, though, is ideal for a daydreamer like me, watching the world pass by steadily replaying its scenery. That’s the decision I have taken. For a trial period of thirty weeks at least. The cost of travelling by train is more expensive per trip than a car but overall savings could amount to around £1500-2000 a year. Better for me and the environment.
Farewell A46, hello Lincoln-bound shuttle train.
Booking a ticket
Anyone booking a ticket online is either Daedalus negotiating the labyrinth or (simply) has done it before and knows their way around a terminal. A newby like me needs videos and step-by-step guidance. There are 28 rail networks in the UK. The days of staffed ticket offices seem to be over.
Post-scrappage I found more physically demanding than getting into a car and going anywhere I chose. Without a car involved careful planning, apt knowledge of timetables, a restoration of my bicycle, and a lot more walking; furnished with the knowledge that everything took two or three times longer to get anywhere.
Using public transport again feels more sociable. In a strange way I feel like I have re-joined society rather than driving on my own for mile upon mile.
Revival of the one car family?
Car ownership is declining over the past decade though it very much depends on where you live, and your age. As more people relocate to urban areas, fewer than half of U.S. households will own more than one car by 2040 research by KPMG (2020) owing to congestion, working and shopping from home, and car sharing opportunities; a trend that is supported by most of London’s boroughs, Newcastle, Nottingham, Brighton and Hove, Oxford, Birmingham and Exeter. 18-25 year olds are choosing alternative means of transport according to The Times research into DVLA data (Baggot, 2021) as anyone noticing the proliferation of electric scooters can verify. In rural areas car ownership is on the increase (Baggot, 2021) where some areas count for one car per adult. Yet times are changing.
The government has pledged to ban all new petrol and diesel cars by 2030 (GOV.UK, 2020), only allowing plug-in hybrids or full hybrids to be sold from that date for the next five years. With cities like Leicester planning to introduce A Workplace Parking Levy for anybody using a car space for work amounting to £550 (Patel, 2021) it may be worth putting the brakes on cars like mine driving to work. Will it be an 80s revival when one car family ownership dominated (LV=, 2021) and Spandau Ballet topped the charts? So true, funny how it seems…
Baggot, J. (2021). Car ownership falls dramatically in urban areas as young people shun vehicles. Available from: https://cardealermagazine.co.uk/publish/car-ownership-falls-dramatically-in-urban-areas-as-young-people-shun-vehicles/208584 [Accessed 13th April 2022].
GOV.UK (2020). Government takes historic step towards net-zero with end of sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030. Available from: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-takes-historic-step-towards-net-zero-with-end-of-sale-of-new-petrol-and-diesel-cars-by-2030 [Accessed 13th April 2022].
LV=. (2021). The changing face of car ownership. Available from: https://www.lv.com/car-insurance/the-changing-face-of-car-ownership [Accessed 13th April 2022].
KPMG. (2020). Automotive’s new reality? Fewer trips, fewer miles, fewer cars. Available from: https://assets.kpmg/content/dam/kpmg/br/pdf/2020/09/automotives-new-reality.pdf Accessed 13th April 2022].
Patel, A. (2021). Plan for Workplace Parking Levy in Leicester branded “short-sighted” amid fears teachers will leave city. Leicester Mercury. 28th January. Available from: https://www.leicestermercury.co.uk/news/leicester-news/plan-workplace-parking-levy-leicester-6552457 [Accessed 13th April 2022].