It may come as a surprise to motorists who’ve filled their tank on a motorway lately.
But travelling by train is still up to 13 times more expensive than driving, analysis has found.
A comparison of 20 journeys around Britain at peak time showed taking a car was cheaper in every case.
With train passengers already angered by surging fares, rampant disruption and overcrowded carriages, the findings pile pressure on companies to cut prices.
Commuters (pictured at Liverpool Street Station) would have to pay almost ten times the £33.97 fuel bill for the 398 mile round trip to Manchester from London, which costs £327 via train
An average tank of unleaded now costs more than £70, with petrol at a six-month high – but it is still much cheaper to travel by car than rail.
The website petrolprices.com looked at the fuel cost for 20 journeys travelling in Britain’s best-selling car, the Ford Fiesta.
The Daily Mail then compared those figures with the price of a peak return rail ticket, booked a day in advance, leaving at around 8am and returning at a similar time the following day.
The research showed that a return from Luton to Cambridge cost £84.60 – 13 times more than the £6.40 fuel bill. The journey is just 40 miles by car but anyone travelling by train is forced to change in London because there is no direct link.
A peak return from Luton to Newcastle, also via London, was £202.30, while the petrol cost for the round trip in a Ford Fiesta was around £43.50.
The Mail was quoted £327 for a return from London to Manchester. This is almost ten times the £33.97 fuel bill for the 398 mile round trip.
However, if there are no disruptions then travelling by rail is often significantly quicker than driving.
A train from London Euston to Manchester Piccadilly might cost up to ten times more than driving – but the journey lasts two hours, about half the time it takes to drive.
A peak return from Luton to Newcastle, via London, was £202.30, while the petrol cost for the round trip in a Ford Fiesta was around £43.50
Guy Anker, of consumer website Moneysavingexpert.com, said: ‘Rail prices can be an absolute rip-off compared to other modes of transport such as driving and even flying. Even if you use every trick in the book the chances are driving will be cheaper, especially if there are a few of you.’
The analysis did not take into account the cost of parking and expenses such as tax and insurance, and are based on the car achieving its advertised fuel economy. However, the rail figures do not include the cost of getting to and from the train station. In addition, families would have to buy several tickets if travelling via train instead of by car.
Shadow transport spokesman Andy McDonald said ‘It’s no surprise that people opt to use their cars instead of the train. The Government has raised fares at more than twice the rate of wages while allowing private train companies to pocket millions of pounds in profit. This is unfair on rail passengers and harmful to the environment.’
Train companies have promised an overhaul of fares, but Robert Nisbet from the Rail Delivery Group said discounts and offers meant rail was ‘a good value way to travel that offers flexibility and the chance for more quality time together’.