Main navigation

Social sharing options

You are here:

  1. Home
  2. Blog


The Great Escape

Tis the season for holidaying, and much the same as every other year (excepting one, but more on that shortly) I hopped on a train to take me from London down to the South of France to spend a week with my family. Usually I catch the overnight sleeper (and did on my return journey) but this time my family decided to have a bit of a race, and so we all left home on the same morning with the aim of arriving at our destination in not only the fastest time, but also in the most comfortable way.

On that bright Thursday in August I caught the bus across London to Kings Cross (slight panic as I hit the morning congestion – being a cyclist I tend to forget about such things); my mother and sister drove from Hampshire to Bristol to catch their flight to Bordeaux; and my father donned his leathers to leave at the break of day to catch the channel crossing from Folkstone – Calais, and then onwards South through the French countryside.

As I mentioned, my usual route is to leave London in the evening, catch the Eurostar to Paris, skip across town to hop onto the over-night sleeper to Toulouse, and from there a local train to Auch arriving bright and breezy the following morning. Not bad in terms of timing and comfort and those sleeper couchettes really are very easy to sleep in. (An exception being that time when a fellow passenger decided to bring his two cats onboard and in the middle of the night one of them escaped its travelling box and leaped on me. For a few seconds I genuinely thought I had found myself caught in an Agatha Christie plot and Poirot would be called upon to investigate the happenings in Coach IV!)

But I digress. Finding myself the unwitting protagonist of Murder by Cats has not been enough to put me off train travel and this year was no exception. I departed Kings Cross in the morning, did a lunchtime changeover in Paris and met my mum and sis at Bordeaux where we all then drove to Auch.

Whilst I was initially a bit put-off travelling during the day (feeling that it wasn’t as efficient a use of time as the overnight) I found it very enjoyable to sit back, listen to my ipod, and read the first book of the holiday.

Fortunately from Bordeaux the roads were reasonably clear and with the aid of our trusty sat-nav, a couple of hours later we made it with five minutes to spare before the local vineyard closed for the evening – just in time to buy ourselves some of the local plonk to enjoy on the terrace and watch the sun lazily drop behind the fields of dancing sunflowers.

Having not heard a peep from my dad all day, by 11pm we were beginning to worry ever so slightly. But just as we were considering sending out a search party we heard the familiar growl of the engine as he zipped along the final few miles of the country lanes to arrive, rather parched (it had been a scorcher of a day) and somewhat dishevelled, but all in one piece.

A couple of toasts to the family Great Escape and much sharing of travel anecdotes later, we were happily planning next year’s escapades. I must say (although of course I am biased) that I think I had the most pleasant journey of them all and am pleased to report that we are all going to travel in style – by train – to our French idyll next year.

I mentioned that I had travelled by train all but once. Last year my mother and I decided that we would give cycling a go and spent twelve days on our saddles pedal-powering our way over the 580 miles or so from Hampshire to Auch. What an adventure that was!

Below I have done an approximate calculation of the various modes of transport that the family took. For my journey to France, the two-and-a-half hour journey in the car completely blew my carbon budget, which is why my return (a ten minute journey by car and the rest by train) has such a smaller carbon figure.

The figures outlined are for illustrative purposes and offer a rough estimate of the total, but if anyone would fancy volunteering to do a more accurate calculation – by all means please do get in touch!


Table: Carbon Footprint (in Kg of CO2e) and Time for each adventurer.

Carbon Footprint (in Kg of CO2e) and Time for each adventurer
Intrepid adventurer Mode of transport Carbon Footprint (kg CO2e)* Time (door to door)
Me (aka “Climate Geekess”) Bus-train-car 84.5 12 hours 50 mins
Mum and Sis Car-flight-car** 341.14 12 hours
Dad Motorbike – ferry – motorbike*** 131.4 18 hours
Return journey Car – train 53.1 Overnight, 14.5 hours

* Figures taken primarily from the Defra/DECC carbon conversion tables
** Flight conversion figures include high altitude climate forcing figure at 1.9
***Motorbike figure taken from Carbon Footprint Calculator


Chart to depict the carbon footprint of each journey. Figures are in Kg of CO2e







Graph to depict the carbon footprint breakdown of Climate Geekess’ outbound journey (London – Auch). Figures are in Kg of CO2e.





Filed under: Climate Change, Low carbon

Comments: 2 Comments on The Great Escape
Posted on: Aug 29 2013

2 Responses to “The Great Escape”

  1. Kirsty says:

    Thanks Jamie!

    For the TGV trains in France (leg from Paris to Bordeaux) I used the conversion figure: 0.06025. Does this seem correct to you? Do you have a different figure to use?

    And for car travel – I hadn’t done that, just did an aggregate, so will re-calculate now (nice spot).

    But what about planes? Should I be dividing the total by number of passengers on the flight? And the same for trains? Or is the equivalent per passenger km figure worked included in the conversion figures?

    ps: Are you, by any chance, volunteering yourself to do a full carbon audit for me?!

  2. Jamie says:

    Nice post.

    Did you divide the car emissions by the number of passengers? (This is necessary to make it equivalent to the per passenger km figures for the train).

    Also, it’s worth noting that the reason French trains are so low carbon is because the electricity is nuclear. Food for thought (though of course renewably-generated electricity would also be very low carbon).

Leave a Reply

DECC @YouTube

DECC's YouTube feed

Share DECC's YouTube Channel

view all

Partners & Help