Ferry or Flight?

Great news – just got asked to play Teesside Irish Festival. Wahoo!! Can’t wait, and thank you, Teesside Irish Society, for the invitation!! So now I ask my perennial life question … how on earth will I get there with the harp?

I find flying with the harp slightly stressful – how much of an overweight fee will they charge me this time? (It seems to depend on the person on the desk, rather than the airline.) Will my beloved instrument arrive at the other end?! (Not always!) So I like to minimise air travel if I can. Whereas with other areas of the world, the key question is ‘Which flight is cheapest?!’, when I’m going to the UK or France, there’s a little-known option… SailRail. Ferry companies Irish Ferries and StenaLine have really good ‘foot passenger’ deals which include the railfare from the port to your ultimate destination.

I’ve always wondered about the exact figures of SailRail versus flight, and because I don’t want to clean my house, it suddenly became very urgent that I research this question!! 🙂 So this is the summary:

Duration14 hours, 24 min8 hours, 23 min
C02 emissions25.7kg   55.9kg
Price€96 (Price of buying food in transit on long journey is a potential added cost.)€113.50 using bus for transfer; €208.50 with rental car; €90.50 if host can pick me up
HarpNo extra feeSome airlines charge extra fees at check-in
RelaxingI find trains and ferries very relaxing…. yum, seasaltFor me, planes are not as relaxing as trains and ferries
Last-minute bookingFare is consistently €97, even if travelling at short noticeFares increase dramatically if travelling at short notice

My first thought? The difference in the carbon footprint of SailRail versus flying is significant, but not as big as I thought it would be. It’s 30.2kg – same as driving an average car for a little over an hour. Conclusion: ideally I’ll choose SailRail, but if I can’t due to schedule considerations, I’ll offset the carbon on www.atmostfair.de (massive thanks to Méadhbh O’Leary Fitzpatrick for this idea!) – and/or try to cut a car journey from my week.

Image from http://www.yousustain.com/footprint/howmuchco2?co2=30.2+kg

Thought 2: Surprisingly, when I factor in all costs, the price of a flight is more or less the same as SailRail. However, this is only if I book in advance. If I buy the self-same flight with only 2 days’ notice, the fare increases by €87. So my conclusion is: if I have to go to the UK at short notice, SailRail is worth a look; but otherwise price is not a factor in ‘the fearsome fight of ferry versus flight’. (There’s a song in there somewhere.!)

Thought 3 – timing? Well, taking a flight reduces the journey from Galway to Middlesbrough by 6 hours. That’s either a massive or irrelevant difference, depending on the individual. Personally, I find travelling by train and ferry a lovely way to spend a day with someone, and a great way to relax or do admin. However, if I need to be practicing, or some Galwegians need attention, I can’t afford that day of travel. So the decision of SailRail vs flying will depend on my professional schedule and personal life at the time of the trip.

So after all my research, my surprising conclusion is that planes aren’t as bad as I thought for C02 emissions – but in the process, I found out that cars are relatively terrible. Oh dear. Watch this space for the next research question: what’s better for the environment – driving a ’99 Toyota Corolla into the ground or buying a new car??! But in the meantime… bring on the Teesside Irish festival!!


‘Carbon Emissions Compared for Different Forms of Transport’

Best carbon offsetting calculator I found: https://www.atmosfair.de/en/offset/flight

Brilliant infographic comparing carbon footprint of different methods of travel: http://clearlymagazine.com/travel-events/roll-off-ferry-reduce-holiday-emissions

SailRail with Irish Ferries

SailRail with StenaLine

Tool I use for calculating petrol: https://www.theaa.ie/routes/#

Excellent message boards plus integrated travel planner: https://www.rome2rio.com

Calculate duration between two times: https://www.timeanddate.com/date/timeduration.html