Having grown up just outside of Manchester, with family still living there, the journey there from Glasgow is a pretty regular occurrence for me. It’s one of my favourite cities, and with my best friend moving down there for her masters I can see myself travelling down even more over the coming months. When travelling back down Mancunian way, there are plenty of transport options with planes, trains and automobiles heading south every day. In the past, I’ve travelled by car, train and even made the five-hour coach journey down on occasion, so I’d say I’m well versed in the route. That’s why, when TransPennine Express wanted me to take part in a fun experiment to compare the travel experience of driving, flying and taking the train between Glasgow and Manchester, I jumped right on board.
As a bit of an anxious traveller, no matter how comfortable I am with the journey, I was excited to see just how stressful I found each mode of transportation. For the sake of science, I was hooked up to a heart-rate and stress level monitor for each journey, to properly measure exactly how I felt throughout the experience.
I set off towards Manchester in the car, leaving Glasgow not long after 8am. The journey was relatively straightforward to start with, as by some miracle there was very little traffic for the majority of the trip. Driving to Manchester takes the best part of three hours and once you’re on the motorway that’s you sorted for the bulk of the trip. Like most motorway driving, the three-hour journey can be a little monotonous, but with a quick pit-stop to stretch my legs at a service station to break it up it wasn’t too bad. As I got closer to Manchester, however, that’s when things started to change. Traffic started to build up on the motorway for the last 45 minutes or so of the journey, and the addition of some very heavy rain made for some pretty tense moments. Road closures in the city centre meant diversions aplenty, and as someone who doesn’t really like driving in big cities, this was seriously stressful. I was relieved, to say the least, when I managed to navigate the city centre roads and eventually find myself a spot to park my car!
From there, I headed over to Piccadilly to catch the TransPennine Express service direct to Glasgow Central Station. Luckily, being a direct train, I didn’t need to worry about having to make any changeovers so I was able to get comfortable for the duration of the trip. As we set off along the tracks I settled in with my laptop to do a bit of work thanks to the free Wi-Fi on board. The train line winds through the hills so the mobile signal isn’t great, which makes Wi-Fi a very handy addition to the journey! As much as I enjoy using my travel time to disconnect and destress, it’s not always possible, and the addition of free Wi-Fi means I can now make the most of the journey to tick a few tasks off my to-do list. Alongside the free Wi-Fi, there’s also a new onboard entertainment system through their mobile app which is packed full of films, TV and even magazines to keep you occupied throughout the journey. I can’t make it through a long journey without snacks, and the friendly staff were always on hand with a refreshment trolley full of drinks and yummy snacks. I didn’t need any assistance from the staff on this journey, but it’s always comforting to see them being present and their cheerful demeanour gave me the impression that they’d always be on hand to help if needed.
Once I’d had my fix of emails, editing and scheduling, I decided to get stuck into a good old catch up with my beloved Kardashians and the latest issue of Cosmopolitan. A quick browse through the entertainment system gave me plenty of tempting choices, with blockbuster films, my favourite soaps and binge-worthy boxsets via the likes of Now TV, but you just can’t beat a bit of reality TV to keep you occupied on a long journey. Before long, we were rolling into Glasgow Central, and it was time to head home.
The next day I was up bright and early to head to Glasgow Airport to catch a flight down to Manchester. If you know me, you’ll know that I’m a tiny bit obsessed with airports and love flying, but I’d actually never flown to Manchester before. My flight was at 10am, meaning I had to deal with rush hour city centre traffic on my way there, but luckily it wasn’t too early a start to the day. I arrived at the airport with plenty of time, as I’m chronically early, and no queue at check-in meant I was through to security in no time. It was still the summer holidays when I flew, so security was quite busy but could have been much worse as there were plenty of staff on hand to see me through. Annoyingly, my bag was chosen for a random inspection, meaning I had to wait around whilst they swabbed my belongings. Once I had made it through security, things started to get a bit more stressful. Glasgow Airport was fit to burst with holidaymakers and travellers, so I struggled to find a seat to set up in whilst I waited for my gate to be announced. Waiting in the lounge was pretty boring, as I felt like I was wasting time sitting around, but before long my gate was announced and I started the walk over. Being a domestic flight, my gate ended up being in one of the furthest lounges, but when I arrived I was delighted to find that there were only a handful of people set to board my plane.
As the clock ticked on and my departure time grew closer, that’s when the anxiety levels kicked up a notch. There were no staff on hand to tell the waiting passengers what was happening, but before long an announcement came over the tannoy telling us that our gate had changed. We started to head towards our newly assigned gate, only to discover that it wasn’t actually signposted. I stood, lost, for a few minutes before finding a member of staff to point me in the right direction. Upon arrival at the new gate, I discovered that our plane had been changed due to technical issues with the original plane (eeep!) and that our departure had been delayed by another half hour to sort out the new aircraft. Finally, it was time to board, and I walked out on to the tarmac only to be greeted with the tiniest plane I’ve ever travelled on. It was tartan though, which was cool. I don’t usually mind propeller planes, but I was amazed that this tiny aircraft was actually able to take off after being buffeted by the wind. The flight was quite turbulent and the noise of the propellers meant I could barely hear myself think, but it was only a very short trip and I got a free caramel wafer which is always a huge bonus.
After a short wait on the tarmac, we were finally able to disembark and I headed off through the airport to grab a taxi back to the city centre so I could be reunited with my car. The airport was seriously busy, so it was a bit chaotic in the pickup zone, but before long I was back in the city centre and my experiment was complete. Based on my experiences I gave each journey a personal rating out of 10 in relation to the stress levels for the sake of comparison, with 1 being the most relaxed and 10 being the most stressful. The highest stress levels were awarded to the plane journey, at 6 out of 10, followed by the car at 3 out of 10 and the winner being the train journey which I gave 2 out of 10.
Now for the interesting part, the actual science. Normally I can get a pretty good idea of how stressed I am based on my feelings alone, but with the equipment measuring other biological factors I could get an even better idea of how each journey impacted on my stress levels. According to the readings, the car journey caused 1.5 times the initial stress levels, bringing my heart rate up to be in line with what you’d expect to see with moderate exercise. Unfortunately, I don’t think I was burning quite as many calories as I would have done with exercise, which is disappointing! The train journey was unsurprisingly the least stressful, as it had the fewest stressful moments, and my stress levels reduced by 18% over the duration of the journey. I’m using this as proof that I should spend more time watching the Kardashians, it’s obviously good for me.
Although the travelling was tiring, it was actually really fun comparing the three journeys to see which is best. Each has its benefits, but each has its downfalls too. As much as I love flying, it felt like a waste of time having to wait around so long for such a short journey, especially when it ended up being pretty stressful towards the end. Driving is ideal when you need the car, as it provides so much flexibility for travel times and routes, but it’s a long journey to make solo, especially when you factor in the ever so annoying traffic jams and detours. I definitely prefer it when someone else is driving, and I can get stuck into a book instead! The train is also a long journey, but not having to worry about traffic is a dream come true, and now that the TransPennine Express
trains have free Wi-Fi and entertainment too the journey flies by, taking you right to the heart of the city in just a few hours. With my best friend moving south of the border, my journeys to and from Manchester are going to become a much more regular occurrence over the coming weeks, and now I know which journey is best for me. I’ll take any excuse to spend a bit more time in my favourite city!
What’s your favourite way to travel?
Find out more about TransPennine Express’ new onboard entertainment & Wi-Fi system here
Post produced in collaboration with TransPennine Express – read my full disclaimer here