Trains, planes and automobiles

Wednesday 06th December 2017

A scientific study analysing a blogger’s 687 mile journey found that travelling by train reduces the average stress levels of passengers by 18%, a figure significantly lower than travelling by car or plane on the same journey.

Travel and lifestyle blogger, Charlotte Dougall, was set a challenge by TransPennine Express of travelling on three separate journeys from Glasgow to Manchester in just two days, travelling by car, train and by plane. The experiment recorded the different levels of emotion Charlotte experienced during each journey, by measuring her heart rate and anxiety levels and capturing key moments on film that boffins analysed.

Specialist equipment was used to measure the increase in heart rate and sweat gland activity on the skin, otherwise known as electodermal activity (EDA). Two electrodes were placed on Charlotte’s fingers, measuring how effectively electricity is conducted across the skin and detecting subtle changes to moisture on it.

The experiment showed that travelling by train reduced stress by 18%. The car journey caused Charlotte’s stress levels to increase by 50% and her heart rate spiked to a level equivalent to moderate exercise.

The peak electodermal activity was 125% higher than average during the car journey and 33% higher than average during the train journey. Moreover, the blogger’s heart rate jumped to over 150 bpm when she travelled in the car, 30 bpm more than her peak bpm for the train journey.

Throughout the plane journey, Charlotte was noticeably anxious and this was apparent in the videos analysed by the experts. Charlotte rated her stress and anxiety levels at a six out of ten due to a heightened level of security; random inspections at check-in; a delay to her flight; and an unexpected gate change. She also showed similar stress levels during the actual journey, due to being on a smaller propeller plane and a turbulent take-off and landing.

Charlotte Dougall, Lifestyle blogger, said: “I’m naturally an anxious traveller, but I was excited to take on the challenge to see just how stressful I found each mode of transport. The car journey, whilst it’s relatively straight forward, is quite boring as the majority of the journey is on a motorway. The traffic was busy when I approached Manchester, and the change in weather increased my anxiety levels. So this was the second most stressful mode of transport.

“I’d give the train journey a low two out of ten for stress and anxiety. Whilst the train was busy, the new entertainment service and free Wi-Fi definitely kept me entertained for the journey and the friendly staff made me feel at ease. The plane journey was the most stressful by far. There were delays and changes throughout the whole journey, and I could feel myself getting increasingly more anxious.

“I really enjoyed taking on the challenge, each mode of travel has their advantages and disadvantages but the train definitely came out on top in my opinion. The new service and Wi-Fi meant that the journey flew by in no time.”

Kathryn O’Brien, Customer Experience Director for TransPennine Express, said: “It’s really interesting to see the outcome of the study, and to compare the statistics that show the change in Charlotte’s anxiety and stress levels when travelling on the different modes of transport.”

“We are really pleased that Charlotte enjoyed her experience onboard, including the new onboard entertainment system and we hope that many more of our customers will enjoy tuning in and watching dozens of movies, box sets, catch up TV, kids shows and more.”

The study was commissioned to celebrate the launch of TPE’s brand new, free on board entertainment system, Exstream, which is now available for all customers travelling on routes between Manchester, Glasgow and Edinburgh via locations including Preston and Lancaster. The new system gives customers the change to view more shows and films from providers, including ITV’s Coronation Street, Sky’s A League of Their Own and E!’s Keeping up with the Kardashians.

The train company is delivering an investment of £500million over the next two years which includes new services and brand new trains. The new entertainment service is available on TransPennine Express’s Anglo-Scottish route, rolling out across the wider network in due course.

To experience the complimentary on-board entertainment, customers will need to download the TPE app via the app store.

You can read Charlotte's full blog post here.


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