Great Britain

Driving home for Christmas - but should Chris Rea have taken the train back to Middlesbrough?

CHRIS Rea might be Driving Home for Christmas - but would his carbon footprint be better if he travelled by public transport?

That’s the question engineers from the University of Sheffield have been trying to answer as they worked out his drive home from Abbey Road Studios in London to Middlesbrough.

They compared the emissions of a 1970s car with a modern electric car, and public transport, on the journey.

Rea’s festive classic Driving Home for Christmas was written in around 1978, while he drove back to Middlesbrough from the Abbey Road studios.

Researchers started wondering, if the singer wanted to minimise his CO2 emissions, was driving home for Christmas really the best option?

At the time of the song he travelled in his wife’s Austin Mini, which produced about 114 grams of CO2 per kilometre of the 388-km journey to Middlesbrough, giving a total of 44kg.

If he’d decided to travel by rail instead, Chris would have first needed to take the tube from St John’s Wood to Kings Cross, then travel up the East Coast Mainline to Darlington before catching a final train to Middlesbrough. The long journey up the East Coast would account for 92 per cent of the total CO2 emissions, which in 1978 would have been 25kg per passenger.

So, in a parallel 1978 universe where a more eco-conscious Chris Rea may have written Travelling Home for Christmas on Public Transport, he would have nearly halved his CO2 emissions.

The team then compared the emissions for some of Chris’ favourite cars between 1980 and 2019. Driving home for Christmas in a Ferrari was not the most environmentally-friendly way to travel, but even the lightweight Caterham 7 or the tiny Fiat 500 which Chris currently own cannot compete with the rail option. The train was helped by the electrification of the East Coast Main Line, which saw emissions fall as renewable energy made a greater contribution to the UK’s electricity supply during the 1990s and 2000s.

The only way Chris would have been able to beat the emissions would be in a Tesla electric car of the future, the 2020 model, which rivals the train journey emissions.

The researchers concluded: “By 2030, Chris Rea may finally be able to drive home for Christmas with CO2 impunity.”