Survey: Fuel costs put block on families getting together

More than a fifth of the UK population will be prevented from seeing at least some of their friends or family this Christmas because they simply cannot afford the fuel charges, according to new figures.

It would appear that the high cost of motoring is the real Scrooge this Christmas. With fuel prices having risen 6.4 per cent since the start of the year, around 10.8 million people will be prevented from celebrating with at least some of their loved ones.

A further 19 per cent say they would like to visit friends or family but won’t because of the high cost of bus and rail travel and 16 per cent say that expensive air-fares will preclude them from travelling to see at least some of their family and friends.

Those who do travel to see loved ones this Christmas will spend considerable amounts of time and money getting there: the average amount spent on travel will be £49 and the average journey time, 4.2 hours.

Miranda Schunke, spokesperson for Green Flag, which commissioned the research, said: “Spiralling fuel and travel costs are set to have a real impact on some friends and families getting together over Christmas.

“The festive season burns a big enough hole in family pockets as it is, so it’s no surprise that public transport and fuel costs have tipped the balance for many festive celebrations this year.

“UK roads tend to get extremely busy around Christmas, as does public transport, so it is possible that this slightly reduced number of people travelling over the festive season will make the journeys of those who are on the move safer and, in the case of public transport, a little more pleasant.”

For those who will be driving to see friends and family this Christmas, Green Flag has the following tips for saving fuel.

YOUR CAR

l Reduce unnecessary weight – if there are still items for the charity shop in the boot – take them out! Only buy as much fuel as you need, think F1 – the more fuel on board, the more weight the vehicle is carrying around. Unnecessary equipment such as roof carriers, trailers, tow hitches will use more fuel too.

l Check all tyres have the correct amount of air, too much or too little can be unsafe and can affect fuel efficiency.

l Be slick: Reduce external drag by improving the aerodynamics. Keep windows closed and lose the roof rack.

l Make sure the vehicle is serviced regularly to ensure that it is running in top condition.

YOU AND HOW YOU DRIVE

l Drive smoothly, with anticipation; avoid braking, keep the revs down and use the right gear. Lift off the accelerator as often as possible.

l Stay at or below the speed limit and use cruise control on long drives.

l Plan a journey and avoid traffic jams. Switch off the engine when stationary. Use the Green Flag iPhone app for free traffic updates and visit our website for our free route planner.

l Tempted by a hybrid or a new ‘fuel efficient car’? If the driver is not prepared to change their ways then it will not make a lot of difference.