Driving home for Christmas could be doing more damage to the environment than previously realised, according to a new study.
Chris Rea's timeless song, which tells the tale of a man driving home to his family for the festive season, is a Christmas classic.
But had the singer decided to take a train home, he would have almost halved his CO2 emissions, according to new research from the University of Sheffield.
The University's team discovered that Chris first wrote the song while travelling home to Middlesborough from London's Abbey Road Studios in his wife's Austin Mini.
The car's one litre engine produced around 114 grams of CO2 per kilometer of the journey, a total of 44kg of CO2 across the 388km journey.
Had he decided to travel by train instead, Chris would have needed to travel from St John's Wood to Kings Cross on the underground, before taking the East Coast Main Line to Darlington and a final train to Middlesborough.
Based on trains in 1978, this would have equated to around 25kg of CO2 per passenger, the team said.
The team said: "In a parallel 1978 universe where Chris Rea wrote Travelling home for Christmas by train, he nearly halved his CO2 emissions.
"Having satisfied out initial curiosity, we wondered whether the conclusion is different today, so we calculated CO2 emissions for some of Chris’ favourite cars between 1980 and 2019.
"As might be expected, driving home for Christmas in a Ferrari is 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 allowed fully electric trains to be introduced in 1988, and emissions to fall as renewable energy made a greater contribution to the UK’s electricity supply during the 1990s and 2000s.
"We then wondered whether Chris would ever be able to beat the emissions of the rail journey in a car. What if he had bought a Toyota Prius in 2009? Though its emissions are much lower than any of Chris’ previous cars, the hybrid Prius still burns diesel, and as electricity becomes ever less carbon intensive, the Prius is left behind.
"What if he drove an electric car? We hypothesised that Chris Rea might’ve bought the first Tesla Model S in 2012. At this time its emissions were greater than those of the Prius, but as battery technology improved and and more renewable energy joined the grid the emissions fell.
"Using a Tesla in 2018 has comparable emissions to the 2012 train journey.
"Finally, we looked to the future. New Hitachi Azuma trains began running on the East Coast Main Line earlier this year, and the UK grid now includes 33 per cent renewable generation.
"As battery technology improves further, Tesla’s forthcoming 2020 Roadster promises 1,000km per charge, and emissions which at one thirteenth of the original Mini’s, rival those of the train journey.
"By 2030, Chris Rea may finally be able to drive home for Christmas with CO2 impunity."