The age of the bus

For the younger generation, the title of this is based on an old series of advertisements for British Rail, their slogan was, “This is the age of the train”. Thought I’d better clear that one up. :)

Fuel prices being what they are at the moment and the associated costs of actually owning a car in the first place, the bus would seem like a great alternative for local transport. I’d like to dispense with one of our two cars so this morning set about investigating a season ticket for getting our two kids to work and/or college.

Our local bus services are provided by First Group which sours the milk a little before I start. These are the guys that run First Great Western trains. My experiences of this service are comprised of consistantly late trains and a parking ticket. I’ll try to remain subjective and not let my previous experiences impair my judgement.

First issue of the day is location. I can’t use a Plymouth season ticket because we live outside the boundaries of Plymouth. A Devon card covers Devon and a Cornwall card covers Cornwall, but neither of them is suitable for travelling the 15 miles between my home in Cornwall and Plymouth in Devon. Fortunately there is a South-West card that covers Devon and Cornwall.

The FirstDay South-West Ticket costs £6.60 which is not only very expensive for such a short daily journey, it’s also useless, not being valid before 0845. To overcome this I need a Peek South-West Ticket at £7.30. Clearly the daily ticket is a waste of time, the annual cost of travel (based on travelling 5 days a week for 46 weeks a year) would be £1,679. If my partner Lou and her two eldest kids did this every day we would have an annual bill of £5,037. Clearly not a practical option compared with using a clapped-out old car.

Next on the agenda is a Devon and Cornwall FirstWeek Ticket. This one weighs in at £31 per week which based on my 46 weeks per year calculation works out at £1,426 per person or £4,278 for my three people. Score another for the high-poluting, road-congesting and clapped-out car.

Perhaps these options appear a little biased, why would I elect for a daily or weekly ticket when I’m looking at travel over the period of a year? Well the reason is that First Group don’t appear to offer any ticket options longer than a week that cover the 15 mile journey from St Mellion to Plymouth. Perhaps I’d best enquire, perhaps their website isn’t comprehensive. I sent them a message using their enquiries service.

I’m looking to buy a season ticket for travel between St Mellion and Plymouth using the 76A service. Please can you advise me of the most cost effective yearly tickets for travel on this route at peek times?
Many thanks,

Now I’ll just have to wait for an answer.

Update – 24th July (Next Day)
I received a helpful reply from First today.

Dear Mr Crook

Thank you for contacting First Devon & Cornwall regarding the fares for annual passes for the service 76a.

Unfortunately we do not do a yearly pass from Cornwall but there is a monthly pass at the cost of £86.00 that you would be able to use to come into Plymouth to your destination and return but would not be able to use it on any other service in the Plymouth boundary.

I hope this information is useful.

Yours sincerely

[Name Scrubbed]
Customer Service Advisor

Okay, so there is a missing option on First’s website, an £86 monthly pass. Assuming I need travel in all 12 months of the year, that’s £1,032 per year, per person. I guess this makes the bus a feasible option where only a single person can use it as an alternative to car transport. Using my example of three people, the bus would cost them £3096. This really doesn’t strike me as a viable alternative. In an age where the roads are far too congested and petrol prices are rocketing, it’s a pity there isn’t a better carrot being dangled to encourage people to use bus transport. It’s never going to be as convenient for people as going door-to-door in their own car so that carrot needs to be big and juicy. Today’s season ticket carrot is small and tasteless.

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