This column usually concentrates on rail services, since it is sponsored by nationalrail. com, a rail retailer. But occasionally something happens so big, and so unknown to many members of the public, that it is worth shouting from the rooftops!
Bus fares have been slashed throughout England and the maximum single fare has reduced to only £2, every day of the week, any time of the day, for any age of person who would normally pay adult fare. It’s part of the government’s help with the cost of living. It has been in place since the start of January with all major operators taking part and many of the small independents too.
It was launched with a fanfare at New Year, and regular bus users are using it every day to go to work, shops, and on days out. Those people who have opined for years that if bus fares were cheaper, more people would use the bus, have been proved sadly wrong. Anecdotally (and the figures will no doubt follow) there has been no appreciable increase in ridership through this promotion. It goes on for three whole months, and provides some substantial savings on journeys more than a couple of miles.
Long routes such as Go North East’s X10 between Newcastle and Middlesbrough have seen fares cut to £2 when the single fare by train is £12.30 off-peak, more at peak times. Other long-distance routes participating include the now all-Stagecoach Newcastle to Carlisle service 685, which route takes you through Hexham from where there is a network of £2 a shot routes to places like Bellingham and Allenheads via Allendale Town. I was up there late last year and was the only one on the bus thinking “why aren’t there more people wanting to experience this wonderful ride?”
How often to you jump in the car to give someone a lift somewhere and return home having used up your time when the other person could just have gone on the bus? I am taking my wife’s car in for service tomorrow, and I will drop it off in Sunderland, and get bus 8 back home, returning later by bus to collect it and drive home. I don’t really need a courtesy car. If you get engrossed in a book, or texting a friend, or researching the internet using the free wi-fi, it’s amazing how quick the journey can go. Sure, it’s often slower than taking the car, but you can use the time constructively, there’s no hunting for car parking spaces, and you don’t need to get back on the bus where you left it, whereas you have to return to a parked car.
So don’t be one of those “I’ve never been on a bus for years” people, as if it was something to be proud of. Reduce your carbon emissions, even occasionally, and give the humble bus a try. If you want advice on what runs round your way, just drop me an email. One really stark fact that comes out of the £2 promotion is what good value the regional day tickets can be. If I go to Durham from home, I need to change in Chester-le-Street or Craghead so it’s £4 there and £4 back until the end of March, total £8. But there’s a County Durham zonal ticket for £6.40 for all Go North East services in the County, yes, as far as West Auckland which I use when visiting the station in Bishop Auckland. And for the whole region from Whitby up to Berwick and Carlisle, investigate the Explorer ticket, currently £10.90, including all the buses pictured, plus Tyne and Wear Metro, rail services Blaydon to Sunderland, and even the Shields Ferry. That’s the Daddy! It makes £2 a trip positively expensive.