Train cheaper than bus, sometimes

It never used to be the case, but it seems that for short distances the train is cheaper than the bus. Recently, I had to travel in to Haywards Heath from Burgess Hill. The local bus company charge GBP 3.70 for an adult return fare, and children travel for GBP 2.40 each. I went ahead and took the bus on this occasion, but when I arrived home I thought I should check the train fare table to see what it would have cost to go via train. I was quite surprised. For an off peak journey, children travelled for GBP 1.00 each and adult tickets were just GBP 2.70. So for two adults and two children we saved GBP 4.80, or about 50%. This can amount to a very significant saving if you make the journey regularly.

For longer journeys, particularly those between popular destinations, I have found the train very expensive. However, for short runs it does seem more economical than the bus, or even the car if you are willing to forsake a little convenience.

Travelling via train and bus with PlusBus

I’m a regular train traveller and recently discovered PlusBus.  It’s an economical way to travel via bus in addition to train.  It was great because I had to take a side trip one day, which meant I was unable to use my regular train route.

PlusBus is available at various towns across England. For around 2-3 GBP, you can travel via bus all day around that town.  There is no catch; however, there are stipulations.  First of all, you must have a valid train ticket.  The town you are visiting must be en route on that train ticket.  For example, if you are travelling from London to Brighton or from Brighton to London, you may buy a PlusBus pass for Brighton.  However, you cannot buy a PlusBus for Brighton if your train travel only includes the Brighton area. 

PlusBus is accepted as bus fare on all participating buses.  In some towns, PlusBus may also be used on the trams.  You may wish to check that the bus you want is a participating bus, though most buses in participating towns will be included.

You must buy the PlusBus tickets at the railway station or bus station prior to travelling on the bus.  You cannot buy it on the bus itself.  You will be expected to show proof of a railway ticket.  Children pay half the adult rates, and Railcard holders save one-third off the adult rate.

PlusBus tickets are available as singles, day return, period return (when the outgoing and return are on different days), or even season tickets, if you expect to use it for more than just one day.

Travelling via public transport may be relatively slow and inefficient, making you rather dependent on timetables and various other conditions, but in the end, it may be less hassle for bigger towns.  With the PlusBus, you also won’t have to spend much money.  For more information on PlusBus, you can check out their website at www.plusbus.info

Is the train cheaper?

Recently, I made a trip to Cambridge. I had planned to go via train but when I saw the cost, the decision became a no-brainer in favour of taking the car.

Here is the cost breakdown for the trip by both train and car.

By Train:
Day off-peak return ticket to Cambridge: GBP 51.00 for 1 adult, 1 child
Bus fare to local station: GBP 4 (2 out, 2 return)

(With this ticket, we would have to travel at off peak times. If we wanted to leave at a reasonable hour, it would cost a whopping GBP 71.25.)

Total cost by train: GBP 55.00 (or GBP 75.25 for anytime travel.)

By Car:
Dartford Tunnel Toll: GBP 1.50 each way
Parking in Cambridge: FREE
Bus ride in to town from car park: GBP 2 for return fair, children are FREE
Petrol: GBP 30.00

Total cost by car: GBP 35.00

Provided the appointed two changes occur as planned, the one way journey time by train is 1.5 hours.

It took a little under 2 hours by car which included a 20 minute break to stretch our legs and use a clean bathroom at motorway services.

It seems as though the rail companies have thrown in the towel when it comes to competing on price. The thrust of their recent advertising campaigns has been to emphasise how much more comfortable a train seat is (if you get one!) and that you can work, check email and make phone calls on the train.

However, in these times of increased financial hardship, it’s the bottom line that people will consider when planning their journeys. And when it costs an enormous 50% more to travel by train it makes no sense at all.