Monday, 23 March 2009

Trains and Boats and, er, .....buses

One of the frequent trains to Birmingham from Stafford

Public transport has a pretty dire image generally in the UK, partly due to the British tendency to remember the times when things go wrong but forget about the good times. We Brits do enjoy a good moan after all.

So, confronted with the possibility of having to attend a meeting in central Birmingham, carrying on from there to a narrowboat moored in rural Staffordshire, returning to Birmingham the following day, going back to the boat that evening and then getting themselves home again on day three many people would no doubt conclude that a car was "essential" and that they "couldn't manage without one".

The 481 Stafford to Telford bus runs through Gnosall every 30 minutes during the day and the last bus from Stafford is at 23.52!

Last weekend I did all of the above and, not only was it easily accomplished without a car, I came to the conclusion that given the expense and difficulty of finding a parking place in a strange city and the need to navigate through an unfamiliar road network in heavy traffic, a car would have been a positive handicap. Throughout the weekend I used a total of 8 trains and 4 buses, ALL of which turned up on time (except one, which was the train before the one I intended to catch running late), all had seats available and all provided an acceptably high standard of service. On the first and last bus journeys I had the slight disadvantage of having to walk 2 miles from the bus stop to the boat, but walking the towpath of the Shropshire Union Canal in glorious Spring weather is hardly an imposition; whilst I was able to break my journey back from Brum on the Saturday evening for a couple of pints of decent beer in the Black Country at Coseley, which I wouldn't have been able to do by car.

Public Transport can, on occasion even beat the journey time of the car. On Saturday morning, I left Starcross at exactly 09.02, caught a bus at 09.10 which arrived at Stafford a minute or two early and allowed me to catch a train which was running a few minutes late and which deposited me in Birmingham New Street station at exactly 10.05. The government's Transport Direct website says that, by car, this is 39.6 miles and should take 54 minutes. So it might, if there was no traffic in central Birmingham - but it rather assumes that one could park the car - and leave it - directly outside the station! Realistically, by the time you factor in the need to find a car park - (the station car park is for rail users only) and then to walk from there to the city centre then public transport is quicker.

I know (believe me, I know) that its not always like this.....but I think last weekend's experiences are more typical than some would believe.


Captain Ahab said...

A nice weekend to be aboard Jim. We are all set for the off on Saturday and if the Peak Forest remains closed we will pass Starcross as we travel up the Shroppie en route for Manchester and then the Huddersfield Narrow.

Tony said...

For future reference, the taxi fare between Stafford station and Norbury Wharf should be around £17.
I'd recommend Westside (01785 213667), but only because I work for them.

Jim Davies said...

Give her a wave as you go past Cap'n!

Thanks for the info on the taxi fare, but I think I'd prefer the £2.20 bus and the walk and save the weekend's beer money.