Saturday, 5 May 2012

How to spend more on refreshments than you do on fares.

Even the booking clerk was impressed at the cost of my ticket when I had to ask him for it after the automatic machine at Wolverhampton wouldn't issue it to me. Wolverhampton to Liverpool on an Advance Purchase, Internet Discount, London Midland Half-Price sale (with railcard)  for £3.30! (walk-on fare £19.20). 
Not that I was going from Wolverhampton to Liverpool you understand. My journey had started in Stourbridge and I was headed home to Lancaster, but that would have cost ten times as much.
Stourbridge is hardly a centre of the rail network anyway. All journeys from the town must start with the short ride to Stourbridge Junction and a change of train. Going anywhere north of Birmingham requires a further change there, so my bus to Wolverhampton didn't take any longer and even without my free pass would have been considerably cheaper. It also gave me a chance to inspect the brand-new bus station at Stourbndge, opened only last month and which replaced an extremely run-down facility which was a major disincentive to bus use.
The new Stourbridge Bus Station
When booking ahead I like to leave a bit of extra time for connections, because cheap tickets are usually train-specific and if you miss your booked train you might as well throw the ticket away and start again. Today though, everything went smoothly and I had plenty of time for a couple of pints in the Great Western, the best pub in Wolverhampton and one of the best in the country.
The Great Western
These of course, more than doubled the cost of the journey!  The "Great Western" sounds as if it ought to be near the railway station - which it is. Unfortunately it's near the GWR station - Wolverhampton Low Level - which is a fine station not much good to the traveller now that all the trains go from the LMS station formerly known as Wolverhampton High Level
Wolverhampton Low Level - across the road from the Great Western
My London Midland train got me to Liverpool in an hour-and-a-quarter and I then had a 40 minute wait for the X2 bus to Preston, which mysteriously changes to a service 2X in Southport to get round the law on drivers' hours! I must admit that the passenger on the top deck of the X2 does not see the north-west of England at its best. The journey out of Liverpool along the Scotland Road is very slow and passes mile after mile of dereliction, the area never having recovered from the mass dock closures of the 1970s and 80s. In Bootle, the bus stops at "The Strand", but that is somewhat different from it's London namesake.

Things got better after Preston. The number 40 is allowed much less time for its journey in the evenings, when car and passenger traffic are, in theory, lighter. In practice this means it has to charge up the A6 flat out, but it does show that modern buses can easily keep pace with the traffic when they need to and we were rarely overtaken.

Another advantage of public transport is that arrival times are exactly predictable. The number 40 stops at the end of our road and I was able to tell Hilary I would be home at 19:32 precisely - which I was. It wasn't the fastest of journeys, but it was certainly the cheapest and a lot more interesting than a thrash up the M6 or even the West Coast Main Line would have been.

1 comment:

No Direction said...

I note that your refreshments didn't include any food, only beer!