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Journey's average speed was five miles per hour

By North Devon Journal  |  Posted: May 02, 2013

Journal staff encounter mixed blessings as they take buses and a train to work at the offices in Roundswell, Barnstaple in an experiment to see how easy it was for commuters to dump the car.

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AFTER a long, tiresome week at work the last thing I wanted to do on a Friday evening was catch a bus from Roundswell to Ilfracombe.

Having negotiated the somewhat complex online timetable, I drearily walked the 200 yards to the bus stop, longing for the convenience of my nice warm car.

Standing grumpily at the bus stop reminded me of my youth when I would catch the Atlantic Blue bus to Barnstaple with friends, parting with a modest 60p for a half-return fare.

When the number 8 Stagecoach bus pulled up I was shocked to be greeted by the very same miserable and officious bus driver who had couriered my friends and I all those years ago.

While his mood had certainly not improved, it seems fare prices have certainly progressed since the mid-90s.

I was appalled to part with £1.20 for the two-mile, eight-minute journey. For fear of sounding like an old codger, in my day it was about 15p.

Myself and the other three passengers arrived at Barnstaple bus station ahead of schedule which was lucky as I needed to run to the cash point to acquire some currency for the next leg of my journey.

Once on board the double-decker number 21 "North Devon Wave" service to Ilfracombe I instinctively dashed upstairs to get a seat at the front like I had done all those years ago.

The busy bus was ten minutes late leaving the station and the vehicle itself felt pretty old and tired, though Stagecoach have recently announced plans to spend £4 million on a new fleet for North Devon so that should change soon.

I was surprised how much I enjoyed the trip with Goldfrapp's ultra-relaxing Seventh Tree album in my headphones, a bird's eye view of the stunning Taw estuary gleaming in the sun and none of the responsibilities or hassles of driving.

The 16-mile journey from the office to my door took one hour and 30 minutes – that's an average speed of just over five miles per hour.

On Monday morning I was horrified when my alarm went off an hour before normal to get me up for the bus to work.

As I wearily stumbled down the hill to the bus stop I questioned whether people living in cities, with their ultra-regular services and numerous bus stops, would have to make such changes to their routine to catch a simple bus.

In an attempt to save time I tried a different tack. Instead of changing at Barnstaple bus station I opted to catch the number 21 service which would take me much closer to Roundswell but had the downside of including a lengthy walk to the office.

However, when the double-decker hoved into view (ten minutes late) my heart sank as I saw it was already completely full, mainly with school children.

It was standing room only until we got to Barnstaple and I lost count of how many times I got hit by kids' backpacks.

The whole experience was very annoying.

I got off at the Bickington roundabout and walked to the office which took me about 15 minutes, longer than I'd expected.

To summarise, while the bus did have its relaxing moments, using it during peak times was a largely irritating and time-consuming experience.

It's no wonder so many people have cars.

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  • DaveyofCrnwal  |  May 03 2013, 3:18AM

    In Cardiff the minimum fare is £1.50 even if its just for one stop. £3 just to go a couple of miles to the shops and return. If one tries to use a car one will discover extortionate parking charges in the city centre. If one can manage a five to ten minute walk to a bombsite car park the fees are lower at £1 per hour. I predict that city centre shopping will eventually become a thing of the past.

  • D_Hare  |  May 02 2013, 2:21PM

    £1.20 for two miles strikes me as reasonable to other parts of the country, even urban areas, where a similar journey would cost a scandalous £1.95!!!