Public Transport – A shock to the system

It’s been a long time since I have had to rely on public transport as luckily I have a car, but this week has brought home to me how difficult it is get around if you don’t have a car, or access to one. I have had to rely on public transport because my car is very poorly with its head gasket gone.

Because a lot of my work as a Councillor is not in my local area, I have to travel. The big drawback to this is without a car I have to use the bus. I would like to use the train, but the nearest stations in Penzance or Camborne are over 15 miles away. So I have to get a bus to get to the station. Porthleven is hardly what I call remote; I would say there is an hourly service to Helston, some 3 miles away. This bus travels from Penzance to Falmouth. So its not that bad as long as you have plenty of free hours to a) wait and b) the time it take to get to a place. It’s just if you need to get to other places a problem arises.

Take Truro, its the de-facto capital of Cornwall, but there is only one direct service in the morning, but as I was told by First’s customer service that college children get priority, so if that hardly a good start for a commuter trying to get to work. This bus leaves at 7:30 am and gets in around 9am.  If not, I was told I could get to Truro via either Penzance (requires two changes) or Camborne (requires 3 changes). If I had to go via any of them, I might as well get off and get the train as it would be quicker. There used to be a direct route from Penzance to Truro via Helston/Falmouth but this was stopped some years ago. I dread to think how difficult it would be to get to anywhere east of Truro

At a recent Community Network meeting we discussed transport and buses. Sadly at this meeting First (the bus company) failed to send any senior managers to answer questions, even though they promised, but at the 11th hour they sent one of the general staff who could not speak on anything because he was not really in a managerial role that would have access to that type of information. All he said (no fault on him) I will take that question back to my boss.

I would never expect a public transport service like you get in a large city (would be nice though), but it would be nice to get one that enables you to get around without spending many hours waiting and travelling around in the aim of trying to get to somewhere that is only 20 miles away. The Government and to an extent Cornwall Council bangs on about ‘Green Travel Plans’ and how people should stop using their cars, but what is the alternative? People are not going to stop using a car because the alternative is just not there.

As for the price of a bus ticket, this is more expensive that using a car. That just makes no sense at all. I travelled back from Helston (3 miles) with my son. It cost £3.90 for both of us one way. Hardly a cheap method to travel around. Its just not affordable to use a bus as a regular means of travel. Personally I would be more than happy to pay more in Council Tax, or dare I say it in parking charges if that money went directly to fund better public transport. I would not have a problem with that.

I have to say it’s not until you have to try something you really know how difficult it can be. For me, I am looking forward to getting my car back; as I don’t really think I could cope without it until things change in public transport.

4 comments

  • mrs mac

    i dont see how anyone can live/work down here without some form of personal transport. i can cycle to porthleven from helston quicker than walking to the bus stop, waiting and the travelling time (i'm 46 btw)!

    my son goes to college in Truro and the bus leaves at 0810 and gets him there approx 1 hour later for this i have to pay £330 per college year.

    it pains me to say it, the public transport system here is poor to say the least!

  • gilly

    Yes, I agree with Mrs Mac – I paid out £600 for my son's season ticket to Truro – which is 1hr 50 mins on the bus each way! I use the bus all the time – and have made my housing choices based on this too – I have also changed my work location to be a little nearer home. I use the bus to get all over the place in Cornwall – and occasionally hire a car if I need (like last night) to get to North Cornwall in an evening (from West Cornwall). However, the car owner can't expect the bus service to replace the car, because the demand isn't there every day – only occasionally when your car isn't available to you. If there were hundreds of us all demanding bus services, they would be there. On the other side of the coin, the train journeys I have made recently – up to the Midlands – were nightmare journeys that wouldn't encourage anyone to give up their car! I am glad you have at least experienced what it is like to try to get around without a car!

  • Anonymous

    Surely you get a discount – being a Senior Citizen?

  • between-the-lines

    The major problem over all is that the UK is stuck in a vicious circle; the more people have cars, the fewer people use other transport, the worse it gets to not have a car, the more people feel driven (sorry for pun) to get a car, and so on downwards.

    My partner and I moved a year ago to North Devon which is, as you know, a large and pretty remote and low populated area. Since we don't drive a car for ethical reasons, we live in a town.

    Back in the 19th and 20th centuries there used to be a good train service connecting the whole area, apart from Hartland, but due to the push to get everyone driving cars in the 60s, all that is left now is a remnant that runs from Barnstaple to Exeter.

    But it certainly seems to us, as regular bus users, that the bus transport here is better than in Bristol.

    One key difference is that in Bristol, Worst Bus have a monopoly, whereas in North Devon there is competition between Worst Bus and Stagecoach. As a result, Stagecoach provide excellent service by and large, with Day Rover tickets costing £3 to travel all day anywhere over the whole area, including Bude.

    The UK just needs a bit more imagination and effort, as well as competition, to overcome the initial hurdles and jolt us out of the vicious circle and into a virtuous one so that we can get free from the tyranny of the private motor car that we're mostly slaves to at the moment.

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