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Sunday, 2 September 2018

£1.50 - That'll Do Nicely!

This is going to sound a bit like one of those old Yorkshire comedy sketches - aye, we could go down t'pub on t'Friday night, have 16 pints, go and see a film, get fish & chips on t'way home and still have change from a ten bob note! But I'll ask you anyway - what can you get for £1.50 these days?

Less than half a pint, especially in a country pub, a very small portion of chips, and certainly not a movie. In transport terms equally little. You'll be charged more than that before the wheels of a taxi have started moving, if you're very lucky a couple of stops on a bus, and train? Well a single from my local station, Darsham, to the next stop, Saxmundham, which is hardly a long way, will set you back £4.50 which in my view is extortionate and does nothing to encourage local public transport use - it would cost around 50p in petrol in a car.

But go to London and things are very different. If you have an Oyster card, or a Contactless credit/debit card travel can be very cheap if you allow a bit more time and don't follow the beaten track through Central London.

On Friday I drove to Upminster Station, which is £2.50 to park all day Off Peak - in comparison Norwich is about £8 Off Peak - and set off on an East/West journey for £1.50.

The starting point in Essex
First leg of the journey was on the District Line to Barking, where I changed for my first ever trip on the soon to be electrified Barking - Gospel Oak line.

172003 waiting at Barking
For now, the line is operated by 2 car class 172 diesels, which I fully expected to be like a 170 or 171. Not so, as the 172's have 4 speed boxes that makes them sound similar to buses. Have to say I like them, and wonder where they will end up after the line goes electric. It's an interesting journey through North London to Gospel Oak, which is where my next change was.

Arrival at Gospel Oak
A word of advice. If you are avoiding Zone 1 to get a cheap fare, you need to let the computer know, so at various interchange stations, like Gospel Oak, you will see pink Oyster card readers. You must scan your card on these to prove you have taken the longer route so you will be charged the correct fare.

Pink Oyster card reader
A very quick connection onto a class 378 London Overground Electrostar to Gunnersbury, which is on the Richmond branch of the District Line.


Another pink card reader, then one stop on the District Line to Turnham Green, where you can watch Piccadilly Line trains running fast through. That they don't stop there meant another one stop journey from Turnham Green to Acton Town, for my final change.



Parked up in a siding was something you don't see everyday - a Piccadilly Line maintenance train

Piccadilly Line maintenance train at Acton Town
And it was onto the Piccadilly Line I went for the final leg of my journey. I've recently joined Big Jet TV who broadcast live from airports round the country, and I fancied a spot of plane watching myself. So my journey ended at Hatton Cross, on the Heathrow perimeter.

Final destination
As the crow flies Upminster to Hatton Cross is around 50 miles. If you drive via the M25, which in theory should be the quickest way it's 63 miles. You'd be lucky to do it in 90 mins by car. I did that journey in 110 minutes, and it cost me £1.50! That is very cheap. Even peak time that journey would only cost £2.80. Had I gone through Central London the journey would have cost £5.10 Peak and £3.10 Off Peak. Note though - pay by cash and it's £6 regardless of which way you go.

The best thing is you don't even have to be a travel nerd like me to find out the cheap ways. The TfL Single Fare Finder gives you all the alternatives - there were 3 different ways I could have gone for £1.50 and they were all listed, including where you had to use the pink readers. That is quite laudable, and National Rail, who are famous for hiding the  cheapest fares should take a leaf out of TfL's book.

The idea was to spend an hour or so watching the planes, then travel into Heathrow itself to do all sorts of things. However, that didn't quite work out as I got talking to a young plane enthusiast on the popular plane spotting site at Myrtle Avenue,, who had his heart set on being a pilot (despite his rather demanding parents calling them "glorified bus drivers") and answered mine, and others questions so well I ended up staying there for over 4 hours, filming and talking transport. I also learned a lot about modern jets. The last time I went serious plane spotting there were still Boeing 707's Dc10's and BAC 1-11's in regular service. I have some catching up to do.

However, one thing that hasn't changed is the presence and majesty of the Boeing 747. Dubbed Queen of the skies, it still has you looking in awe, wondering how the darn thing gets off the ground. They'll still be around for a bit, thankfully.





It's strange that the wider, though slightly shorter Airbus A380 just hasn't got the same aura as the 747. No one can seem to put their finger on exactly why it is, but everyone I spoke to was in agreement - the 747 is still the chief head turner in the skies today. Here's an A380 pictured over Hatton Cross station.


By this time my phone was running very low on battery, so a sudden change of plan saw me catch an X26 to Croydon, purely because the B9's on the route have USB chargers. It's rapidly becoming one of my favourite routes, even if the traffic was pretty sticky at times. The bus was full to bursting when we left Kingston, but the air chill worked surprisingly well, and quiet with it, and the bus never got uncomfortable. 2 hours later, a full battery and I was in Croydon, now with an appetite to satisfy, that had seen no food all day. One Chinese buffet later and it was time to start the journey back to Upminster. Hands up how many of you automatically think East Croydon to Victoria or Blackfriars then District Line? I wouldn't - that will cost you £5.50, even Off Peak! Best to stroll to West Croydon Station, and catch the Overground to Whitechapel.


However mind yourself - seems a rather dangerous place!


A transfer to the District Line at Whitechapel, and I was on the way home - oh the fare from West Croydon? Yup - £1.50! I wonder just how many people, despite it being on the journey planner are aware of these cheaper fares. I think there should be far more publicity to get more people away from Central London. TfL say they want to take over more suburban rail routes, such as those to Dartford. If fares are going to come down to TfL levels I say bring it on. In fact have TfL thought of the Greater Anglia franchise......





43 comments:

  1. The 172s are off to West Midlands Railway - I believe their corridor-fitted examples are mechanically similar. One unit has already gone, leaving no spare for the Barking-Gospel Oak service.
    The LUL maintenance train is formed from ex-Victoria Line (1967) and ex Northern Line (1972) stock - information (other than Wikipedia) suggests it is the Tunnel Cleaning Train. The lack of other pictures would seem to indicate that it makes few public appearances - you appear to have been very lucky!

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    1. If I'd known it was that rare I'd have tried to get some other angles! Thanks for the info about the 172's as well.

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  2. Certainly when I was in London a few weeks ago there seemed to be quite a lot of poster publicity on the Tune for the £1.50 fare. My wife certainly noticed it and commented that it wasn't much use as most people want to go into the centre! What's mot clear is whether this is a time-limited fare: it's presented as "something for the summer holidays" but I can find no mention of a finish date.

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    1. I think that may be the Hopper fare on the buses which is valid for one hour. TfL's fares are now quite complex

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  3. No the fare is not time-limited. It's frozen until 2020. Off peak fares on the tube outside zone 1 have always been cheap.
    It does not apply to all TfL rail fares though - DfT have insisted on higher fares for some of the lines taken over from National Rail companies.

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    1. It clearly shows in my view how excessive fares are outside of London and particular on buses where it can cost more than £1.50 just to go a few stops, add in the generally poor level of service and frequent cancellations and you can see why the buses have declining passengers numbers they are simply pricing themselves out of the market

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    2. Do you think it hasn't been tried, often enough?

      I suspect the bus companies would have gone bankrupt long ago if they carried the sort of operating losses that tfl does. (In fact they still are).

      But I know: the bloggers motto: never let facts get in the way of a good story!!!

      I'm just not sure why the working poor who have to use the bus, should always pay extra to subsidise the comfortable pleasures of the affluent leisured. Perhaps someone could enlighten me?

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    3. Back to type, Smurfy! If TfL spent less money building bloody cycle paths, which cause congestion, holding up buses which encourages people to use them less then their figures might improve!!!

      Incidentally when First challenged Anglian's monopoly of Kessingland with a £1 single fare, Anglian didn't react accordingly. Look who's still there and who isn't.

      As for Freedom Passes London was the first to have them and will never get rid of them.

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  4. Certainly here in Cardiff we have some £1 "Short hop" fares. The only area I know well is the Llanedeyrn/Pentwyn/Pontprennau one where it is possible to travel a distance 24 stops. The City Centre one looks good too when one realises that many services travel round in an anticlockwise loop. But it does all add confusion and complication!

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    1. Whoops, miscounted - it's 17 stops!

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  5. How much was the fare on the X26 out of interest? Is that the old 726 to Dartford?

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    1. Yes it is, though only between Croydon and Heathrow now. The fare is £1.50 regardless of distance, although you can make as many trips as you can for £1.50 as long as your last trip starts within an hour of the first.

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  6. I notice you went to Barking. You might be amused by this mug (I actually have one!): https://tinyurl.com/ybfd48qu. Other models are available.

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    1. I have to be completely Barking to do this!

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  7. Express Motors: Firm 'claimed thousands for fake journeys'

    The owner of a bus company and his three sons claimed tens of thousands of pounds for bus pass journeys which were never made, a court heard.
    Caernarfon Crown Court heard Express Motors owner Eric Wyn Jones and his sons Ian Wyn Jones, Keith Jones and Kevin Wyn Jones, claimed money back from Gwynedd Council for fake journeys using over-60s bus passes. One card had been used 23,000 times, the jury was told. All four deny charges of fraud.

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    1. Amazed there haven't been more cases like that. Thanks for posting.

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    2. I suspect more of it is going on but it is probably difficult to pick up. This one got picked up I suspect because of card that had been used 23,000 times

      Whether there is any software to pick up this sort of thing I don't know. It would not be to difficult to develop something to pick up abnormal uses of concessionary passes


      To some extent as well it depends on what information is collected by the ticket machines. An app could soon pick up things like the same pass being used on two different routes at the same time

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    3. Many bus operators all over the UK still use ticket machines that are unable to even scan bus passes (like Wayfarer 3 machines for example). So i imagine that this probably happens a lot but just nobody is aware as there is no way to find out.

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  8. Another Konect / Anglian service is to go , Harleston Norwich 83 . Interesting one First employee said it was in competition with First to Long Stratton . It will now be an extension of a coloured route from First.

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    1. I think that was down too the loss of the contract

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    2. Yes it was as far as I know. Apparently Simmonds didn't want it so ot becomes part of the purple line, which will be aroyal paun in the bum for those people who used to use the 83 one way and 84 tje other as tickets will no longer be valid on both routes. Another step backwards and more passengers lost I suspect. When, in the name of all that's holy, are we going to get integrated ticketing in this region.

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    3. When services are so few and infrequent integrated ticketing in my view is essential in fact we need an integrated bus network so they can be run efficiently. The problem with this is I would not trust politicians to organise it. They are clueless when it comes to transport and a Quango would be just as bad. So whilst I think an integrated bus network is needed and that means integrating it with rail as well I don't know how it could be sensibly achieved


      At the moment bus companies and councils are driving people away from buses as the services are so poor and expensive

      Someone posted why do bus enthusiast travel largely by car well it is probably because it is the only viable option and not because they want to.

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    4. In heated agreement with that.

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    5. The Explorer Scheme run by Intalink in Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire is admireable. Generally ok , as long as drivers know what they're looking for.

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  9. You could have some great unplanned days out by bus around here if you didn't have to buy so many different types of tickets .

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  10. Is it anti-cartel legislation that makes this impossible? I seem to think that, in Manchester, bus services are run by several companies yet one lot of ticketing covers nearly all of them. And I don't think it's run like London, with one overall authority contracting everyone in - folks here may know how it works, better than I.

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    1. No, nothing like that, Andrew. The anti cartel legislation means operators cannot collaborate on timetables to benefit the passenger, but there is absolutely nothing to stop them accepting an integrated ticket, as has been going on for over half a century in the South East.

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    2. Thanks.

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    3. Well some bus companies manage to get around it. There is the service 30 between Newport & Cardiff that is jointly operated between Cardiff Bus & Newport transport. Tickets used to be jointly accepted whether they still are I don't know as trying to find specific fares information is almost impossible

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    4. Yes, the website isn't clear. However it does give this information: "If you are using your iff card this is valid on Newport Bus journeys operated on the route but at this time, sorry, iff app tickets are not valid". The whole route is in the CardiffBus "Day to go" area so they don't issue returns - the implication is that they can be used on either company's buses but it doesn't actually say. I don't pretend to understand the Newport fare structure!

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    5. Trying to make sense of bus companies fares and tickets is a black art and much fares and ticket information is not even published. Even what regulation is in place is largely ignored for example non flat fare buses are supposed to display a fare table on the bus or print one out for you on request but you try to find one on a bus or get the driver to print you one off most of the ticket machines are not even capable of printing them. AS for ticket option it is almost impossible to establish what ticket options are available


      It shows just how abysmal most bus management is. They seem to go out of there way to make tickets as complex and confusing as possible and then not even advertise the tickets. It is little wonder that each year bus usage decline

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  11. Bus market inquiry launched

    This was launched a while back. Still time to make submissions though.

    I suspect it will be just another hot air exercise though

    https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/transport-committee/news-parliament-2017/health-of-bus-market-inquiry-launch-17-19/

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  12. Ho, ho. It's looking like the everlasting trickle of departing drivers from First Essex has turned into a flood. Did someone try to copy the Stagecoach school of management apparently, without the resources (again)? Don't you need to leave your staff with a reason to stay with you? They've managed to achieve the double: buses without drivers, and drivers without buses. The staff do actually need looking after, as well as the passengers. Management is about more than strategy. People aren't things.


    Running buses is much more than fixing the market, or publishing timetables and fare tables (which give some operators enough trouble). If it weren't then all those cowboys would still be around. It's the bits we don't see too, like working conditions and maintenence. But out of sight, out of mind; as ever.

    I've asked before how messy a collapse could be? Perhaps we now have the answer; very. I'm not sure there's a rabbit in the hat, or a magician in sight.

    I gather CVC private equity are now reported to be sniffing around First Group. They have their work cut out. I hope they have deep pockets; and sharp knives, perhaps.

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    1. Rumours of First Bus wanting to divest their bus operations have been around for some time. The likelihood is if it happened it would be split up. I cannot see anyone wanting to buy the entire operation. Some bits might go to management buyouts. One problem is the government might be concerned about monopolies Some bits might get no interest at all which would pose a problem

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    2. We know First would sell anything, if the sale created shareholder value, because they keep telling us so. It doesn't, since nobody will pay what they think it's worth; presumably because it's such a mess.

      But I have a suspicion the local Essex issue is much more longstanding. No effective two way communication; between tiers of management, let alone with their drivers or passengers. It was the same before nationalisation under NBC, as part of NBC, under the management buyout afterwards, once Badgerline bought them, and when they merged with GRT to form First. Of course they're not the only ones, and as in any walk of life you can buy your way out of (almost) any problem. First, like many of us though, don't have the money; having broke the bank in the US. So the straw breaks the camel's back.

      The dilemma of that old nun: just how do you deal with a problem called Maria?

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    3. Being blunt, I'm not sure I'd give any odds on what I suspect are the profitable bits of Essex: the X30, 100 and, probably Hadleigh, still being in First's hands in six months. Ensign calls. Interestingly Ensign have it seems issued an unsolicited rallying call emphasising their reliability and commitment to the local network, something of which I suspect we could never accuse First Essex. Hardly necessary for Ensign to reassure the passengers, though; they'd be dancing in the streets! Redeploy the resources, problem solved. Well not quite, they've some breathing space, and FB another basket case (but that is something First Bus ought to be used to by now) and by then it might be someone else's problem anyway!

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  13. Just out of interest locally Colchester Borough have multi-operator tickets, and First/Go-Ahead for the 88, but both are Council initiaves. Mind you, both drivers and passengers, as well as the Twitterati, get confused. The transport business isn't good at explaining itself, it seems. As others have said, mostly the governing politicians just aren't interested. Not glamorous enough I suppose?

    I think there's room for both cycles and buses, by the way. Just the politicians seem to have one track minds, and integration doesn't seem to be a word in their vocabulary. Or they have a very short attention span.

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  15. There's a multi-operator Essex Saver too. Mind you, try to buy or use one. Figuring out this ticketing lark needs an academic degree, though most students would struggle. No wonder the poor drivers have given up.

    It does though allow all day Sunday county-wide travel on both subsidised and commercial services for £4.20 (not £1.50, I know!); but £10 the rest of the week because apparently it has to be more than the single operator comparables (or presumably they wouldn't participate). It can't be bought on-line though; that's beyond the ability, or the resources, of the County Council! Or perhaps we could try to understand supermarket pricing, though I'm not sure Tesco or Waitrose yet offer differential pricing depending on the day of the week!! Though if they followed the buses' example they wouldn't let us know anyway!

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  17. Beestons 236


    I have never ever seen such a bizarre timetable. It spends about 5 hour 45 minutes dead running or sitting on a stand and only 5 hours 15 minutes in service. I cannot see it lasting long. Why have they come up with such a daft timetable ? The route cannot be busy , it must be loosing a fortune with a timetable like that

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