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.
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......