A growing topic of conversation recently in our area has been with regard to environment and sustainable travel around the conurbation of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole. We hear the new council are looking at ways of improving congestion and we have also recently seen the introduction of Beryl Bikes who offer a bike share scheme, on its own an excellent scheme although not yet currently available in Christchurch, a move that seems strange given we are all trying to be greener in our travel choices but hopefully this may change.
Like many of us locally I confess to being a car commuter, travelling each day from Christchurch to Bournemouth but last week I had the opportunity to use public transport and soon realised that the bus may on this occasion be the better option.
Our commuting habits, like many major towns and cities do leave a lot to be desired, in a recent BH Living Magazine survey and out of 606 respondents we found 364 (60%) used their car with just 61 (10%) using the bus, an even smaller number used a bike. This clearly shows there is a lot of work to be done locally on getting us to change our commuting habits.
So how did I do on my day on the bus? To be honest it was easier than I thought. I had to get the bus from Christchurch to Royal Bournemouth Hospital, then onto Castlepoint and then Winton before going to football at Dean Court and finally going home. What follows is my day on the buses.
Looking on the websites of both our local bus companies I see they both offer a day rider ticket, morebus offer a dayrider ticket for just £4.00* if using their app or for just £4.20* from the driver. Yellow bus offer the same range of tickets costing £4.20* if paying cash or contactless on the bus or £4.50* if using their app. With both companies it is worth checking their websites as these fares only applied to the area I was traveling in, in my case this was within the BCP Conurbation area. Due to where I needed to go and the time I was travelling back to Christchurch in the evening it suited me on this occasion to opt for the Yellow bus dayrider ticket.
The first bus of the day was a little gem, the service 2h from Two Riversmeet Christchurch to Castlepoint via Royal Bournemouth Hospital, this service left at 07:17 and seeing I normally drop the wife off at work she joined me for this part of the journey. I used my phone app (this is called the YB Move App on Yellow buses) and my wife paid using her debit card on the bus, yes these days you do not need the right money to travel on a bus.
This part of the journey was on time, quick and going via Barrack Road it took only slightly longer than taking the car. I should add that this service only runs once in the morning and twice in late afternoon/early evening but for staff who work at the hospital and live in Christchurch this service should be one of those ‘no brainers’…especially with the cost of parking at the hospital.
After the hospital I stayed on as it carried on towards Castlepoint, another benefit of travelling on the bus is that I was able to enjoy using my phone, tweeting, checking Facebook, reading emails and listening to the radio while someone else did the driving.
Arriving at Castlepoint I had what turned out to be my longest wait of the day, just 15 minutes, nothing really, but it did give me an opportunity to dash into Sainsbury’s to get my lunch for later. The 4a soon came along which I knew would take me into Winton and get me to work, it was still early and it was encouraging to see so many getting on the bus, hardly anyone was paying cash with most were all showing either cards or their phones. The days of queues whilst people fumbled around for the right money have clearly gone. It was also good to see the number of younger people and workers using the bus and this possibly was a sign that times are now changing albeit slowly. Before too long I arrived at work, hassle free no problems parking the car, efficient and less than 20 metres from my office door.
By the end of a long day it was time to go off and enjoy football, the game was a friendly with AFC Bournemouth playing Lazio, beforehand I had arrange to meet up for a few pre-match drinks, this in itself a very good reason for taking the bus.
To get from Winton to Dean Court (Ashley Road Boscombe) I did have to look up on the bus website to see how I needed to do the trip, the website was easy to navigate and included a map clearly showing the routes and numbers, this made my task much easier. From this I could see I needed two buses, one was a 4a to the railway station before changing, after a short walk, onto a route 2.
It was a Bournemouth rush-hour when I left Winton and in the distance I could see the queue of traffic tailing back at Talbot Roundabout, here they have an effective bus lane and I soon realised there was a benefit in traveling by bus as we passed all the queueing traffic. My journey time from Winton to the football ground was just 25 minutes and in fairness I do not think I could have done that much quicker in the car, especially when I would then have had to park the car.
With the game over and a good time had by all, apart from the fact we lost, it was time to go home. I do regularly use the bus to go to football so this was a trip I am used to, a quick walk into Boscombe it was not long before a 1b came along. In the distance I could hear the Bournemouth Friday night fireworks had just started and I remembered thinking to myself that these buses would probably have a busy time well into the evening….and cheaper than parking in Bournemouth for a few hours of an evening. My bus, even at 22:00 at night, was again surprisingly busy, another mix of passengers, families coming out of town, football fans going home after the game or just people going about their daily routine.
For me I made the right choice on the day, everything I needed to do during the day I managed on the bus without problems. I was impresses with the cleanliness of the buses I travelled on which were all clean and tidy with no graffiti you see on public transport in many other cities, some of the routes I travelled on this day even had both USB ports and Wi-Fi. All the buses I travelled on had on-board CCTV which is a great asset and helps give passengers that extra security.
During the day I travelled on five different buses which totalled approximately 13.6miles (21.88Kms) and it cost me just £4.50, I had no parking costs, travel times were not much more than when I drive and I was able to have a drink.
So do I think it is possible to do your daily commute and travel on the buses in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole? Well on this example very much yes, as you would expect there are pro’s and con’s as you always get with public transport but speaking from my own experience and on what I had to do this day I think it is something we should all try to do at least once a month and by doing this we can all be happy we have done our little bit to help the planet and the area in which we all live.
A word of special thanks to the Yellow Bus drivers, all of whom were friendly and didn’t mind me taking photos of their buses; even if they thought I was a bit strange.
Both our local bus companies have mobile apps and both offer contactless payments, they both have easy to use websites and this can be found at www.yellowbuses.co.uk for Yellow buses and www.morebus.co.uk for morebus services.
Have you tried to travel and commute by bus? Share your experiences by commenting below or email BH Living Magazine on firstname.lastname@example.org
*Prices and details correct at the time of the article, August 2019.
Brian Case | BH Living Magazine @bhlivingdorset