As a Sustainability Manager and a self-confessed environmentalist I often feel very guilty about using my car to get to work. This was obviously not a problem when I could walk to work, but now, at just over 15 miles, it might take a while.
For various reasons, mainly relating to being a one-car family, I decided to try taking the bus to work last week. This was the first time I had caught a but other than for park and ride reasons in over 15 years. When I lived in Birmingham buses were so frequent on some routes that the timetable simply stated ‘every few minutes’ and I simply would never contemplate doing other than using public transport. However, Northamptonshire is a different kettle of fish and public transport in Daventry could certainly be improved.
Still, I was up for an adventure. I enquired about times and prices by email (why you can’t get this from the website I don’t know – it seems to be possible for National Rail, but not Stagecoach buses) and I received a response in less than an hour including a copy of the timetable. All was set. So, on Monday morning I diligently set off round the corner to catch the bus, nearly missed it because I suddenly realised that they might not stop at every stop and I hadn’t seen this one on the timetable, so ran to the next stop.
We went round the housing estates to get to the bus station and then round some more to get out of Daventry and on the road to Northampton. To be fair, once we were out of Northampton it was pretty much a straight route into town, with only a few stops on the way and we were at the Railway station within a few minutes of the promised time. The same was true of the journey back.
I can’t complain about the bus, or the drivers or the price – at £6.40 it was fairly comparable to the cost of petrol and not much more than a return would cost on the train from Long Buckby which I would have to drive to because the first bus to the railway station isn’t until 9am – but that is another rant. However, if there is more than one of you , then the costs are not so comparable. I did find it a bit disorienting as the windows were steamed up and at times I had no idea where I was, but that was because I was merrily catching up on some reading which is an advantage of going by public transport.
However, the things that put me off and that will stop me making this a regular journey and therefore lessening my green guilt are the frequency of the buses and the time it takes for my commute. There is only one bus an hour, which means that in order to get to Northampton in time to start at 8:30 then I have to leave home at 6:45. In the car I can comfortably leave 45 minutes later. I also have to leave work before 5pm which is not something I can do every day otherwise I won’t get home until after 7pm. On a normal day in the car my commute from door to door lasts 1 hour 15 minutes maximum. On the bus it is double that.
Don’t get me wrong, if I didn’t have a car then the bus is definitely a viable way to get to work, but if it can’t tempt someone who longs to be greener from their car, then what chance do the buses on this side of Northamptonshire have of persuading people that actually like being in their car to make that change?