This week’s ecosparkles is about trying to adopt a commitment to public transport and the limitations living in a small rural town. Whilst I have a car, my weekly mileage is very low, sometimes less than 10 miles a week, our town is small and we live centrally where everything is near and walkable. When I do drive, I am rarely alone in my car, as I’m either with the children or on my commute I share the journey with a colleague. I have my car for when I need to go to big town, a 50 mile round journey or to visit friends and family in other parts of the country. As its been half term this week I have done one of my long journeys and decided to compare the costs.
This week I calculated that to go from our small town, not on the mainline train network to the train station nearest to my parents would have involved a walk, a bus journey and 4 changes on the train making it approximately a 6 hour journey, costing £51.85 for myself and the two children (we have a family rail card)
The same journey in my car, a small eco friendly model, (roughly the model in the calculator below) for 196 miles (return journey) would have cost £16.20, door to door. It is unsurprising that given the cost and convenience I opted for the car journey.
I also decided to calculate my CO2 omission for these two journeys to see if there was a considerable difference, however, both journeys worked out at 0.05 tonnes.
Before moving to our small town, I lived in a large city and public transport was key to travelling. It was reasonable, reliable and regular and we used it, I think this is common in most large cities and towns. There are times when living in a small town can feel quite isolating and transport is one of the significant issues. We have two bus routes which serve our town and both are hourly, it takes more than an hour to travel to the nearest town and to the decent shopping town, ninety minutes. In bad weather, the services are often suspended and in high tourist season, the buses are very popular and you have to be early to get a place. The cost of the journey is high. In the journey I calculated the return journey on bus of approx. 24 miles would have cost for 1 adult and 2 children, £17.40, the train stage of approx. 174 miles was £34.45, thus the bus is 72.5p a mile, the train less than 20p a mile and the car 8p.
As a family, we like travelling by train and we have a nice route which takes us to a number of resorts and shopping towns, from our nearest station we can even get to London on a direct train! We do have a family railcard and do enjoy little days out on the train, driving the 12 miles to the station and using the car park, before hopping on the train. However we rarely use the bus for its price and poor timetabling. Even in this challenge to try and make our family life more ecological friendly, I can’t make the full switch to public transport yet.
Whilst I’m not able to commit to public transport, I would like to offer a few suggestions on how I would be more open to using the bus. Firstly, fares need to be so much cheaper to make them family friendly. The routes could be streamlined, our buses go to every village, with a double decker winding round country lanes, why not have smaller buses more frequently, offering direct services to towns and a separate stop all service too for those wishing a more scenic journey. The sadness with the trains is that we used to have a thriving train station in town, but it was one closed after the Beeching report in the 1960s.
Despite my reservations about public transport, I am trying to minimise car journeys this year and to try and share such journeys. I have a small car and would love to look into a more eco friendly car in the future (electric?), however my car’s emissions are low enough for me not to have to pay car tax and it is economical, so I like to think it has some green credentials.
Public transport can be so good and efficient, its just sad that many small towns and villages are poorly served by such services and that there is a genuine need for a car. There does need to be more commitment to rural communities in transport infrastructure planning.