Saturday, 21 February 2009

Not the first

Manju and her free ticket to ride

I'm not the first to try my hand on the nation's bus network. I must admit to having had a few pangs of jealousy last April when 60-year-old Manju Ghosh set off on a trip from Berwick to Penzance using her free concessionary bus pass. It seemed that wherever I turned on the internet, she'd already been there as unofficial cheerleader for the free travel scheme in England: on the BBC and in the MEN; in the Metro and The Guardian and the Daily Mirror. I'm not sure how I'd cope with such media attention, especially being bracketed in the "and finally" section more often than not!

As the Manchester Buses blog reported at the time, it would take her twelve days* to travel the length of England only – whereas my own journey will take only six days and I'm starting at the tip of Scotland! Admittedly, I'm making the south coast my final destination rather than Cornwall, as territory demands. I'll be able to start travelling earlier in the morning, along with the commuters, whereas Manju was only able to use her pass after 0930 in the morning. And then there's the issue of holidays – I didn't want to book two weeks off work to do this trip when I could get it done in one!

The BBC Manchester article after Manju's return calculated that the journey would have cost £122.70 if they'd had to pay. Is that calculated at half fare, which is what senior citizens used to pay before free travel? My own journey won't cost that much even though I'll be paying full fare, as by sticking to one operator I can make use of discounted day tickets for most of my journey. National Rail calculates that if I set out from Thurso on a Monday at 0648, I could be in Brighton by 2118 the same day, changing trains at Inverness, Edinburgh and London Kings Cross/St Pancras – and for only £47.50 if I booked in advance, or the more pricey option on the day at £156.30. But where's the fun in that? :)

* In actual fact, she was back home early after only ten days, 700 miles and 37 bus journies.

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