I’ve just spent a brilliant few days enjoying the scenery in an area stretching from Gloucestershire through mid Wales to Swansea.
The Black Mountains, the Forest of Dean, the Brecon Beacons, the Heart of Wales and the Gower are all delightful and so much more so from the vantage of a bus and train window.
My plea to bus companies – please review your day ticket offers and check whether they’re being effectively promoted to your leisure travel customers such as me. Chances are they’re not.
Stagecoach Wales have a one day Explorer at £8.30 which extends from Porthcawl as far east as Hereford while neighbouring Stagecoach West have a one day Explorer at £7 which extends west from Hereford as far east as Oxford.
My Day 1 journeys straddled the boundary between these two adjacent ticket areas. I started at Abergavenny and travelled via Brecon to Hereford and from there on to Gloucester. Did I need both Explorers or was one enough? I showed my £8.30 ticket to the Gloucester bound driver at Hereford. Fortunately she just seemed happy to spot the word Explorer. I saved myself £7.
It really is time to do away with these artificial boundaries for Explorer type tickets which reflect Company operating practices rather than customer needs. I’ve suggested for some time there should be a national £10 day ticket issued and accepted by every bus company – what a super sales messsge that would be. OK, perhaps with one or two exceptions for premium or long distance journeys: eg Thurso to Inverness, but otherwise a simple and effective sales proposition.
Meanwhile there’s no excuse for neighbouring Stagecoach companies not to be promoting one ticket price across a wide area; after all, no one is going to bus it from Porthcawl to Oxford in a day (although now I think about it I’m tempted: it takes around ten hours) but criss crossing a border, as I did, is much more likely, especially in a scenic area such as Gloucestershire to Monmouthshire/Powys.
The same issue impacted my journeys on Day 2, travelling on Stagecoach routes west from Gloucester through the Forest of Dean back to Hereford then continuing into Powys on a Sargeants route to Llandrindod Wells followed by TrawsCymru to Newtown. I paid for single tickets on both the last two journeys as I was unaware there’s an £8 Powys Explorer ticket – how would I know? There’s no mention of this attractively priced ticket on Sargeants’ or TrawsCymru’s websites nor Powys Council’s site which seems to be in a complete state of flux.
I found out about it on Day 3 when the driver of the Celtic Travel X75 from Shrewsbury to Llanidloes recommended it when I asked if there was a day ticket; and I wasn’t even in Powys at the time!
On Day 4 I’d repositioned to Swansea to explore the Gower using New Adventure Travel’s (strangely branded as N.A.T.) tendered bus network. I’d seen nothing to promote a day ticket on their website (nor is there any reference to one in their printed timetable booklet) but I spotted a poster in Swansea’s Quadrant bus station promoting a great value ticket for £7.50.
It seemed just the job, but when I asked the driver for a day ticket he quickly established I would only be travelling in the Gower rather than needing the whole of Swansea so sold me a more attractively priced Day Ticket at £5.20.
These are great value tickets but they really do need promoting more, as does the whole wonderful bus network across the Gower.
The TrawsCymru website gives details of a £10 day ticket available across the extensive geographic network from Cardiff to Caernarfon. It seems a small step to make that the default ticket for every bus in Wales …… and England …. and Scotland.
Finally another example of ineffective price promotion is the TrawsCymru free weekend travel scheme, now in its second year. There’s been impressive infrastructure investment by the Welsh Government to promote the TrawsCymru network recently but nowhere is there a mention of this amazing weekend free travel deal. You’d think something so astoundingly attractive for visitors and tourists would be shouted from the rooftops; yet not a dicky bird of a mention at bus stops, shelters, whizzo electronic totem pole thingies, or on board buses. Quite extraordinary.
Interestingly the scrolling messages on the internal screen inside the TrawsCymru bus I travelled on enticed passengers to ring Traveline Cymru, but gave the premium rated 0871 number rather than the 0800 freephone number exclusively available in Wales/Cymru.
So, have free travel, but don’t tell anyone; have an 0800 freephone number but instead promote a premium one. You really couldn’t make it up!
Roger French 16th August 2018
I used to run a bus company but in retirement am a full time passenger travelling all over Britain enjoying its splendid scenic delights by bus and train.