Why is Public Transport so Expensive?

Currently, the UK has some of the most expensive diesel in the world. So why is it still more expensive to get public transport than driving to work?

So what about the car first? My Honda Accord averages 40mpg on daily commutes. My daily round-trip to work (according to Google maps) is 30.8 miles, which is 0.77 gallons, or 3.5 litres. With diesel sitting at 112.9 a litre, that works out at a cost of about £3.95 per day travelling. This morning (including defrosting the car) took 40 minutes door-to-office. Bundled in with that value deal is:

  1. my own guaranteed seat
  2. a clean environment
  3. my own peace and quiet (or loud music, depending on mood)
  4. total amount of walking down to 200 yards between car park and office
  5. warmth
  6. comfort
  7. my own timetable

Being all scientific, I’ve tried to work out how much more expensive PT is. I’ve looked around the web for various bits of information on train and bus timetables, assuming that tomorrow I want to be at work the same time as I was today (8:25). What I wasn’t reckoning with, is just how unavailable public transport is. It’s almost impossible for me to get to work in anything approaching a reasonable period of time. After a very long time spent searching, here’s my findings:

For the pleasure of travelling on a scruffy, overcrowded train which runs to a timetable that was devised by a person who only learned about “o’clock” and “half-past” on the clock face at school, I need to walk to the train station (about 5 minutes), pay £4.70 and then get on the train to Winchester. But once at Winchester, I need to get a bus, which is where things become tricky because I don’t want to stand waiting for ages until one arrives. I haven’t been on a bus for years, but I believe they still insist on this “coin” stuff which my Dad told me about and apparently a Visa card swiped between the driver’s miserable, downturned lips doesn’t work either. So I need a stack of “coins” on a regular basis. I’ve no idea how much buses cost, but unless they pay me more than 75p, it’s already cheaper to get the car.

To work out timings, I started by trying to work backwards: i.e. find the bus which gets me there closest to my desired arrival time, then work out when I need to arrive in Winchester to catch it.

For bus routes, I have the option of the 46 or the X66 for getting to work from Winchester. My plan was for the X66 arriving Hursley at 7:51, which means departing Winchester rail station at 7:40. So to get a train which arrives in Winchester for then, you need to depart Hedge End at 7:05, arriving 7:21. Bugger that idea. I’m really not up for leaving the house around 6:55 so I can be at work for just before eight.

If for some reason I missed the 7:05 train, the next one is 7:29, which means I wouldn’t arrive into Winchester until 7:54. The next X66 bus after that is at 8:43. Yes, 50 minutes of waiting in the cold is yours for the taking if you’re 5 minutes late on a morning.

Right, try seeing what happens if I leave my house at 7:45 as I did this morning; when can I get to work? The first train leaving Hedge End which I could catch is at 8:06, arriving Winchester 8:24. But then I need to wait for a bus. And wait… and wait… and wait… Wait, in fact, until 9:05 when the number 46 trundles up, which will get me to the office for about 9:30. You wait so long, in fact, that’s it’s better to get the later train (8:34) and arrive in time for the same bus. But that’s no good if I’ve got a 9am meeting is it?

So the result is a minimum of 60 minutes journey time, 10 minutes of which are walking. Surely a mass-transport system should be cheaper than a single-person travelling on their own?