Sunday 17 June 2018

A surprisingly easy journey

I recently attended a meeting in Birmingham, and being me my first thought was to go by train, but when I looked at the address of the meeting venue on a map I thought it might be a bit difficult by train, a bit too far from New Street station. Should I drive instead? Another factor was timing: I'd have to go to Birmingham in the morning peak so the train fare would be expensive, and the hourly train service meant I would be rather earlier than I needed to be: perhaps I should drive. But then I thought of other factors: actually it was not all that far from the station, and I could use bus to get nearer; I found that there are Advance tickets which made the fare more affordable; if I take a computer and some papers to work it did not matter if there was some slack in the schedule because I would still get more done than I would if were driving the car for a couple of hours - and at least I would not be driving in peak traffic on the M6! So I booked the tickets: an Advance single out on the 07:05, because I knew when I had to be there, and a flexible Off Peak single back to allow some flexibility in finishing time.

For many people a journey always means driving a car, and if I lived in rural East Lindsey I would have needed to drive. My two colleagues who joined me at the meeting drove all the way (starting out at 6 o'clock!) and hearing that I had come by train commented that they had not thought of that ... One get there before me and one after me, driving times being much more difficult to predict over that sort of distance at peak times. I like to think, though, that I would have driven as far as a convenient railway station  and then parked and caught a train: the advantages of being able to work while travelling to me outweigh the advantages of flexible timing of the journey itself. Whether I am at my desk, in a waiting room or on a train does not affect whether I am working, whereas when driving a car I never am. And I am not contributing to congestion or air pollution, which is a nice feeling. Usually my expenses claims are rather lower, too, (assisted by the Senior Railcard) although the extent of that does depend on time of day.

I set off on my early train, then, and arrived at New Street on time. This early train, being suitably timed for some commuters between Leicester and Birmingham, stopped rather more than most of our services and was packed full after Nuneaton, but, of course, the crowding did not affect me as I had boarded before most others and in any case I had a reserved seat with my Advance ticket. With the spare time I had before my meeting I called at the Centenary Lounge for a croissant to supplement my earlier-than-usual breakfast then boarded a bus towards my meeting venue in Great Colmore Street: I could follow the trip on a map on my smartphone and alighted at the stop nearest the street: because I had joined the bus after the walk to Moor Street for my croissant I passed a couple of stops before mine, but had I gone straight there from the station it would have been just one stop, really not worth the bus. So when I went back at the end of the day I walked all the way, less than twenty minutes walking slower than I usually do because I walked along with someone else who was returning to Gloucester and needed a train at about the same time as mine. The meeting finished on time and as I had nothing I needed to do before returning I was soon on the train back and was glad I'd bought a flexible ticket so that I could leave immediately.

It is all too easy to think of reasons not to use public transport, but unless my destination is uncommonly badly served (like Lincoln before 10:00, but not like Birmingham at any time!) I seldom end up driving because when I put my mind to it, trains and buses are easier than we think and still work well much of the time. We are now so confident of this that we have reverted to being a one-car household and so far we have not yet had to hire a car in order to cope with our travel needs. Now that is saving a lot of money for travelling for fun, but that is another story!

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