Thursday, 1 June 2017

Introduction

England - with real county boundaries
Between April 2015 and May 2017 I completed a circuit of "the Edge of England", travelling by bus around the coastline and the Welsh and Scottish borders. The aim was to do as much of the journey as possible by ordinary service bus, using my English National Concessionary Bus Pass and to  stick as closely to the coast - or the borders - as feasible.  To get over the larger river estuaries such as the Mersey, Severn and Humber as well as many smaller ones, I used a combination of ferries, bridges, tunnels or just going the long way round to the lowest crossing point by bus. In some cases the train took me closer to the edge than did the bus and I also used the opportunity to visit - and try out - a number of England's transport curiosities.  Why "England" and not "Britain"?  Well, partly to keep the trip to a manageable length, but mainly because my concessionary bus pass isn't valid in Wales or Scotland!

It wasn't a continuous journey but one I fitted in a week or so at a time when the time was available. I travelled on 51 days  and for 5,000 kilometres (almost exactly).I started at my local bus stop on the outskirts of Lancaster and ended up there 25 months later.

I used:
257 buses
13 ferries
5 trains (two of which were steam trains)
3 trams
1 "electric Railway"
1 miniature Railway
1 pier Railway
1 tube train (on a pier)
1 "floating bridge"  (i.e. a chain ferry)
1 transporter bridge
and a hovercraft!

You can follow my journey day-by-day, starting here.

For planning purposes I used Traveline or Google Maps/Transit initially, but then for detailled planning I used County Council websites, confimring curcial connections with the websites of the bus operators themselves. The standard of information on both Traveline and County Council websites varied enormously across the country. For initial "journey planning" I used the South East version of Traveline - far more user friendly than some of the other regional variations, But sometimes I needed full copies of timetables and these were better obtained from bus operators or (some) county councils.

But what I needed most of all were network maps. The motorist has a choice of numerous commercially-available maps of the road network with Ordnace Survey drilling down to the last detail. The bus passenger, in contrast, has to make do with a hotch-potch of locally-produced maps to varying standards and quality and in some parts of the country none at all.  Bus operators only include their own routes on their maps (unlike in previous times) whilst some county councils, who still have overall responsibility for ensuring public transport information is available, seem to have given up, no doubt citing austerity measures imposed by central government.


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