Tag Archives: bus

Living without a car

A life of car ownership

As soon as I was 17 (many years ago!) I got a driving license, passed my driving test, and bought a car with some help from the ‘bank of mum and dad’.

Since then I have always had a car with its size changing in line with that of the family. In more recent years the children had largely flown the nest and my wife and I generally used a combination of walking, cycling and public transport to get around. We found this provided the exercise we needed and avoided the problem and cost of parking at our destination.

Decline of car use and ‘end of the affair’

Gradually we found we preferred this approach and used it both for local and long distance travel. The car was only straying from the drive when we had a lot to take with us or if the destination was difficult to get to using public transport.

Just over a year ago we added up what we were paying for insurance, road tax, breakdown cover, depreciation etc to get a more accurate view of what the car was costing us. This exercise confirmed our suspicions that we were paying a lot of money each year for an expensive asset which increasingly was just sitting on our drive.

We then decided to take the radical step of selling the car and trying to live without one for the first time in our adult lives.

Quid pro quo

The first decision we made after selling the car and banking the proceeds was that we would ‘recycle’ some of the saving and allow ourselves occasional travel treats to reward ourselves for doing without the car.

We agreed we would:

  • travel First Class on long train journeys where a reasonable advance purchase ticket is available, and
  • allow ourselves the use of a taxi now and again where it made a journey easier.

The first year of being carless

There have been a few times a car would have been useful but we have managed to find an alternative without any problems. Over the year we have enjoyed quite a few First Class rail journeys but only found the need for a couple of taxi journeys. The most recent taxi journey was to a fundraising event organised by the Mayor of Sutton where a bus was possible but not ideal as it was a ‘posh frocks’ event. I decided to use this journey as a way of trying out the Uber web-based taxi app and found it was simple, quick and competitively priced for this journey. Conveniently the Mayor also lives in Worcester Park so he kindly offered us a lift home, avoiding the planned taxi back and providing us with some time to catch up on things.

The future

Our situation may change one day and a car might be useful but at the moment we find Worcester Park is adequately supplied with public transport to cover most needs. With spring in the air walking and cycling will probably be our main way of travelling around the borough on councillor and other journeys.

As I write this I am enjoying a ‘full grease’ with regular coffee on a Virgin Trains service from Euston. We have just travelled at high speed parallel to the M1  at Watford Gap and I can see the traffic crawling through road works. Would I rather be driving? I’ll leave you to guess!

Overcrowding on the X26 bus

The X26 limited-stop bus service runs from Croydon to Heathrow Airport and the route includes Sutton, Kingston and of course Worcester Park. It is a very useful service for getting from the South West edges of London to Heathrow which is otherwise very poorly served by public transport links to London’s largest airport. The single journey fare, currently £1.50, is the same as all other London buses which I’m sure adds to its popularity.

I use the route whenever I need to travel from Heathrow and have noticed that I usually have to stand when boarding at Worcester Park station. It is not just a problem at peak times as I have also had to stand when travelling early on weekend mornings.

I logged the capacity problem via FixMyTransport.com back in 2011 before I was a councillor, in fact before I had even thought about becoming a councillor, and was told ‘Recent reviews of route X26 have shown that capacity is sufficient to meet passenger demand’. I had no way of knowing how they interpreted their data but their conclusion was not in line with my experience as a passenger.

As soon as I was elected as a councillor for Worcester Park ward in May 2014 I decided to try to tackle the problem again with the help of Caroline Pidgeon, Leader of the Liberal Democrat London Assembly Group and Chair of the London Assembly’s Transport Committee. Consequently the issue was raised in July 2014  at the Mayor of London’s question time (Frequency of X26 bus route) and the Mayor, Boris Johnson, stated ‘TfL has identified a crowding issue in the morning peak on route X26 and is investigating potential solutions’. It was encouraging to get it raised at this level but the answer was only partly accurate because, as I have mentioned, the overcrowding can occur at other times of the day.

During an event with our MP Paul Burstow someone mentioned a case where a family including elderly members was split when some got on at one stop then the remainder could not join them at a later stop as the bus was by then full, leaving the elderly members stranded.

More recently I attended the London Councils Summit 2014 at the City of London’s Guildhall and had the opportunity to discuss the issue with representatives of TfL. I was encouraged to receive a written reply from TfL advising that they would review the loadings for the service.

This week I attended Sutton Council’s Public Transport Liaison Group and I was pleased to see my question and their commitment to review loadings was included in TfL’s report to the Group.

I am eagerly awaiting the result of TfL’s review of the X26 loading data and am looking forward to seeing the solutions they offer.