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I like weekends away visiting my friends. It really cheers me up. The only problem is I do not drive (I am not allowed to as I am partially sighted) and have to rely on public transport. I have tried National Express coaches and trains and have had very mixed results. One thing I do find that unless you book about three months in advance (especially with the trains) traveling within Britain via public transport can be quite expensive.
On my last trip to Glasgow to see friends I tried a new company www.megabus.com. This is a subsidiary of Stagecoach and offers dirt-cheap intercity coach travel As the name suggests they are an internet company and that is the only way you can book the travel which may be a hindrance for those who do not have internet access or credit or debit cards. The brilliant thing about them is that they offer travel from as little as £1 single to a number of destinations including London, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Manchester, Birmingham, Dundee, Perth, Inverness Aberdeen, Cardiff and Exeter
Website and booking
I was impressed by the website as it is ultra easy to use. It is simple and uncluttered with the navigation bars along the top and an easy to find help link. The black text on a yellow background is easy to read. The bus finder is on the front page so there was no hunting around the site so I could get the information I needed very fast.
To look for a journey all you need to do is find your destinations and the days you want to travel. The drop down menus are easy to use, as there is no having to worry about miss typed places or whether your dates are in a correct format.
Once the database is searched it displays the various options that match your criteria. There are two buses a day for the Glasgow run and three coaches a day to London. There is no compulsory registration involved in booking. You only need to register if you want to track your orders.
Paying is easy. You just need to put in your card number as per usual. I trust Stagecoach, as it is an international company so I had no qualms about my card safety. I was impressed with the range of cards you can pay with. All major cards including visa electron are accepted. Once you book you get a confirmation email with your booking numbers. Do not lose these. This is your ticket. No booking number means no boarding the coach.
The rest of the site is useful. There are timetables and good maps and instructions on where all the pick up pints are, as they do not tend to be in a major coach station. They tend to be very near them though.
The great thing about the coaches are the cost. I am not sure how they do it. I paid £4.50 for my journey from Manchester to Glasgow and that included a 50 pence booking fee. The train is £36.50 and National express is around about £30. I booked my journey a month in advance. If you booked the ay before it would cost in the region of £20.50.
So does cheap costs mean a lack of quality in service.
I daunt it. My bus to Glasgow was due to leave 13.20 from just outside Cholrton Street bus station. I arrived in plenty of time as it advises you are there at least 20 minutes before departure. The coach was a double decker coach in blue and yellow. I have heard they also use bendy buses. Both of my coaches seemed to be fully booked so the company is obviously very popular.
Loading takes a while as all the booking references needed to be crossed off and bags needed to be put in the boot of the bus.
The bus itself was fairly standard. There were lights and fresh air vents. The seats were comfortable but they did not seem to be declinable. Seat belts are provided and thus must be worn at all times during the journey. There was a toilet on board but during the journey up was only available for emergencies as it was running low on water. Luckily we did have a 20-minute toilet stop in Cumbria. I was glad to get off the coach to stretch my legs, as the legroom is not ideal.
The service seemed pretty reliable. I am more understaffing of buses being late than trains. On the way to Glasgow we were half an hour late and on the way back we were 20 minutes late. In both cases we had to take an alternative route due to traffic on the main route meaning we had less delay than we might have had. On the way back the M74 was closed at Beattock due to a massive crash. Our coach had to take a diversion that was quite off route. The bus left the motorway at Moffat all the way down to Dumfries and then we had to head back to the M74/M6 via the A75. I know these roads well and knew we were going to be very late as the Moffat Dumfries road is very winndey. (I actually wished my hold all was not in the back as I felt like jumping out as my parents live in Dumfries). I thought we were going to be at least an hour late. This diversion was unavoidable and according to my Father the other main route had tailbacks of two hours so was a good alternative. We forgo a comfort stop and seemed to bomb down the M6. I was really impressed at the way they made up time.
Megabus might not be for everyone. I doubt I would like to do Dundee to London on one of these buses. Manchester to Glasgow at just over four hours was long enough for me. I doubt I would like to do it with young children and it is a no no for those with long legs. I would recommend it if you want a good cheap fairly reliable method of intercity travel.
I love the megabus, as a poor traveller arriving in the Uk my friends and I took almost every viable route they go on to explore.. I even found myself in Swindon one day! still you gotta check everywhere out...
katx_x143 26.12.2005 16:11
Great info, positive and negative. Useful for all broke students and gap-yearers like me! Thanks!
JeeanA 05.01.2005 08:48
Sounds really good, all barring the diversions, which couldn't be helped. You answered my question as to whether they take Electron as payment. Thanks for that. Do you know if they still offer the option of sending you a phone text as booking confirmation? Happy New Year to you too matey! :o)