August 06, 2004

It's Mega

Normally, when I go to Wolverhampton from London, I take advantage of Virgin's advance purchase tickets, which cost £13 one day in advance, and £9 seven days in advance (one way). It's generally pretty good, and not too crowded at the times I usually go. It tends to be a bit crap at the weekends due to engineering, and leaving London in the early evening is a bit too crowded.
Yesterday, in the interests of scientific transport research, and in the interest of my wallet, I decided to try taking the Megabus. Although it may sound like one great big giant bus, Megabus is actually a new bus company, brought to you by Stagecoach, who run some of London's double deckers. They run between London and other major cities, such as Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, and Glasgow. You can only buy tickets on the internet, and they don't stop at any intermediate points, so you can forget about getting a Megabus direct to Milton Keynes, Stoke, or Wolverhampton, as those kind of places are out of bounds for the Megabus. However, the fares on a Megabus start from the rock bottom of £1.50. Yes, that's less than two quid to Birmingham from London. I bought my ticket at three days notice, and found one for £3.50.
The Megabuses depart from the Green Line Coach Station, which is between Victoria Train Station, and Victoria Coach Station. It seems to be the home of coach services to Poland and the Czech Republic, as well as pretty much all other coach services that are not National Express. I made my way to stand five, and was pleased to see a couple of Megabuses parked there, painted in their bright blue colours, looking rather fetching. Closer inspection revealed that they were actually London double decker buses with a nice paint job, and in fact the bus I took to Birmingham had not been painted yet, so it actually WAS a London double decker bus, complete with posters inside from Transport for London. This proved to be a slighly surreal experience, like sitting on the number 43 to Old Street, and then finding it actually carries on, and goes off up the M40.
The journey time was billed as 3 hours, and it took 3 hours and 15 minutes, which is a pretty reasonable delay for a coach. It wasn't crowded at all, meaning that I obtained the much sought after double seat. It certainly wasn't as comfortable as a National Express coach, but it's nice to look out of the window on the top deck. I'm not sure how comfortable a really long journey would be on the Megabus, but the 3 hours to Birmingham was fine. There are also no toilets on board, so going before you get on would also be advisable.
Considering the price of a journey, and the journey time, which is actually about the same as National Express, I would say that Megabus is a good way to get to Birmingham from London. Compared to the Virgin Trains advance purchase, it's a trade off between speed and comfort, against price. Against National Express, I would take the Megabus, which is much cheaper, and only a little less comfortable. However, it has come to my attention that National Express are now offering competing 'funfare fares' for about 1-7 quid to Birmingham, depending on availablilty. So, shop around for the best deals, as the prices will no doubt go up and down fairly rapidly.


With Virgin takes 3 hours and costs £13.70
With Megabus takes 5 hours 5 minutes and costs £6.40

These times and fares include buses to Euston and Victoria respectively, and in the case of Megabus, a connecting train to Wolverhampton, and a walk from Birmingham Snow Hill to Birmingham New Street.

Posted by paul at August 6, 2004 02:24 PM


We want MORE scientific research like this. A good, well presented and researched article. I fully approve. I think that you should try out many many more services and offer good comparisons like this report. How about comparing theme parks. Or restaurant chains. Or long distance travel. Or the big debate about saving money by taking sandwiches with you to work.

Posted by: tom at August 6, 2004 07:04 PM