Well, here I am in sunny Oxford after the mySociety meet-up in London, and while I was there, many people asked how we got down here, so far from home and with the challenges that visual impairment can bring. So, here I am to tell you my experiences, and that with a bit of planning and forward thinking it is possible to get to places that are far away from your home. I can always help you with this (unofficially), leave a comment here and I’ll contact you. This is a description of the day, as well as links to their respective FixMyTransport campaigns:
- 5 – 6am: We were up and getting all our gear together, we had a large holdall with bedding in, and two rucksacks with all our clothes, Last minute checks were done, and we set off to the Tesco Bus Stop in our hometown, Abergele to catch the first eastbound 12 bus to Rhyl, It was timetabled to arrive at 06:43, it arrived at 06:45.
- 7 – 9am: We arrived in Rhyl on time, and strolled over to our next service, the 11 from Rhyl to Chester. The empty bus was late arriving from the depot (why?) and we were 5 minutes late from Rhyl. By the time we got to Chester we had lost the 16 minutes change time, and as we pulled into the Bus Exchange, our connecting bus was waiting to leave. (Total Delay: 30 minutes)
- 9 – 1pm: We had to think fast, and trying to get anywhere by bus was out of the question, so we started walking in the general direction of the Rail Link bus to the station to get to Buxton, ended up with a broken holdall, and £40 out of pocket we arrived in Buxton 20 minutes ahead of schedule, so we found the correct bus stop and waited, unfortunately Buxton Rail Station’s bus stops lack seating, so we had to sit on our bags…
- 1 – 4pm: Transpeak is the connecting service between Manchester, Buxton, Derby and Nottingham, which has recently become part of the High Peak Bus Company (50% Trent Barton, 50% Centrebus) fairly recently, and it was quite nice to get a double decker on the run over to Derby. We left on time and arrived in Derby on time too – our first on time service!
- 4 – 5pm: Derby Bus station is nice and modern, but it’s a shame it is out of town, We caught the Skylink between Derby and Leicester, 10 minutes ahead of the bus we were meant to catch, and it was a nice, busy service as far as East Midlands Airport.
- 5:40: Leicester Bus Station is one of the worst bus stations I have ever been to. It was not very clear which Bus Stand we needed for our bus, and the people there were not very nice, We felt intimidated by a few people, and were glad to get out of there on the X7, which was 20 minutes late, The plus side being the bus was only 3 weeks old!.
- 6 – 7pm: As I mentioned above, we caught the X7 bus between Leicester and Northampton, it was 20 minutes late, and we missed our connection in Northampton to take us to the Rail Station, The driver was not very helpful as we arrived in Northampton, he did not know which bus we needed to get to the Train Station
- 7:40pm: Greyfriars Bus Station is horrible, It is the sort of place where you don’t want to be for long, and we did not like the fact that the doors were not automatic, they were ones that you had to pull open, which given there were no signs for meant we had to guess. Luckily, Greyfriars is being demolished and rebuilt at some point in the future.
- 7 – 8pm: We caught a bus to the station, and went to purchase a ticket from the Ticket Office, Despite having valid Identification of my Disability, the Ticket Office staff Member argued it was not valid. I have raised this with London Midland, and you can keep track of progress here. We caught a train to Milton Keynes, it was on time.
- 8 – 10pm: We arrived in Milton Keynes and proceeded to immediately get lost! They have removed the Bus Stands from the Station Forecourt temporarily, and as such we found it difficult to find our way to our Bus Stop, Luckily a member of Bus Users UK (Milton Keynes) was on hand, and as he has a Sight Impairment also, was able to guide us to our stop. He remained and helped us on board the X5 to Oxford, which was the last bus (and it was 20 minutes late).
We arrived in Oxford at 10:30pm, met our friend and proceeded to where we were staying. So. it is possible to make journeys across the UK solely by bus, but you do need to be able to think on your feet, as sometimes things can go wrong. If this has inspired you, then do let us know how you got on with your journey.