Have you ever considered what you would do if your usual transport route was suddenly blocked? How would you get to your destination? How much would it cost you? The aim of this blog post is to help you come up with a Plan B – just in case.
On Friday Morning (5th October 2012), thousands of commuters using the Tyne and Wear Metro to Newcastle were delayed because of power supply problems between Four Lane Ends/Regents Centre and Gateshead. The line was closed for seven hours and many passengers had unnecessary delays because they had not planned for a closure and the alternative options available to them.
As a regular traveller on a specific route, you should look at the available alternatives. FixMyTransport often receives problems from passengers who get caught up in delays – and they are usually complaining about a lack of information.
But if you plan ahead by following the points below, you can minimise the stress that transport disruption causes.
What can I find out?
It’s smart to check your service before you travel.
Twitter Most operators are on Twitter. Even if you don’t follow them (updates about the service can become tedious) you can still check their page just before you set off.
Twitter also offers a great way to find out the nature of any disruptions, and what alternatives are available. If you use trains, find out what your route is called and the three letter codes for your stations – that will help you grasp your operator’s updates more easily.
It’s not only the operators who have the latest news – sometimes commuters themselves are the most immediate source. It’s worth ‘getting to know’ a few frequent travellers on Twitter, and then you can all inform one another when you come up against an issue.
Phone numbers If your operator is not on Twitter, they will at least have a phone number clearly displayed on their website or print materials. Save it to your phone. To be extra safe, find out who alternative providers are, and save their numbers too.
News Keep an eye on places like the BBC local news, your local newspaper’s website, the operator’s websites or Facebook page, BBC Travel, or National Rail. It can be helpful to check just before you depart that your route is running OK.
With this information before you travel, you can make better plans to avoid the issue. This may involve staying at work/home, getting dinner somewhere else or setting off later/earlier.
What are the alternatives?
Tickets Can your ticket normally be used on other forms of transport? Check the terms and conditions while you have the leisure to do so – that kind of knowledge is invaluable when your habitual means of transport breaks down.
Cash If you needed cash for a bus or taxi, where would you get it? In city centres, it is easy. Rural areas are a lot more difficult, so plan ahead.
Food and drink If you are forced onto an alternative, maybe longer, route, you may want to pick up some food or water for the journey. If you’re in no rush, consider eating out near your departure point – then you can avoid the rush hour, or let any crowds clear.
Trains If the line was closed, could you go to a different destination, or is there any way to avoid the place where the disruption has arisen – eg could you get a taxi, or a lift, to a point further down the line? If Rail Replacement Buses were operating, do you know where you would go to pick up the bus?
Buses Research and make a note of the bus routes that run reasonably parallel to your transport route. Check the frequency. If they run every few minutes then you won’t really need a timetable, but if it is only hourly, you may want to look at other alternatives as well. Link to their timetable on your phone and you may want to add their phone number too, so you can find out if they are running.
Taxis Don’t be afraid to look at taxis if they can get you in and out of the area that is causing you a problem. Store the phone numbers of taxis at both ends of your journey. There is nothing worse than getting to a station after the last bus has gone and not knowing the number for the taxi.
Cycle If you’re travelling with your bike, you might be able to cycle part of the route – but if not, look around. It’s not just London that has a bike hire scheme. Other cities are catching on – see, for example, Brompton Bike lockers – or just find the nearest cycle-hire shop.
Walking It’s worth considering: could you walk between certain stops?
Parking If you drive part of your regular journey, can you park at an alternative stop or station? Will this cost more money?
Learn from your experience! Did your back-up plans work? Was there anything else that you could have done or did you discover something new?
Tell the operator If you were affected by any major delays, raise the issue with the operator. On the railways, they should provide you with some money back. On the buses, some operators are starting to provide refunds for delays that are their fault.
Jenny uses the Tyne and Wear Metro between Four Lane Ends and Newcastle Central every day. She is a five minute walk from Newcastle Central. She usually parks her car in the car park at Four Lane Ends.
Information Check BBC Newcastle/BBC Travel/Evening Chronicle Website/@my_metro
Tickets Jenny has a two zone Metro Season Ticket.
Alternatives There are carparks in other places on the Metro network (Regents Centre, Kingston Park and Northumberland Park) and Newcastle
She could take a train to Newcastle round via the coast
She could consider buses from Four Lane Ends to Newcastle(Stagecoach) or Go North East – X5, 55, 62 and 63
Taxi – Four Lane Ends is service by a number of taxi firms.
Cycle – Whipbikes operate cycle hire in Newcastle.
Walking routes – Not really an option for the full route although she can walk out of Newcastle into Jesmond or South Gosforth to Four Lane Ends.
Food/Drink – plenty of shops for snacks. Wetherspoons near Central for a meal.
I hope that this post has achieved its aim of making you think about alternative options if your regular route were blocked. I would love to see your plans and suggestions so please post them below, email or tweet them.