Christmas by Bus

A National Express Coach at Sophia Gardens, Cardiff

I spent Christmas in Newcastle this year. It was very pleasant although, of course, there was an absence that was keenly felt.

I was late organising my trip and by the time I did get around to it all flights were booked. I then looked at the train only to discover that Cardiff to Newcastle was both hideously expensive and heavily disrupted by engineering work. I could have afforded the ticket but resent paying so much for a poor level of service. I’d probably have had to stand for much of the journey too.

In the end I decided instead to take the National Express Coach from Sophia Gardens. Though slower than the cost was less than a third of the train fare and as it turned out it was quite a painless experience. Modern coaches have seats which are actually more comfortable than seats on the train, which always give me a bad back.

On the way there and back I had to change at Birmingham. The first leg from Cardiff to Birmingham was non-stop and stayed on the Welsh side of the Severn as far as possible.

The bus from Birmingham to Newcastle stopped several times in the Midlands – Leeds (where there was a 45 minute break), York, Middlesbrough and Sunderland – before arriving, on time, in the North. The traffic was lighter than I expected for Christmas Eve.

Newcastle’s old Gallowgate bus station is no more. The new one is on St James’s Boulevard, a road that didn’t exist when I was living in Newcastle years ago. The current location is handy for the local gay bars though.

Returning on Friday morning after two days in Newcastle, there was a slight rearrangement of plan as there were too many passengers to Birmingham to accommodate on the one bus. Some of us therefore transferred onto a second coach going only to Birmingham while passengers going further than that stayed on the original coach, whose ultimate destination was Paignton. Standing is not permitted on these coaches.

There was much heavier traffic on the way South but we arrived in Birmingham on schedule. I had quite a long wait so I wandered off and found a place to have lunch. When I got back to Digbeth bus station there was a deal of chaos as many buses were caught in traffic and delayed. I assumed mine would be too, so settled down to read a book only to discover my bus to Cardiff was on schedule.

The last leg of the journey took a different route from the first, via Bristol and Newport, which made it an hour or so slower but again we arrived on time. It’s only a short walk to my Cardiff residence from Sophia Gardens.

Inexpensive, comfortable, efficient and reliable: the National Express Coach service is everything the UK train service is not.

2 Responses to “Christmas by Bus”

  1. Phillip Helbig Says:

    “I spent Christmas in Newcastle this year.”

    So the bus took Coles to Newcastle. 😀

    I’ll get me coat.

  2. Padon my French, but it looks like there is a typo: teaincost. Glad you enjoyed the bus experience, I may follow your tracks when next giving a seminar in the UK.

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