Monday, 5 February 2007

Trains and boats and planes and trams and buses

Centro have simplified the travel card system by re-branding itself as n. Right. A new corporate image is really going to sort it all out for us isn't it? There is no cohesive system like there is in London, no night bus services to speak of and all the bus services that are there are quite pitiful - especially at the weekends.

There are trams (called the Midland Metro), trains (mainline only) and buses (with at least 44 different bus companies). Midland Metro runs in a relatively straight line between Wolverhampton and Birmingham, the trains are the fastest way of getting around but it's pricy and the buses go everywhere including Dudley and Oldbury town centres which have no direct train or tram connections.

Busmaster has changed to nbus
Railmaster has changed to ntrain
Centrocard has changed to nnetwork

The Centrocard (now nnetwork) was what I paid for when I was at The Big E. It is the most convenient what with the unlimited travel on buses, trains and trams. Now I have to think about what I need as I can't really afford £22.50 a week. Or £75 a month. Or £66 a month direct debit. Or £226 every 13 weeks. 13 weeks - who thought of a 13 week period? And I definitely can't afford to pay £795 for 52 weeks.

So.

The warehouse I've been working in is at Black Lake tram stop. So I could go for a Midland Metro Card. £13 per week, £44 for 4 weeks, £39.50 for 4 weeks by direct debit but there's no point going for a 52 week card £471 as there is no way I'll get the use out of it.

If I was just travelling between train stations, then an ntrain would be an idea. Wolverhampton is Zone 5 and Birmingham is Zone 1. That's £17.70 per week, £60 for 4 weeks (or 48.50 by direct debit) or £470 for 52 weeks.

I haven't been travelling to any train stations routinely over the past three months (Zone rates go from Zone 1 only, 1- 2, 1-3, 1-4, 1-5 or 2-5) and there are vast areas of the West Midlands not covered by train or trams so a bus pass will probably cover all areas I need to get to.

The nbus at £14.90 for 1 week seems to be good value and with the metro add-on only costs £18.10. £18.10 for one week's travel. Or £50.50/£62.50 for 4 weeks.

But.

Travel West Midlands runs the overwhelming majority of the bus services around the West Midlands.

The Travel West Midlands Regional Travelcard (not valid on night services) gets me travel all over everywhere including Coventry. That's £13.90 per week or £16.90 with metro add-on. Off Peak (valid from 09:30 - 15:29 and from 18:00 until end of service Monday to Fridays, all day Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays) is good value at £6.80 for 1 week or £8.10 with metro add-on. 2 week Off Peak is £13/£15.30. But I've got to get to work in the rush hour. Off Peak is useless. A 4 week All Day is £46.50 or £58.50 with metro add-on. The 4 week All Day monthly direct debit price is extremely good value at £40.50/£50 but, again there's little point in going for a 52 week All Day at £486/£603.

But I probably don't need to get to Coventry. In fact, since I er, ahem, left The Big E I haven't needed to go to even as far as Birmingham much if at all. I could just get the Travel West Midlands Black Country Faresaver (AREA COVERED : Dudley, Sandwell (west of M5), Walsall, Wolverhampton. Also Hednesford, Cannock, Codsall, Womborne and Kinver) and pay for separate journeys to Birmingham should the need arise.

They're pretty good value. A 1 week is £10.45, 1 week Off Peak is £5.90. A 4 week Black Country Faresaver is £35.75 or by monthly direct debit £32. Again a 52 week Black Country Faresaver (£384) is probably not going to get the 'wear'.

I don't hold a free Concessionary Pass so the nnetwork, ntrain, nbus (available with or without a metro add-on) or the TWM Early Bird (available with or without the metro add-on) Pre 9:30 tickets (valid from 4am to 9:29 am Monday to Fridays excluding Bank Holidays. All Centro Concessionary Passes valid until expiry) are not worth a second look.

The bummer with the Travel West Midlands Faresavers is that they don't come with the optional metro add-ons which could speed up certain journeys. After all, the bus journey to Birmingham is about an hour and a half.

I do still go to Birmingham however, so a Travel West Midlands Birmingham and Black Country Faresaver (Valid on any Travel West Midlands bus service at any time of day in Birmingham and the Black Country areas. Not valid on Midland Metro services. Not valid on night services. AREA COVERED : Birmingham, Solihull, Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton. Also Hednesford, Cannock, Codsall, Womborne, Kinver and Coleshill) could be the way to go.

1 week for £12.50. 4 weeks for £42.50 or £38 by monthly direct debit or 52 weeks for £456.

If I do need to travel out as far as Coventry then an ntrain or an nnetwork pass will be better than a Travel West Midlands Regional Travelcard alone as the buses are just too slow even if they cover a wider geographical area. The Travel West Midlands Coventry Faresaver alone covers Coventry plus Bedworth, Kenilworth, Leamington Spa, Balsall Common and Meriden.

I haven't seen a Diamond branded bus at all. So a Diamond Weekly Ticket (valid for unlimited travel on all Diamond bus services for one week, available on any day of the week from the driver and can be passed to family and friends for extra use) at £7.90 is not a good idea at all.

The trouble is, I really don't know where I'll end up working permanently. It could be anywhere. I can't sign up for a yearly direct debit contract for any one type of ticket either because it's too expensive and probably unnecessary (nnetwork) or too limiting (any other pass). The monthly direct debits are a very good deal though. Some come out less expensive than the 52 week tickets.

I have to be as flexible as possible, as cheaply as possible and I can change the type of ticket once I find permanent work.

Here in Wolverhampton there is the added joy of the availability of tickets. A Star newsagent and a Londis (both shut by 6pm weekdays) are the only places to get such tickets.

So, to keep me mobile.....

I'll have a

4 week

Bimingham and Black Country Faresaver

£42.50 cash.

Thank you.

There. That wasn't complicated at all, was it?