In all the years I have been travelling to East Sussex I have never used a coach. It also occurred to me that we travel writers take a middle class view of our trade in the hotels we report, places we visit and how we get there.
It was a case of force majeur as the incessant works on the Brighton line meant a journey of 2 1/2 hours and 2 changes, one into a bus. I detest having to uproot myself in travelling and looked at various other possibilities. One option was to go to Gatwick and take a taxi, cost £80. So I went to the other end of the financial scale – the coach from Victoria to Brighton costs £5. To have a flexible time and cancellable ticket, I paid out all of £11.
After being dropped off at the exit of the buses departing and then directed to the arrival lounge, I eventually found the departure entrance. Each route has its own gate, like a flight departure. As I waited I heard announcements of buses going to Bratislava and Kosovo. I confess I had no idea that the buses travelled so far.
The coach had comfortable seating, with a WC at the back. I started to read the Sunday papers, but became engaged by the journey as we travelled along the embankment and the into the heartland of a grey and drab South London.
Looking at shops in the high street, I was struck by the number of pawnbrokers and loan companies, no doubt preying on people’s financial vulnerability.
At Purley, the houses changed to grander residences.
Soon I was on familiar territory of the M23 and frost crested downs as we made our way into Brighton. At the coach station, just off the front, my taxi awaited to take me to a friend in the marina. The entire journey took exactly 2 hours and I found the whole experience stress-free, efficient, punctual and the driver polite. I would certainly recommend it. Although the fastest train takes under an hour, there are frequent delays and the station is not as well located.
The National Bus service is a important travel resource in an age when cost of travel is often criticised. It’s about time our travel writers got behind it.