Travel News

Electric dream trip? The minute-by-minute record of a pioneering bus journey

Simon Calder’s Travel

A quiet revolution in intercity travel began on Thursday morning, 21 March, with the first electric coach between London and Bristol, a distance of 120 miles. The FlixBus service is the only way to link the two cities on public transport with all-electric propulsion.

I booked two weeks ahead and paid £16.28 for the journey, compared with slightly more than twice as much for a train booked in advance. The “walk-up” rail fare, meanwhile, is £132.60 – over eight times more expensive.

But coaches do not have the best reputation for long-distance travel. Would the electric experience make a difference? I set off to find out.

This is how the journey unfolded.

8.20am: In central Bristol, across the road from an “adult entertainment store” named Prowler, a queue of sorts is forming. A smart and appropriately electric blue bus draws quietly into the layby: route 041E (the E stands for electric) from Bristol to London.

8.30am: After driver Francesco welcomes us on board, the UK’s first-ever long-distance electric coach glides away on schedule, destination Victoria Coach Station in central London.

Drive to survive: FlixBus driver Francesco is in charge of the clean, quiet coach

(Simon Calder)

8.31am: At the first set of traffic lights, the joy of electric coach travel begins to emerge at once. The difference with conventional buses is most evident when the coach is at a halt. Instead of the usual growling, vibrating diesel experience, the interior of the smart, Chinese-built Yutong bus is serene and still.

8.35am: Rush-hour traffic coming into Bristol is at a standstill, but leaving the city the M32 is flowing freely. The seats are comfortable, with a modest recline. I am sitting in 2C, next to James Cheung, an aerospace engineering student with a keen interest in sustainable transport.

8.38am: The 8.30am train from Bristol Temple Meads departs after being held up in Somerset earlier in the journey. Despite the £2.8bn spent on electrifying Brunel’s Great Western Railway – three times over budget – the first 25 miles from Bristol to Chippenham is still run on diesel engines. Network Rail has no firm plans to complete the line.

8.45pm: A handful of passengers board at a stop north of Bristol, serving the University of the West of England campus.

8.50am: The coach joins the M4: “London 112 miles,” reads a sign. Nothing more than a…

Click Here to Read the Full Original Article at The Independent Travel…