Monday, February 08, 2010

Megabus vs. National Express: Portsmouth to Oxford

I am now also going to continue the topic of surprisingly pleasant and delightfully cheap bus travel, this time from a UK perspective. I experienced my first Megabus journey on Friday afternoon, whilst travelling up to visit friends in Oxford from my home town, Portsmouth. On previous occasions, I have always used National Express funfare tickets, which only cost £6 from Portsmouth to Oxford. These 'funfares' are only available for a certain time coach journey each day, and on this occasion I couldn't make the 07 35 funfare journey time. The regular National Express fare is closer to £20, and so I sought an alternative, more economical option. My Megabus ticket, at £7 plus a 50p booking fee, seemed, for a brief moment of madness, to be unacceptably over-priced compared with my usual £6 National Express deal, but I soon came to my senses and bought a ticket for the 15 10 bus. I am glad I did.

I arrived at The Hard, Portsmouth at 15 00, and was greeted by the unmistakable, albeit mildly garish, bright yellow and blue Megabus. I presented the driver with the grubby and crumpled piece of paper I had quickly scribbled my reservation number on, and irrationally panicked for a second that I should have printed off the whole reservation summary email they had sent me, instead of merely taking note of the number, despite the fact that they informed me in the email that that would be sufficient. The driver didn't bat an eyelid, however, at my messy piece of note paper, and merely scanned his list of reservation numbers, ticked me off, and allowed me on. The interior was perfectly modern and acceptable and seemed no worse than that of National Express coaches.

The greatest disadvantage of taking Megabus rather than National Express to Oxford was probably being dropped off at Water Eaton Park and Ride as opposed to the central Gloucester Green bus station. I didn't have to wait long (10 minutes) or pay much (£1.70) for a local bus into the centre of Oxford though, so it was only a minor inconvenience.

On my return journey on Sunday, I took the £6 National Express funfare from Oxford bus station at 17 55. Once back on my old faithful National Express, I took appreciative note of a few familiar, and minor but pleasing, details- they had tucked a plastic bag for rubbish into the basket on the back of the seat in front of me, the toilet was much cleaner (Megabus' had been pretty much unusable), and the journey time was half an hour less.

All in all, National Express' small but clear benefits mean that I will definitely continue to use their funfares over Megabus when I can make the specific times. When the times aren't possible, I will most certainly use Megabus rather than pay the full National Express fare though- I am quite happy to cope with the small inconveniences for a saving of £13 per single. 

There are other Megabus trip reports on the new site:

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