Bus Special: When you’re used to a car, you feel isolated’

Paul Richardson Route: Sawtry to Ramsey Car Journey: 11 miles (20mins) Bus Journey: £6.70 single Time: 1h 50mins I FORMED a unique organisation on Friday, called Sawtry To Ramsey I m Not Going. The organisation has a single member – me – and is unlikely

Paul Richardson

Route: Sawtry to Ramsey

Car Journey: 11 miles (20mins)

Bus Journey: £6.70 single


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Time: 1h 50mins

I FORMED a unique organisation on Friday, called Sawtry To Ramsey I'm Not Going.

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The organisation has a single member - me - and is unlikely to attract any more.

Sawtry's village survey showed most residents work in, or at least head in the direction of, Peterborough or Huntingdon in the mornings. So using public transport to get to Ramsey, although only 11 miles away, was likely to be tricky, especially as I had to be there by 9am.

After a near two-hour journey, using three different bus companies and costing £6.70 one way - and that's more than the minimum wage - my choice of reading material, Apsley Cherry-Garrard's 1922 Antarctic epic The Worst Journey In the World, seemed sweetly apt.

But like all good expeditions - and Captain's Scott's bid for the South Pole took years to pull together - you've got to do your research. Internet searching brought up bus timetables from various websites, a simple print-out and cross-refer and I had a route. That took me over an hour and there is only one way of doing it. Then came an 18 minutes and 22 seconds 0871 (that means expensive) call to Traveline to confirm it could happen.

It's 6.41am at the Green End Road bus stop. One other person there, already isolated by iPod. The detritus of chips, fag packets and other wrappers, plus the suspicious sticky stains around the concrete floor and seating of the shelter mean I opt to stand.

A Stagecoach double-decker with steamy windows lurches up, right on time, six minutes later. It's £3.20 one-way to Queensgate Bus Station, Peterborough, via Stilton, Yaxley, Hampton, Woodston and the football ground.

We arrived three minutes early, which gives me seven welcome minutes to find the bay for the solitary 337 operated by Cavalier which will get me to Whittlesey, where I need to change to the 331 service to Ramsey.

For those wishing to follow in my footsteps, without feverishly scanning all the timetable boards, it's Bay 6. A single-decker pitches up, and I'm on board, having forfeited £1.50.

By now, I'd become used to the rumble and whine of the diesel engine, trembling floor and juddering seats and how people seep onto the bus, locked in their own world - there is no conversation - and drift off again when it's their stop. When you're used to the personalised comforts and convenience of a car, and the braying of Brazil and Beaky on TalkSport, you feel dispossessed and isolated.

The route ignores four signs to Ramsey as we leave the city, re-enter Cambridgeshire and then Fenland's most westerly market town.

And it's market day, so the bus stop isn't in the usual place. Except there's no sign that tells you where it's moved to. Luckily, I spot a gaggle of Ramsey Abbey School sweatshirts and polo shirts and the teenagers put me right... I'm getting on the 8.07, the same bus as them.

So 20 of us - I'm the only adult - pile in to the Huntingdon and District single-decker. I'm the only one who hands over any money (£2 single) - they all smugly show their season tickets.

At last, another sign for Ramsey and this time, the bus follows it and catches up with a double decker from Cavalier, which we overtake on the narrow, bumpy, but straight stretch of road between Pondersbridge and Ramsey Mereside. My coach-load cheer.

More navy blue uniforms swell the bus, which then exhales at the school, leaving me and a woman - where did she get on? - to depart on the Great Whyte, arriving right on time (8.35am).

So, a total of one hour and forty-eight minutes to complete a journey which would take me 20 minutes, tops, in a car.

Welcome to my unpopular organisation, which takes it motto from the Billy Ocean hit: Only the STRING survive!

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