Was it worth all the transport trauma?

I RECENTLY had a Friday appointment at Edith Cavell Hospital in Peterborough. The time had been changed from 11.05am to 10.30am but I convinced myself that, with an early start, I would meet this target easily. I was at the Ramsey Road bus stop in St Ives

I RECENTLY had a Friday appointment at Edith Cavell Hospital in Peterborough. The time had been changed from 11.05am to 10.30am but I convinced myself that, with an early start, I would meet this target easily.

I was at the Ramsey Road bus stop in St Ives by 7.09am. It was as well it was a lovely day because there is no bus shelter. The electronic board informed me that the next bus for Huntingdon would be at 7.29. That information eventually disappeared, and the next time displayed was 7.54, so I was a little taken aback when a bus turned up at 7.40, apparently unscheduled. I reached Huntingdon bus station at 8.10am.

Huntingdon was like the Marie Celeste - no information office available, the smaller timetables on the walls mostly unreadable because of graffiti. I eventually found a destination chart to the side and rear of the bus station, which suggested that to get to Peterborough I would need bay 8. Having located it, I found the next bus to Peterborough was at 9am and the journey time some one hour 15 minutes. Being an optimist, I felt I could still make it, although I had no idea of the Peterborough services.

On arrival at Queensgate bus station, I did find the information office pretty quickly. I was told to go to Bay 1 or 2 and jump on whichever of services 2 or 3 came first. Within three minutes I was on my way again. However, this vehicle meandered around the environs, the hospital being virtually its last stop.

I clocked in at the hospital at 10.52am to be admonished by the receptionist, who pointed out that I should have been there at 10.30. I pointed out that, having been travelling since 7am to get 22 miles up the road, I was in no mood to be chided - particularly as the experience had cost me £7.10 because I could not use my bus pass before 9.30.

My appointment lasted some 15 minutes and I then psyched myself up for the journey home. I got to Queensgate at 12.05. Feeling a bit peckish, I legged it to the nearest cafeteria in Cowgate, where a small Danish, a baguette and a cup of tea cost me £5.20.

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Back at the bus station, the next bus for Huntingdon was 1.43pm, due to arrive at 3pm. I got home to St Ives just before 4pm. I tried to console myself that at least my effort had helped to save the planet - until I put my brain into gear.

My own car regularly returns 57-60mpg. I would have been on the road, there and back, for 80-90 minutes, so would have been home comfortably by lunchtime to have a sandwich after using less than one gallon of fuel.

How much fuel did all the buses use getting me to Peterborough and back? Since a bus engine has a capacity of some seven to nine litres and it will travel the scenic, rather than the direct route in search of passengers, I suggest the best part of a tidy bit. The more fuel consumed, the more carbon emitted: the more weight on the bus the more fuel it will consume.

As for the public transport experience, while I did not expect a luxury coach, the cleanliness left much to be desired.

To the lady on the bus who seemed to have virtually emptied the John Lewis store I would say: you were travelling on a bus, not a lorry. To the 30-something mum whose daughter had to jump up and down the steps to get off and then go back for another go: the bus is a service vehicle, not a toy; if you wish to entertain your offspring, take her to the park.

To innumerable teenagers scoffing crisps and coke: eating on a moving vehicle requires talent; if you don't know where your mouths are by your age, you shouldn't really be out on your own leaving future passengers to sit in your debris. To the mobile phone junkies: the remaining passengers have not the slightest interest in your lifestyle.

Will I opt for public transport again? Not if I can help it. I am really sympathetic to those who have no choice.

MC HAINES, St Audrey Lane, St Ives

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