A Year of Travel

Published 22 January 2014. Last updated 18 November 2019

Bus and train tickets from 2013

Every time I go up north to see family, it usually involves bumping into various friends of the family who haven’t been seen for years. And which point it is necessary to make conversation. “How are you?” “Are you still living at…” “How is so and so?”

Slowly but surely you exhaust the standard conversation possibilities, and other topics must be brought into play. And for some reason, a regular one has been for them to ask me the annual cost of my annual Travelcard. For those not knowledgeable about London’s public transport system, the Travelcard is a day or season ticket that gives the barer access to pretty much all public transport in London, in selected fare zones.

Every time I’d get the question, I’d reply with the amount, which would usually result in raised eyebrows. “That much?!” would be the reply. Then, every now and then, someone would get the twist. “Ah, but that’s you sorted for a year isn’t it? And you don’t have a car. So it’s quite cheap, isn’t it?”

For the record last years annual zone 1-3 Travelcard cost me the grand sum of £1,368. That gets me to work during the week, and covers many extra trips the rest of the time. Of course what it doesn’t cover is my travel outside my London fare zones, be it popping on the train in the “wrong” direction for a few stops, or for the trip up north to Manchester.

A couple of years ago, I wondered how much I was spending on that extra train travel. Was it more or less than the cost of owning a car? So I kept all my tickets and counted up, finding that in 2009 I spent £920.65 on train tickets, which included £50 for work, a trip to Ireland (traveling by a “rail/Sail” ticket, and then using the Irish rail system), and (gosh) a couple of trips on the Caledonian Sleeper to Scotland.

And in 2013 I decided to do it again, this time broadening it out to all transport used for personal usage. And that’s what this, slightly off topic piece, is all about.

The Grand Total

So Andrew, you’re saying, how much did you spend? Well the answer is £577.54.

To start I’ll say that £148.09 of that was on car hire and petrol. I may not own a car, but I have a driving license and can drive. In August we hired a car with friends to get to a wedding, and in the summer we borrowed Catherine’s parent’s car for our Lake District holiday. Borrowing that car was free, but it needed petrol.

The rest – £429.45 – was spent on trains, buses and even a boat or two. And it is that that we’ll break down a bit further.

When I travelled

Before we continue, I’ll remind that this is merely travel outside of my normal London Travelcard zones. Much as I’d love to plot exactly where I went in London, I don’t have that data. Besides, it would probably mostly consist of me travelling between home and work so would be tedious reading.

Anyway, that said, the obvious question is “Woa! What happened in October?!” The answer was a short holiday on the Isle of Wight, relying on its public transport network. And we used it a lot in a relatively condensed period of time.

The rest is a relatively consistent tale. We get out of the capital a couple of times a month, most months. The lack of anything in January reflects having a one month old baby – sometimes it felt like we barely left the house at that point. Nothing in May does surprise me too, although we were busy (sort of) walking the Thames at that point.

Spend per month

So number of journeys does not always correspond with amount spent. October featured lots of cheaper bus and local train journeys, whilst April had a couple of big ticket items – a trip up north for a family do, where we pushed the boat out and went First Class each way.

Mode of transport used

I always have it in the back of my mind that I use the train the most. This is probably reflected by the fact that generally I don’t use buses that much in London. My commute is by train and foot, after all.

And when travelling, I tend to use the train a lot as well. Well, I thought I did. Turns out that only 55% of my journeys in 2013 were done by rail power – 62% if you include some journeys on the Isle of Wight Steam Railway.

Buses on the other hand, well a lot more than I expected. And what an experience they were. Most of the buses I caught in the Lake District were late, whilst the vehicles I got in Surrey looked like they’d been in car crashes and made the most annoying rattling and squeeking noises. Only the Isle of Wight stood out; the bus company there managing to run vehicles mostly on time. Still, in the Lake District I did go on two open top buses. And that’s a delight every time. Well, except when it’s raining.

Note that here, train does also include a couple of journeys where a train ticket was purchased, but which included travel via another mode. Namely a journey to Salford via train and then Metrolink, and traveling to the Isle of Wight which went train, train, ferry then train. As the tram and ferry were effectively part of a single journey, they’ve been lumped in under trains.

Type of service used

Are you local? Or at least, is your journey local? Turns out a lot of mine was.

Where I travelled to

With family in Manchester, and a holiday in the Lakes, you’d expect that a substantial number of journeys would be linked to the North West. And with a holiday on the Isle of Wight, the south wins too. What disappoints me a little about this chart is how little I got outside of those two regions. Seriously, no Scotland? What was I thinking?

Reason for travelling

Holidays and walking make up the most it, but with a sizeable chunk for family and friends. But then, what other reasons are there for travel I wonder?

In Conclusion

Actually I was surprised how little I did travel. Sometimes I have it in my head that I’m always roaming about. This isn’t true, and has probably decreased recently. That said, none of this captures London – maybe I do gallivant around more than I think I do after all.

Still, it’s interesting and an excuse to play around with charts if nothing else.

Have your say