“ Bus company serving Cornwall „
Western greyhound is a terrible company I would not recommend using this service if you are vulnerable or otherwise weak, a female bus driver was wrecklessly driving this week and broke my partners wrist, aggrivated whiplash in back/neck and swollen ankles, she switched drivers and the male driver refused to give us his name and he responded with violence and aggression towards me outside their office in newquay bus station on CCTV!, AVOID, We are seeking legal compensation against western greyhound for the injuries caused towards my partner the police are also involved I will be talking with cornwall council as this bus company has contracts with them, they have not replied to a complaint I made directly to the CEO "Mark Howarth"
I only learnt to drive last year, before then I was a regular on the Western Greyhound buses, catching at least two a week and when I was working, catching two almost everyday. I live in a small village and getting anywhere outside the village meant having to catch a bus. There are two bus companies that occupy Cornwall, First and Western Greyhound.
Western Greyhound never used to really be a contender 10 years ago, but now I see more Western Greyhound buses. First don't even run through my village anymore! Western Greyhound buses really are the only way to get around in Cornwall if you don't drive.
----- Where do the buses go? -----
The Western Greyhound network currently serve the majority of Cornwall, they also have a couple of routes that will take you over the Devon border and one route will take you all the way to Devon.
Most of the main routes are for central Cornwall covering areas between Newquay, Truro, St.Austell and Bodmin. A few routes can take you to the West of Cornwall, Penzance, Hayle, for example. There are also a few routes for Wadebridge and Looe.
Western Greyhound is the only bus company that serve Newquay Airport. They have regular buses going to and from the airport. However, despite being an airport bus, they still use the same buses as they do for any other route, meaning once you have a few people and their luggage on board, there is little room for anyone or anything else. Perhaps, they could use a double Decker for the airport route, just for that little extra room.
----- What are the buses like? -----
In the last couple of years the buses that Western Greyhound use have improved a little. Before then, 75% of the buses were old stage coach buses with big seats, old fashioned, dirty seat covers, one stop bell on the whole entire bus and steps to board the bus. I always remember waiting at the bus stop, dreading one of these buses turning up, whenever they did I would be sure to sit towards the front of the bus near the stop bell. It was a nightmare having to try and make your way to the front of the bus to press the bell if you were sitting towards the back of the bus.
However, the last couple of years have seen a huge increase in modern buses. These newer buses are wheelchair and pushchair friendly as there are no steps to board and dedicated space with pull down seats to place the wheelchair. The best thing about these buses is that there are a huge number of stop bells, no more wobbly walking down the bus to press the bell!
Western Greyhound have both double decker and normal single decker buses. I have never been a passenger on one of their double deckers so I can't really comment on them. One thing I would say is that during the summer months the double deckers need to be used on the most popular routes. I was late for work on a number of occasions as the bus was full by time it got to my stop for me to get on, it wasn't even near the end of the route, it was a couple of stops after the start of the route so I wouldn't have been the only disappointed one trying to get on.
----- Fares -----
There are a variety of different tickets available to purchase from Western Greyhound. From the regular one way or return tickets to weekly and season tickets.
A standard day return ticket isn't that much cheaper than getting two single tickets. I return from St.Austell to Newquay costs around the £6.50 mark. It used to cost me almost £6.50 when I used to go to work a few times a week, I'd have to work over an hour just to make up the cost of travelling to and from work!
They do offer a weekly ticket, this is valid for journeys between two destinations. The price for this is usually four times the price of one day. This makes it only worth buying if you are going to be doing the same journey five days a week.
For people who enjoy catching buses (with poor service!) there is a day explorer ticket available to purchase, this costs £8.50 for adults or £5.50 for children. If you are considering going to two different places in one day, I would imagine this would work out cheaper than getting day returns.
Western Greyhound sell children tickets, I have no idea how much these are as this is for children between the ages of 5 and 15. I think the lower age limit on this ticket is fantastic, most places it's usually 3 years.
----- Travelling to attractions -----
Western greyhound work in conjunction without of attractions around Cornwall. Offering discount entries to a variety of places by travelling by bus. Just show your ticket when you enter the attraction and they should give some discount.
Some of the more popular places that offer this are: Eden project, save £4. Blue reef aquarium, save £1. Dairyland, save £1.50. Newquay zoo, save £1.
This saving could work out quite well, you don't have to worry about petrol or parking costs and you get some discount on entry. You just have to work out with the bus price, whether it actually works out cheaper. Of course, it's good for the planet also.
---- What's the service like? -----
I suppose I better elaborate! As said previously, I was occasionally late for work as the bus was full before I could get on. The bus driver did nothing, I would stand at the bottom of the steps and they would simply look at me and shrug. I asked if another bus would be following but that was never the case. I would have to wait for the next bus... which was always an hour later!
As I got the bus to and from work, I would often catch the last bus back at the end of my shift. It was easy to tell that it must have been the drivers last route, they would often try and get you on the bus as quick as possible, not even checking my return ticket to make sure it was valid. On one particular occasion after finishing work, I got on the bus like normal and as it was pretty much full, I had to make my way towards the back on the bus to get a seat. Cue the driver pulling off in a hurry and turning the corner straight after the stop with speed. As the bus turned the corner I was already spinning around to sit down and ended up dislocating my knee! I gritted my teeth through the 45 minute journey, then hopped down the bus and told the driver he should learn to kill the speed as he was pulling off. To be fair, he did offer to ring an ambulance for me and took my details. I refused the ambulance and got my mum to pick me up from the bus stop. A lady from Western Greyhound then rang me to apologise. The phone call was a nice touch, however, the accident shouldn't have happened in the first place.
After the accident I had no other choice than to continue using the bus company. It certainly opened my eyes to drivers pulling off when people are still trying to find a seat. I had witnessed elderly people almost falling when the drivers pull off. I know they have a schedule to keep, but 20 seconds to let someone elderly find a seat isn't hard, in my opinion.
After having my daughter I used the bus for a totally different reason, to get out and visit friends and family or to go shopping. I avoided the bus when using a travel system just in case one of the older style buses came along. Then when my daughter was old enough to use an umbrella fold pushchair I began using the buses again. It was sods law that all the modern buses seemed to have disappeared every time I wanted to get on the bus. As soon as I seen the old style bus approaching the bus stop I would begin taking bags off the handles and taking my daughter out of the pushchair so I could fold it. That was a huge task in itself with only two hands. Then the part where I had to carry my daughter, the bags and the pushchair up the three steps on to the bus. The driver, 9 times out of 10, would just sit there in his seat staring down the steps watching my struggle, trying to juggle all of the items and get up onto the bus. It would have been quicker had the drivers quickly come down the steps to help carry something on.
Another incident that sticks in my mind was when I was going on a shopping trip with my Nan. We was waiting at the bus/train station in St.Austell to get on a bus to Truro. There was one bus sat in the station with Bodmin on the front, it got to the time our bus was meant to be leaving and it still hadn't shown up. 5 minutes later the dormant bus started its engine, the driver changed the number on the front and just left. Little did we know that the bus had just changed to the Truro bus. I ran after it like a loony but he didn't stop. Why didn't the driver change the sign to Truro while he was still sitting there? He obviously didn't end up going to Bodmin so there was no need in him having that sign on the front. I actually emailed Western Greyhound to complain after this accident but never got any kind of reply, not even an automated one!
Maybe I just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, but the service I have received from Western Greyhound has been quite bad in the years I have used them... thank god for learning to drive!
---- Overall ----
It's hard to say whether I would recommend Western Greyhound or not. The service really is dire most of the time, but at the same time it is the only way to get around Cornwall if you don't drive. The fares aren't particularly cheap but at the same time they aren't too expensive. Perhaps if the old style stage coach buses had a cheaper fare, due to the dated upholstery and having to try and reach the one and only stop bell, I would think it was better value for money. These old buses really do let the bus service down. I definitely dread my car going wrong and having to use one of these buses again.
Who are they?
Western Greyhound is one of the two main bus companies that serve Cornwall, the other being First. They only started operating in 1998, but have grown considerably since then. Their distinctive green and white buses cover routes over most of Cornwall, from Lands End, to North Cornwall and even across the border to Devon. Their headquarters is in Summercourt (just outside Newquay) which is also houses their main bus depot.
Why use them?
Living in the West Country is lovely for the beautiful countryside and fantastic beaches, though the amount of rural area means getting places isn't always so easy as the towns are so far apart. For non drivers like me, Western Greyhound is invaluable. Luckily now I work within walking distance of my home, but up until recently I used the bus 5-6 times a week for work in the week and leisure at the weekend. I still use it at least once a week, sometimes more, so even now I don't know what I'd do without it.
At the time of writing this review Western Greyhound have 68 bus routes currently in service. The amount of services does reduce over the Winter months with some being cut all together come October. This is due to the increased number of customers during the busy tourist season in Cornwall. Having said that, the routes to the main towns still have a good amount of services all year round and one thing I'm particularly impressed with is that they run fairly late, some past 11pm which means you can go out in the evening without having to go to the expense of a taxi to get home again. I used to live in Surrey, so not far outside London and there the buses used to stop at 7pm!
One thing that really bugs me about their services, however, is how they love to mess about with their bus numbers especially if you are getting on a service that runs through St. Columb Major - be careful don't fall asleep or get too into your podcast or you may end up somewhere you didn't want to be! For example you may get on the bus which says 'Truro' on the front at the start but when you get to St. Columb Interchange, that bus decides it's changing it's number and going somewhere else and you have to get on the bus that just pulled up behind to carry on your journey. Most drivers will tell you. Others will let you work it out for yourself, which for people unfamiliar with the service won't do obviously! I've been using the buses for a year now and still come unstuck for time to time. Best advice is to ask when you get on if you will need to change.
I would also advise you to check out how long the route will take from point A to point B. Especially through the summer there can be as many as 6 different services with the same beginning and end point. It costs the same, however your journey time can differ as much as 1 hour so don't just get on the first bus you see for your destination. Check the timetable as it may be worth waiting for the next one which could save you some time.
My other annoyance with the buses is the inconsistency in their longer routes. The Newquay- Exeter service, for example, might take 3hrs 5 minutes on one service, 3hrs 15 minutes on another and a massive 3hours 45 minutes on another. True, some services cut out the smaller towns, however a lot of the time this is just due to waiting for no apparent reason. At so many stops the bus has to stop and wait for anything between 5 and 15 minutes before setting off again. Why Western Greyhound, why?? (though the upside of this is a lot of the drivers let you get off for a cigarette of toilet stop if they know they have this wait.) Also, they seem to expect on some days that you aren't going to want to come back, as if I want to return to Newquay from Exeter on a Sunday, for example, I have to leave before I've got there... work that one out!
..."Wait for ages then two come along at once"
Buses are notorious for not being there when you want them. Up until recently, I'd have said that Western Greyhound defy the rule and the services are very reliable. Though I did have a few problems with no shows on the earlier buses recently. Thankfully, they seem to have improved again and most of the time they are not more than 5 minutes late if at all.
I've only had problems with a very rude driver once. It was the last bus of the day and I was the only one on the bus. He looked quite cross when I got on too, think he was hoping to clock off early. He asked where I wanted to go, and I told him my stop at which he nodded. When we got to town he went a different way to the bus station to usual so didn't go past my stop at all. When we got to the bus station, I asked if he was taking the bus past that stop and he just growled 'I'm finished now' at me. Angrily I walked back, and saw him drive past me as I was nearly at the stop I'd originally requested. Needless to say I wasn't happy as it was also chucking down with rain.
Thankfully that's the only Western Greyhound driver I've wanted to batter. Most seem very pleasant and some I'm downright happy to see when I get on, using them so regularly I now have 'favourite drivers!'
In the last few weeks it seems Western Greyhound have forked out on some snazzy new buses. They are sleek and curved at the front and look much more modern than the old lot. I have to say it's about time too. My other half lives in Exeter and we regularly catch the 510 Newquay-Exeter service, the company's longest route. Why they use the old falling apart bus that struggles to go up hill for this journey I've no idea, but they do and we often wonder if it's going to make it. I think this bus has become a bit of a joke amongst the drivers too, as often when the routes cross over I've heard them trying to switch buses! Thankfully, so far so good and we've always made it in one piece.
Also the newer buses seem to have more bells than the older ones. More often than not on the older buses there is only one 'stop' bell located at the front of the bus so you either have to shout to the driver or walk to the front in plenty of time for your stop to hit the bell. Most annoying. There is a point about this raised on the website but Western Greyhound say it's because of 'Construction of Use regulations.' (Whatever that means) So why then can you manage it on the new ones? I don't know, all I can say is I'm glad they have.
Western Greyhound have a mixture of single and double decker buses, though they seem to use them somewhat randomly. I understand they don't always know how many people will use a route on any given journey but they must know their most popular services. Often I've been on packed single deckers (usually full of the 60+ brigade milking their bus pass for all it's worth- I paid for my seat dammit!) and can't get a seat and on others have had a double decker to myself!
Now, I must mention here, the bus spotters. Yes, like train spotters, but these anoraks love buses to the extent that the Western Greyhound have an 'enthusiasts' page on their website. But that's not all. There is one very special bus that get these people very excited indeed. So much so it even has a Facebook page dedicated to sightings of it. Yes it's Western Greyhound's only silver bus.. exciting stuff huh? I have toyed with the idea of starting a page dedicated to Western Greyhound's only red bus (there isn't one) and wait for the anoraks to get their knickers in a twist searching for it... but that would just be cruel... wouldn't it??
When I first started using Western Greyhound I thought their fares were excellent. Used to the extortionate £5.10 return (probably more now) to go 6 miles up the road in Surrey I thought the £4.20 return charge for a 15 mile journey very reasonable. As I used them more however, I found their fares somewhat inconsistent. I was shocked recently at being charged £6.00 for a return to just outside St. Columb from Newquay, a journey of around 7 miles. Compare this to the £6.50 to Exeter a journey of 80 miles and you see my point.
Recently they revised a lot of their fares and introduced weekly tickets on some journeys. This made the really popular routes such as Newquay to Truro, for example very reasonable, down to just £4.00 from £4.20 for a day return and £16 for the whole week. It seems however they've made up for this with some shorter and less popular journeys being charged at disproportionately high prices. I think this needs to be looked at and made fairer.
Western Greyhound vs it's competitors
As I mentioned First is the other major bus company running in Cornwall. There are smaller concerns too but they are only two big boys. I haven't used First buses as much as Western Greyhound, however on the times that I have I've found their buses more comfortable and at first, were cheaper however now I think they have evened out with Western Greyhound. In my area there are less First than Western Greyhound buses, and they seem to have shared out the locations between them quite fairly. While there are a few routes that are served by both companies, they tend to, as a whole, focus on different areas. For me, Western Greyhound are better just for the fact they serve more places I visit, however, for quality of service and prices I don't think there is much to choose between the two companies.
Of course the other way to get about by public transport is the train. Whilst I do catch the train from time to time, it's usually only when the times suit me best. Living in Newquay you have to take the 50 minute train journey to Par before you can really get anywhere of use as this is the only train that runs. In addition to this, apparently Newquay train station does not exist on Sundays in Winter. So for travelling to Exeter for example, time wise there is nothing in it between the train or the bus. Price wise the train is significantly more expensive - by about £9 if you buy on the day.
If you were travelling between locations on a main line, in most cases you would benefit time wise by using the train. Probably on the day ticket in most cases would be more expensive than the bus, but cheap advance tickets sometimes can work out cheaper.
Of course, most smaller towns in Cornwall don't have a station and if they do trains are infrequent so buses still seem to be the way to travel for non drivers and tourists alike.
Overall, I wouldn't be without Western Greyhound. Their amount of services and reliability are better than any other bus service I've used. The inconsistency in their prices and a few dodgy buses (and drivers) needs to be looked at but overall they offer an invaluable service to Cornwall.