Newest Review: ... 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 dec... more
Valuable serivce for locals, tourists and er..bus spotters
Member Name: magenta23
Advantages: Covers a wide area, generally reliable, some cheap fares
Disadvantages: A few dodgy buses, The St. Columb confusion!, some high fares on shorter journeys
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.
Summary: As bus companies go, they aren't bad