Say you need to use both a Stagecoach and Whippet service (such as the U or X3) to make a journey. How can you avoid paying the full fare to both operators?
Plusbus is a supplement you can purchase with a railway ticket to give you unlimited use of buses at the start and/or end of a train journey. For Cambridge, it costs £3.80 – or £2.50 with a Railcard. Until the end of August, it’s just £2. By comparison, a Stagecoach-only dayrider costs £4.50. Plusbus season tickets are also cheaper than Stagecoach megarider tickets.
You can buy a Plusbus ticket at any railway station or online. The Greater Anglia, Great Northern and Thameslink websites all offer the option to add Plusbus after you’ve selected your rail ticket.
Can you therefore use this get lower cost bus travel by adding it to a cheap return between, say, Cambridge and Cambridge North? Sorry, no! You have to start or end your journey outside the Cambridge Plusbus travel zone.
Plusbus has been around for a while, and it’s good to see it being expanded and promoted more effectively. It’s a step towards the public transport experience of London that the rest of the UK has struggled to emulate.
What if you want to travel only by bus? There is a Multibus ticket that covers all local operators. It’s relatively expensive at £8/day or £33/week, in part because it covers the whole of Cambridgeshire. It also excludes Busway, X5 [UPDATE: now 905] and 11 services.
There is also a dedicated smartcard for Busway services (including the ‘U’), which costs between £20 and £33 for ten rides (with free transfers). It’s good value, but frustratingly restrictive for those who need to travel somewhere not on a Busway route. [UPDATE: this has now been withdrawn.]
There is scope to upgrade the Busway smartcard to work on buses county-wide. We just need politicians, council officers and bus operators to sit down together and agree to make it happen.
Not only would this make bus travel more cost-competitive with driving, it would allow other operators to introduce new services that people could use in combination with Stagecoach services.
This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 11 July 2018. Last updated on 17 May 2021.