We tried to cross Cumbria by public transport during rush hour and it’s just not doable

It sounds dramatic but it’s true, it took me five hours to do 66 miles. Which equates to less than 15 miles per hour. I am really shocked and disgusted by this duration.

I know Cumbria isn’t always the easiest place to travel, most of it is rural and in all honesty public transport is lacking. Some places only get buses twice a day – and there are a few areas that don’t even have one.

But, today I was tasked with traveling from my home town of Wigton, to Allerdale, to Egremont, a journey of approximately 33 miles one way. Like most of us, when tasked with a trip like this, our priority is to find a convenient train. “Thirty-three thousand?” I’ll be there in no time, I thought.

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How wrong I was. For starters, Egremont station – my final destination – has been closed for over 40 years and even before that it had only limited services. So I knew right away that traveling direct would not be an option. Plan B time.

I jumped on the train at Wigton, heading for Whitehaven, at 7:30. It was on time, it was clean, and the staff were friendly (although – as usual – they mispronounced Aspartia, but I’ll let them go). So far, so good.

Once on the train, I decided to use my travel time to do some work. I connected my laptop to WIFI, but after a battle just to set it up, it kept dropping every few minutes, which was really annoying. In the end, I gave up.

Options for our trip – car vs public transport

There is a romantic idea of ​​traveling by train, sitting at the window, watching the world go by. Full disclosure, I never felt that way, my dad is/was a train spotter so you can only imagine how my childhood weekends were.

Nevertheless, I thought I could at least see a bit of the Cumbria coast from the window, especially since it was a beautiful morning.

How do you find public transport in Cumbria? Let us know in the comments

Still wrong! I had just passed through Aspatria and the rain fell and dark skies made themselves known. I had a light jacket and a shirt. I live in Cumbria, I should have known.

For £9 I managed to get from Wigton to Whitehaven, and it took about an hour. Then there was a bus. Getting off the train and onto the platform, I immediately shivered, and the worst part was that I had no idea where to get the bus from. I ran into the Tesco opposite the station and grabbed and paid for a jumper which kinda saved my life in the end.

Following Google Maps and looking a bit like a tourist, I sent a few panicked text messages to friends who had visited the area asking for help at bus stops. The answers mostly made fun of me.

So I did what any damsel in distress would do, wander aimlessly in the hope that my knight in shining armor would come to my aid. He did and he was a bus driver (unfortunately he wasn’t driving the bus I was supposed to be on). He told me where I should be and when the bus should arrive.

I sped off and luckily the bus just arrived as I got to the stop. Finally, a little luck, Egremont here I am!

I paid my £2.70 and left. I also asked the driver to kick me off at the correct stop, which he was happy to do. After about half an hour I arrived. It had taken about two and a half hours in total.

In the pouring rain, I found shelter for a coffee, but I couldn’t figure out how long my journey had taken to do 33 miles. By car, I would have been there in 50 minutes, maybe less if the traffic was on my side.

I sipped my drink, wondering how on earth people managed to get around using public transport if they lived any distance from their place of work. After two modes of transport, swapping and changing and getting worked up, I couldn’t imagine how difficult it must be for people who do it every day (and how early they would have to leave to be on time !)

After a quick refueling at the cafe, it was time to head back. After a nice chat with a man at the bus stop where I was waiting, I decided to take the number 30 bus from Egremont to Maryport and then take the 300 bus from Maryport to Wigton. It might be a more scenic route, as my inner journey hadn’t generated much interest.

It was my big mistake! It took 1.5 hours to get to Maryport and cost £5.30, although admittedly the journey was pleasant. A little boy got along with his mom and a dinosaur that was bigger than him, which made me laugh. I then went a little further and a little girl got on the bus and gave us all a very loud and entertaining rendition of The wheels on the bus.

But then I had to wait another half hour for the next bus from Maryport to Wigton. And yes, it was still cold and wet. When the bus finally arrived I paid my £3.40 and off we went for the final leg. I have never been so excited to return to Wigton in my life. I sat in the back of the bus like a cool kid while a woman took out her veil to show her friend.

After an extra hour on public transport and £20.40 return, I have to say I’m so glad I can drive. As fuel prices skyrocket, I know public transport will make more sense economically – and it’s better for the planet, too. But I spent most of my day on public transport, and if I couldn’t work from home, I had to work an eight-hour shift in the middle of that. It really is a long day.

I understand if you don’t use it you lose it but over the years more and more services have been cut in west Cumbria and people constantly have to travel to bigger towns like Carlisle , Whitehaven and Barrow. So if we use it, why is it so lacking?

As people seek another way to travel as fuel prices continue to rise, their best alternative is to give up much of their time instead. It may not be a financial burden, but it is still a cost to bear.

And I dread to think what it’s like if you work unsociable hours. The truth is that unless you live in a major town or village you will find it difficult to get to work in Cumbria without a car. More needs to be done to make things easier, better and more convenient if people are ever to switch full-time from cars to public transport.

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