Is the taxi really more expensive than bus fares in the Tameside area?
One of the great joys about living in the Tameside area is its proximity to the centre of Manchester and how each of the nine towns are close to each other. It is possible to walk to the next town from another within one hour if you are quite healthy. Its canals and arterial roads offer potential for cyclists to travel cheaply. The density of the borough also allows for good bus territory.
In reality, canal towpaths offer cyclists the only safe place to cycle along – but this is only effective in daylight. Bicycle lane provision in Tameside, despite Sustrans’ efforts along the disused OA&GB Railway line, is pitiful. Short distance journeys by bus are expensive, unless you travel frequently and opt for the company’s/System One’s season tickets or day rovers. Potentially, the borough’s nine towns should allow for a world class public transport network. We are still waiting: Metrolink is set to reach Ashton by 2014; by then, the Victoria trains would still be packed and predominantly Pacer units. Central and local government cutbacks (including those to the Bus Service Operators’ Grant) to local subsidised services could see more demand responsive transport reaching areas outside of main bus routes.
By 2014, as of now, the main door-to-door form of transport, accessible to anyone in Tameside (without access to their own car) will come from taxis and minicabs. For single persons, demand responsive transport options could make some inroads, especially outside his/her bus service’s timetable.
As to whether the taxi is a more expensive option than other modes of transport, the answer to this question goes beyond a simple yes/no answer. If you’re travelling solo, then the answer is ‘yes’. If more than one person travels to and from their desired destination locally, a taxi may be a cheaper option than two standard single bus fares. Not least the door-to-door convenience it offers over walking a short distance to your nearest bus stop.
This is where I rest my case. Oh no. The question cannot be fully answered, as I shall be comparing taxi/minicab fares with other modes of transport in the Tameside area. After this bit of guff, you will find a few case studies stressing these points.
1. A Shopping Trip to Ashton Market from Yew Tree Lane, Dukinfield
Mr and Mrs Lloyd live in a New Charter home on Yew Tree Lane near Lyne Edge Road. They have the choice of the 41 to Ashton or the 389 to Stalybridge and Hyde. It is a Friday, and they prefer to go to Ashton Market so as to avoid the Saturday crowds. Mr Lloyd has a moderate learning disability which makes him sensitive to external stimuli (such as bus engine noises) and any hint of unpredictability. Mrs Lloyd has retired whereas Mr Lloyd has been unemployed for five years. His disability also entitles him to concessionary fares, which he has had since his diagnosis with Asperger Syndrome ten years ago.
- Minicab/Taxi: £4.70 – £5.20 per journey (£2.35 – £2.60 per head);
- 41/389 bus to Ashton: free after 0930 hours, half fare before then;
- Demand Responsive Transport: £4.00 (return fare; £2.00 per head).
Best option: Demand Responsive Transport
Though Mr and Mrs Lloyd have free travel concessions, they prefer the more direct taxi journey. The 41 takes a convoluted route to Ashton, and the 389 route takes an even longer one to Ashton (via Ridge Hill, though handy if they wish to shop in Hyde or Stalybridge).
The TfGM funded Shopping Link offers a suitable compromise for the Lloyds, though they would have to book their journey with an hour’s notice or more, and it may vary a little from the taxi journey. Plus, the Shopping Link can comfortably carry their goods as well as the taxi could, compared with fighting for space on the Optare Solo’s tiny luggage caddy, or that of the ricketty Dennis Arrow double decker buses.
2. Two adults, returning home from a football match.
Danny and Donna Still are keen supporters of The Mighty Stalybridge Celtic and live on Sandy Lane, Dukinfield. Sometimes they have a few scoops after full time in the social club or the nearby Hare and Hounds pub. On odd occasions, they may call at the Sun Lok chippy near Stalybridge Labour Club, or nip to TESCO to ‘get a few bits’ on the way home, walking down from Bower Fold. Donna has a System One Buscard, but Danny (who normally drives to work) has left his car at home, so he could have a few pints of Strongbow. Instead he bought a System One Bus Day Saver (£4.80).
On one Saturday (being as full time at Bower Fold often finishes at 1655 due to ‘bad refereeing’), they call into Sun Lok, and find two of their usual buses pass by. One person in the queue has ordered five Special Foo Yungs and four Steak Puddings to go with three lots of chips, two cartons of curry and a tub of mushy peas. They could chance the last 217 of the day by walking to Armentieres Square, or they could be lazy and call for a taxi.
- Minicab/Taxi: £3.30 – £3.70 per journey (£1.65 – £1.85 per head);
- 217/343 bus: no extra expense (pre-purchased System One passes);
- Foot: free of charge.
Best option: any of the three
The latter option is the best one if Donna and Danny are happy with guzzling their tea on foot. They could sit down for a few minutes to finish their tea off in Armentieres Square if weather works in their favour.
The bus option comes into its own if there’s nobody in the chippy or at TESCO, supposing the 217 runs late (from TESCO they could get it from the stop near the closed Millpond bar as well as from Stalybridge Labour Club). If keeping your takeaway warm comes before price, I recommend the taxi as the price per head is cheaper than the single fares on the 217/343 routes (though slightly more expensive if you already have a System One ticket of some description). And there’s nothing worse than cold chips.
3. Three Adults, theatre trip to Manchester
As a special 13th birthday treat, Mr and Mrs Dransfield is taking their daughter Chloe to see Mamma Mia! at the Palace Theatre. They have opted for an evening performance and have considered catching the train to Manchester Oxford Road from Stalybridge. Chloe wanted to go further by hiring a pink limo or a taxi to add a bit of glitz to the occasion. They live on Darnton Road, opposite Tameside General Hospital and seldom use public transport.
- Minicab/Taxi to Manchester: £15.00 – £35.00 per journey (£5.00 – £11.33 per head);
- 389/216/219 buses to Ashton and Manchester: £10.00 (System One Group Daysaver, 2 adults and up to three children);
- 389 then 1846 Transpennine Express for Manchester Oxford Road: £13.60 (two singles and two half fare singles on 389 and three Evening Returns from Stalybridge to Manchester Oxford Road);
- Minicab/Taxi then Train: £10.50 – £12.50 (two £3.50 – £4.50 cab fares and three Evening Returns).
Best option: Bus Only or Taxi and Train
If budget over speed comes into the equation, purchasing a System One Group Daysaver may be the best option. With one easy to digest ticket (friendly enough for occasional bus users), the Dransfields could catch their 389 to Ashton, changing for a 216 or 219 to Manchester. From there, they could walk to the Palace Theatre (10 – 15 minutes from Piccadilly Gardens) or board the Metroshuttle free bus.
Where speed comes into the equation, a taxi from Darnton Road to Stalybridge railway station is a more dependable option. What if their 389 let them down, running the risk of lost Manchester connections and £100 worth of tickets? Once they reach Stalybridge station, and connect well with the Oxford Road train, there’s hardly any walking from their house to the theatre! If they get to Stalybridge railway station before 1830 hours, they will cop for the Evening Return fares (£1.40 adults, 70p half fare). Though Chloe may not be getting her pink limo, she would still travel in style, albeit on a lower budget.
4. Two Adults, Hospital Appointment at 10 am
Ms Adams cares for her 23 year old son Alex who has spina bifida. They live in Stalyhill, a fairly affluent part of Stalybridge which till recently had a regular bus route. Even if they were able to get the bus, this would have been met with difficulties as the axed 239 route always had step entrance vehicles. He has an appointment with his physiotherapist at Tameside General Hospital on Monday. To defray costs a little, they would sometimes take a taxi to Armentieres Square and board the 236/237/348 bus to Ashton. A taxi from Stalyhill would cost around £3.00 to Armentieres Square, but her son is entitled to concessionary fares. Ms Adams has a free pass of her own, as her husband works for the local bus company (one who hitherto had the 239 before the last company).
- Minicab/Taxi: £5.00 – £5.50 per journey (£2.50 – £2.75 per head);
- Minicab/Taxi to Stalybridge then 389: £6.00 – £6.50 per journey (includes £2.00 single fare and peak hour concessionary fare from Stalybridge to Tameside General Hospital);
- Demand Responsive Transport: £6.00 (return fare; £4.00 for Ms Adams, £2.00 for Alex).
Best option: Demand Responsive Transport
Combining both the convenience of taxi/minicab services and the lower cost of boarding the bus as a concessionary option, the LocalLink service is far and away the best one. With Alex’s hospital appointment being 10 am, the taxi fare would be affected by the last vestiges of the school run traffic. Hence this option over a taxi to Armentieres Square and the 389 (Ms Adams would have had to pay as her husband’s company withdrew their incarnation of the 389 in early May).
East of the M60 Comment: Gap Between Taxi Fares and Single Bus Fares Is Narrower Than You Think:
I’ve heard a few of my friends thinking that I’m pretty loaded if I can get a taxi after a night out in Stalybridge, Hyde or Ashton to my locality. My usual reasons for using local taxi services are: 1) to bridge a gap left by inadequate evening bus services; 2) that you are less likely to miss a hospital/dentist/doctor’s appointment if you book a taxi over waiting for the bus, so long as you choose your time carefully (so as to arrive in good time and allow for traffic); and 3) that certain items or bulky items cannot be carried on public transport. For example, Stagecoach and Arriva stress how they cannot allow paint to be carried on the 346 or the 263.
If you’re not a regular bus user, [in Tameside] the taxi can be a cheaper option for short distance travel – so long as there is one to three other people travelling with you. And of course, so long as the fare is split evenly and that the journey is within Tameside. With the latter point, some councils (though not Tameside) charge a premium for leaving their boundary; an Ordsall passenger would be stung by this if he or she went to see a gig at the MEN Arena – even though the journey’s less than five miles – for leaving the Manchester City Council boundary.
It is Tameside’s tightly packed cluster of nine towns which has led to many successful private hire firms being formed. For casual users, local minicab firms offer rates which undercut short distance single bus fares (again, so long as each passenger contributes to the fare(s) equally). Its proximity to the centre of Manchester for night life, concerts and sporting events, plus the M60 motorway also helps a lot, too.
Whereas taxis and minicabs are good for fast short distance journeys, a taxi to the nearest bus/coach/railway station then a connecting bus, coach or train is a better bet than longer distance journeys. Unless you have a multi-mode ticket like System One’s CountyCard or a regular bus season ticket on a regular bus route, where a short bus trip could suffice.
Then again, short bus trips on frequent routes can go awry due to traffic. Hence a place for minicabs, and (in the long term) a proper strategy to promote walking and cycling in the Tameside area.
S.V., 21 June 2011 (Summer Solstice)
Any characters depicted in the case studies are fictitious and purely coincidental. Transport fares stated herein may vary at short notice.