An amusing little distraction for Christmas – whether you, dear reader, have spent this year travelling in the most cost-effective manner.
Let us imagine that two adults wish to travel from suburban northern Newport (Casnewydd) to spend a day walking Cwmcarn and Twmbarlwm, the signpost to which is pictured below:
The drive is fairly simple, being around the suburban roads to the A467 and then straight up the Ebbw valley at a theoretical maximum of 70mph. As the AA reckons it’s 10 miles and takes 21 minutes the average is slightly under 30mph.
A car which is bought for free, does not need insurance or MoT and does 60 miles per gallon on start/ stop running will manage about 14 miles per £1, or £1.50 for the round trip. This is a grotesque under-estimate of the actual costs, which on a moderate-mileage car including depreciation/ hire-purchase costs, maintenance and insurance will come to around 50p per mile, or £10 for the trip. To this should be added a £3 parking charge. Total calculable cost is thus £13. Other costs relating to atmospheric pollution, accident rates, health problems caused by inactivity travelling in a cramped box and alternative uses for car parking have not been properly assessed as the transport planners would rather not calculate them.
The area is hilly. The run is not unduly challenging, being on suburban roads, but the cyclist may not be in much of a state to do a serious walk afterwards. Still, if planning to go mountain-biking at Cwmcarn this is the logical way to transport the bike.
About every thousand miles the bike will fall due for an overhaul encompassing bike light batteries (£5), two new tyres (£60), two new gear cassettes (£60), a new chain (£30) and a half-life on a new helmet (£25). To this should be added periodic cleans (this run is on tarmac so will not require a one-off extra deep clean) and a £50 bill for getting someone else to do the overhaul, possibly bodging it in the process. Divide the depressing total (£180, not employing the mechanic) by 50 for the share incurred by a 20-mile run, multiply by 2 for two bikes and get £6.40.
The bus is operated by Stagecoach South Wales and will in all probability be a 151 to Blackwood. This is Traveline’s preferred solution.
This will take anything between three-quarters of a hour and a hour, depending on precise location relative to the bus route through Newport. The bus journey itself takes about 20 minutes. A return for two adults costs the same as a return for a group, which is £13.20. A South Wales Explorer ticket allowing return from Cwmbran after walking over the hill (more interesting than simply returning to the car) is £15.80.
The canal coincidentally terminates at the entrance to Cwmcarn Forest Drive, having been truncated on its way to Crumlin to make way for the A467. It has also been breached in several places to allow access to housing estates.
Aside from the costs of procuring a canoe and carrying it round the obstructions, plus the question of how to stop someone from walking off with it while it’s parked in Cwmcarn (and of course the challenge of an 18-mile round paddle) this is a fairly low-cost option. The waterway owner may appreciate a donation reflecting a proportion of the savings relative to other options. A journey time of three hours each way would be reasonable.
There are multiple walking options, the simplest of which is to go straight up the canal towpath. It is also possible to head straight up Twmbarlwm without going to the Cwmcarn visitor centre at all.
This will take about three hours each way, though can be viewed as part of the walk.
Make some sort of allowance for shoe leather.
This is an hourly service from Pye Corner to Crosskeys, taking 12 minutes. Bikes are carried. Trains are usually 4-cars, providing 4 cycle spaces and about 250 seats.
The option exists to vary the trip by using Risca station to approach Twmbarlwm from a different angle or incorporate parts of the Raven Walk.
The fare for two adult passengers with railcards (assuming weekly use of a £30 annual railcard at a sunk cost of 58p per week) is £5.08, or £6.80 without a railcard.
The rail network as a whole receives about 40% of its revenue as subsidy, being the replacement for shareholder investment in capital spending. Were this support to be removed and the railcard be withdrawn, the fare would rise to £11.35.
Overall costs for return trip:
- Walk: Shoes + 6 hours
- Canoe: Boat + 6 hours
- Train with railcard: £5.08
- Cycle: £6.40
- Train without railcard: £6.80
- Train charged at full commercial rate without any industry subsidy or railcard: £11.35
- Car: £13
- Bus (return): £13.20
- Bus (rover): £15.80
If you don’t want to walk all the way the train is cheapest.
Declaration: This post was brought to you by a member of the rail lobby.