Thursday, February 10, 2011

The secret bus and other challenges of the charabanc

I owe Johnson Transport 60p, or 20p, depending on how you view the Lerwick-Hillswick route. It's 60p from Hillswick to Brae. But it's £2.80 from Hillswick Lerwick, (35 miles)and £2.60 from Brae to Lerwick (25). I'm confused. But that's not infrequent.

 It's all a misunderstanding. I thought Leask's Buses, who only accept blue digital Shetland Islands council discount pre-pay cards (they're not ALL blue, but they have a blue stripe) would not deal with money owed to Johnson Transport, who operate the feeder route to Hillswick from Brae. When I get the morning buses into town, they won't. You use a green card to get the 07.35 to Brae, which connects with the 08.10 to Lerwick (blue, so I found to my dismay the first time I used it). But I am now fully equipped with charged-up blue and green cards.

I am a novice bus traveller, having foresworn the car (well, three days a week at least) just last week, on cost grounds and because I was having to stop for a snooze half way, my eyelids drooping towards disaster every time I tried to drive home. I knew there was a 10.00am bus to Lerwick, direct (Johnson), and a 17.10 bus back (Johnson). Green cards  agogo. But I needed the 07.35 (green/blue) for my consultancy work. And then I discovered the 15.40 to Mossbank...and that's Leask's. Blue card.

I can get off that at Brae, and at first I thought I'd leave the car there, missing out the 07.35 (green) route in the mornings. But then I found out there was (just Tuesday and Thursday) a connecting mini-bus to Hillswick. Today was my first attempt at using that.

But I thought, seeing as that's a Johnson Transport service, that I wouldn't be able to pay for the entire Lerwick-Hillswick trip on a blue (Leask's) card. Wrong. you have to pay your £2.80 on the blue, as the other two minibuses (you have to change at Brae and the Ollaberry Junction) don't have digital card readers. How Leasks and Johnson Transport work out the cash share is beyond me. It's digital. Presumably computers are involved.

Thanks to Martin for explaining this to me, and for taking me the last leg home to Hillswick. He also let me into the secret of the, ahem 'doity' (elderly person's) bus which - every SECOND Tuesday - leaves Lerwick at 15.00, running direct to Hillswick. And even more secret, the Thursday late nighter, the 21.45 to Mossbank from Lerwick, which has a (Johnson) feeder service leaving Brae for Hillswick at 10.30pm.

I wish I'd known about that bus in my newspaper press-day drinking days, as it would have saved me several £40 taxi fares.

And that, folks, is everything I know about buses in Shetland. This information has been hard won. I share it with you as a public service, because not all of it can be gleaned from the Zettrans site.

Oh, and one last point. You may think these fares seem outrageously cheap. They are. But here's a thing, if you have a digital SIC card (free to obtain, from any driver) you get 60p knocked off the price of Hillswick-Lerwick. £2.20. A LOT cheaper than driving.

Today the council voted to hike bus fares by 15 per cent. It's STILL a lot cheaper than driving. And I can sleep the bus-sleep of the just. Once I assuage my guilt by giving Gary Johnson his 60p...or is it 20?


laura said...

yes they certainly are "secret" buses.. we spent hours trying to find the late bus on the Zetrans timetable...had to resort to ringing Gary (johnson)....lesson in communication needed ..methinks

The Driver said...

Go wild Tom, drop him a whole pound, then you can abuse the service with a reasonably clear conscience at least once more.