Written on: 22/06/2012 by decemberboy
Having been offered a ticket to see one of my musical heroes Bruce Springsteen in Sunderland I decided to have a look at Megabus as an alternative to the more expensive National Express, being on a tight budget the train was out of the question.
A quick look on their website and I'd found a return from Birmingham to Newcastle (where my hotel was) for £25, which I found to be fantastic value for money even if it meant a longer journey.
Arriving at my stop in Birmingham in plenty of time for the 6am departure the bus turned up right on time and the driver was friendly, allowing me to take both my holdall and hand luggage on-board as the vehicle was virtually empty at that point. I found a seat without any problem and was relieved to discover that there was ample leg room - I was worried about this, as a man of 6' 1" I'd read the reviews of the buses being cramped. Having said that the bus was very basic and aged, National Express coaches are unbridled luxury in comparison, but that didn't bother me, as they say, you get what you pay for. So, armed with my tablet with Netflix installed, my iPod, DAB radio, some snacks and two litres of water (take water onboard, it's essential, especially for long trips!) I settled down for the journey.
My first minor gripe was the Wi-Fi (or rather lack of). Megabus advertise it as being on selected services but do not state which ones so whilst I wasn't expecting it as standard I think it would be a good idea to at least try and give a rough guide as to which services do carry it. Luckily Netflix worked fine using the built in 3G connection (although T-Mobile probably hate me!).
The journey was fine, I didn't leave the bus but at stops people were able to jump off for a cigarette etc. And whilst the bus was rather busy from Manchester onwards it was never full so in most cases there was only one person to each pair of seats. And everyone knows that makes for a much more comfortable journey. I arrived in Newcastle on time and overall couldn't fault the service.
My return journey started OK, the bus seemed to be older still and there was less leg room but from Newcastle through to Leeds, the journey was fine, although once again there was no Wi-Fi on the bus.
From Leeds onwards was where some small problems seemed to start. Firstly the bus filled to capacity so the bus felt more cramped with every seat occupied, although that can hardly be a complaint, of course Megabus will want to fill the vehicle. However with more people onboard the bus soon became stuffy and incredibly hot, and the overhead air conditioning didn't seem to be turned on, so the journey became very uncomfortable very quickly. After a while the driver did turn it on but this was only in five minute spurts once every half an hour roughly. And although this didn't affect me there seemed to be a case of too many people wanting to get on at Manchester and some being left behind to wait for a second bus to arrive. This getting sorted and some pretty bad traffic on the M6 resulted in the bus arriving into Birmingham half an hour late.
Overall Magabus was nowhere near the nightmare that it is sometimes portrayed as but at the same time some minor flaws do let the service down slightly. I would use them again without hesitation if I needed to get somewhere on a budget but they wouldn't be my first choice as they do get very cramped.
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