Many bus journeys in England will cost no more than £2 until the end of March. Nationally, the average single fare is around £2.80, so the scheme will generally represent a discount of about 30%, but on longer rural journeys, bus users could save as much as 87%. The 50-mile journey from York to Whitby across the North York Moors, which was voted Britain’s most scenic route in a 2018 survey, usually costs £14, so travellers will save £12. The 840 Coastliner bus, which makes this epic journey four times a day, is one of hundreds of routes that now cost less.
More than 130 bus operators are taking part in the scheme, which is funded by the government to the tune of £60m. Alex Hornby, CEO of Transdev – which runs buses across Yorkshire and Lancashire – says that while passenger numbers in those areas recovered well after the pandemic, there are still fewer people travelling by bus “especially during the current cost of living crisis”. Hornby hopes this money-saving promotion “will attract them back on board”.
The new fares will be issued automatically on any eligible route. The Traveline journey planner shows whether a particular bus journey is part of the scheme. Single fares under £2 and other types of ticket will stay the same. The mayors of West Yorkshire, Greater Manchester, London and Liverpool had already capped fares at £2 and this will continue (even after the end of March). Some of the best bargains under the new scheme are routes that go through picturesque areas with views from the window across coast and hills, villages and forests.
Six of the best scenic bus rides
840 Coastliner York to Whitby via Malton, North Yorkshire (Transdev)
Between the ancient gates and city walls in York and the atmospheric ruined abbey above the harbour at Whitby, the Coastliner rolls through pretty market towns and over the wild North York Moors. The whole journey takes more than two hours but there’s plenty to see. Stop off in Malton for fresh bread in bunting-strung markets, artisanal brewers and gelato or in Pickering for a church with medieval wall paintings and the North York Moors steam railway. The bus goes on up, through the wooded slopes of Dalby Forest, to spectacular miles of high, heathery moorland with the distant sea getting gradually closer.
599 Bowness to Grasmere, Cumbria (Stagecoach)
Running hourly beside some of Cumbria’s most famous lakes, this bus offers a quintessential Lake District journey – past the boats at Ambleside and along the reedy edge of Rydal Water, with the bracken-cloaked slopes of Nab Scar towering above. It stops near the door of Dove Cottage and visitors who arrive by bus get discounted entry to Wordsworth Grasmere, the new attraction that includes the poet’s house and garden. In 2021, actors playing William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy, took the bus to Grasmere and read poetry aloud on the way. Bus 555 continues all the way to Keswick.
X53 Weymouth to Axminster, Dorset (First Wessex)
This rollercoaster ride along Dorset’s Jurassic Coast from harbourside Weymouth runs over the undulating Wessex Downs. The sea glimmers blue to the left beyond the bronze pebbles of Chesil Beach and the long Fleet lagoon. Near Abbotsbury, with its swannery and subtropical gardens, there is an unbeatable view of Saint Catherine’s chapel on a domed hill. Through West Bay and characterful Bridport, the X53 goes on to Lyme Regis with its fossil-hunting history and the old stone Cobb. This curving harbour wall features in Persuasion, where Louisa Musgrove falls down the steps known as Granny’s Teeth, and The French Lieutenant’s Woman, with Meryl Streep as Sarah Woodruff, in hooded black cloak, staring over the wind-lashed waves.
Purbeck Breezer 40 Poole to Swanage, Dorset (MoreBus)
The open-topped Breezer 40 passes Holes Bay and wooded Upton Park, but this is just for starters. Through Wareham, one of England’s rare remaining Saxon walled towns, the bus passes the 11th-century church of Saint Martin on the Walls and Hartland Moor with its acres of heath and wetlands, grazing red cattle and ever-blooming yellow gorse. In Corfe Castle, the ruins of walls built by William the Conqueror overlook a village square of grey limestone pubs and houses, all ringed by the Purbeck Hills. On past ancient downs pocked with barrows and tumuli, the journey ends near the sandy beach at Swanage. An adult single from Poole to Swanage on Breezer 40 is normally £7.50, so £2 is a very good deal.
12 Coaster Brighton to Eastbourne, Sussex (Brighton and Hove buses)
Past the domes and minarets of Brighton Pavilion and the elegant Regency squares with their tamarisk-hedged gardens, the no 12 runs along the top of the cliffs. Look out for Saltdean’s 1930s art deco lido, rescued by the community and reopened in 2017. The bus climbs over the white cliffs of the Seven Sisters into Eastbourne, with views back over Cuckmere river as it winds towards the sea.
B3 Brontëbus Keighley to Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire (Keighley Bus Company)
Technically, this route benefits from West Yorkshire’s price cap rather than the England-wide scheme. The effect for passengers is currently the same, but it means the £2 maximum fare will stay in place until further notice, rather than ending in March. The bus starts climbing as soon as it leaves Keighley, past Victorian factory chimneys and old stone farmhouses. Passengers can stop off to climb the steep cobbled street in Haworth and visit the parsonage where the Brontë sisters lived or even climb on to the moors to see the real-life Wuthering Heights and shout “Cathy, Cathy” among gaunt thorns and waterfalls.