Going to work the green way

ARE you addicted to the comfort of your motorcar, but feel a knawing guilt as the pressure mounts to be green and use public transport? Feature writer JAMES MARSTON takes up the commuter challenge to travel to work in Ipswich and home again to Felixstowe - leaving his car keys at home.

James Marston

ARE you addicted to the comfort of your motorcar, but feel a knawing guilt as the pressure mounts to be green and use public transport? Feature writer JAMES MARSTON takes up the commuter challenge to travel to work in Ipswich and home again to Felixstowe - leaving his car keys at home.

AS a roving reporter I often need my car for work, and driving takes me from door to door.

Indeed, I like my comfortable car.

So, if I'm honest, leaving my motor behind and taking the train wasn't really an assignment I was looking forward to. But my car keys were wrestled from my grip and I was sent on the road.

Here's how I got on commuting by train and by bus.

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Tomorrow I try the journey by car - and decide whether public transport can win my vote after all.

How do you get to work? Do you use public transport? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

As usual I had let my alarm snooze just ten minutes too long.

I rushed into the back garden and at 6.54am I left the house, on my bike heading for the bus stop.

I knew the bus was leaving from Great Eastern Square in the town centre at 7.10am so I didn't have long to park up the bike, grab some cash from the cash point, and wait under the Perspex canopy.

At 7.06am I had joined about three others waiting for 'the 75'. I lit a fag thinking I'd got a few minutes to enjoy the first smoke of the day, but as luck would have it the bus arrived at 7.07am - three minutes early.

The first hurdle was to pay for my fare. It's been a long time since I went on a bus but I did at least know the days of a conductor are over and you have to pay the driver.

“Ipswich Tower Ramparts please”, I said, expecting to hand over a couple of quid.

“Single or return?” the driver replied.

“Return please.”

“£4.50 please.”

Not really, really cheap is it? In fact it's 30p more than the train. So I handed over a £20 note - I only had about £2.40 in change - and completely wiped out his tray of £1 coins. It took a while to count out…I bet I was popular.

As the bus jerked away from the kerb I headed to the back to sit near the emergency exit - just in case I needed to get off in a hurry. If I was scoring out of ten, the seats came in at about six or seven - not exactly plush but not exactly unpleasant either.

We were off. I got out my notebook but before I had put pen to paper it was 7.10am and we had made our first stop in Walton where a woman got on board.

By 7.16am we were in Trimley St Mary. The village was quiet, curtains were still drawn and no one seemed to be up. I suppose they probably weren't.

We made the occasional stop but after a while you don't notice. At 7.20am we swung into Morston Hall Road - I remember thinking 'I wonder if there really is a Morston Hall?' - and we picked up a bit of speed.

The Suffolk countryside always looks lovely on a bright morning and this was no exception. The bus, which was a little bit bumpy, was bombing along nicely and suddenly we were in Warren Heath.

Just a few moments and a few pick-ups later it was 7.33am and we were passing Ipswich Hospital.

By 7.37am we were on Spring Road and coming to a rather abrupt halt at a bus stop.

I dropped my pen, it slid under the seat in front and to save scrapping around on the floor under some poor woman's legs I had to commit to memory almost all of the rest of the journey. I do remember two youngish people getting on with wires coming from their ears - I suspected they were wearing IPods.

At 7.40am with the traffic still yet to build up, Ipswich was showing a few more signs of life. From my window seat I could spot dog walkers and the occasional newspaper lad delivering the morning's news. Ipswich was stirring.

As we pulled up at Major's Corner I toyed with the idea of getting off and giving my leg's a stretch - they had just started to feel a little cramped - but I stayed on, determined to finish my journey.

Tower Ramparts came into view at 7.42am and a few more people left the bus, and at 7.43am almost all got off just after we swung into Museum Street.

We arrived at the Cattle Market at 7.45am, a full five minutes early according to the timetable.

Then after an interesting day at The Evening Star I was keen to get back to Felixstowe and the fresh sea air. I walked round the corner to the Cattle Market bus station arrived at 4pm and joined the queue for the 75 at stand A.

I asked a lady in the queue if I was in the right queue and where the bus was, and she said: “Sometimes it's here, sometimes it isn't but it does go to Felixstowe.”

The bus came in at 4.03pm and I quickly took my seat close to the back. We left dead on 4.05pm and shortly afterwards I have to confess I think I dozed off.

It can only have been a little power nap as ten minutes later I opened my eyes to find we were on Spring Road picking up some people. At 4.20pm we stopped opposite the hospital and picked up even more. The bus was just about half full now. The Ipswich rush hour traffic was beginning to build up and it took a while to get across Foxhall Road and out of the town.

At 4.32pm we were out of the town and swinging on to the old A45. At 4.33pm two young lads started having a party. Sitting behind me on the back row one of them turned on what I think was a mobile phone. How rude and inconsiderate.

It really angered me. Why on earth does a young teenager need a mobile phone? - let alone one which allows him to force his awful music on everyone around him? He started jumping around and laughing. Of course no one said anything to him.

It effectively ruined my journey and explains why so many of us avoid public transport at all costs.

At 4.45pm we crossed the A14, the music still playing, at 4.50pm the music stopped and at 4.51pm I alighted at Great Eastern Square relieved, tired, in a bit of a bad mood and glad I won't have to repeat the experience.

Cost - £4.50 return. Weekly season ticket £20, Monthly season ticket £72.

Bother (out of ten with ten as most bother): 4/10

Feelings at the journey's end: Comfortable and fairly easy, if a little bumpy and start stop.

Popularity: About half full, almost empty by the end.

Time: Under 40 minutes

Hitches: None. Unless you don't have the correct fare.

LET the train take the strain - or is it as simple as that?

It was a bright Felixstowe day. I could feel a slight chill, the wind was rustling in the trees and I was rushing around like a mad thing trying not to be late for work.

At 7.26am I left my flat in central Felixstowe. I estimated it would take 20 minutes to get to the railway platform, but of course I was wrong and arrived far too early.

At 7.36am I arrived on the platform to see the train was waiting and I took my seat. By 7.47am the only carriage that there was, was filling up. People were chatting and someone had brought some excited children on board, if I'm honest it wasn't very peaceful.

At 7.50am the train jerked and we were off. It was on time too. Within moments we were crossing the A14 and reaching out into the Suffolk countryside. I passed some familiar landmarks Trimley water tower, the cranes of Felixstowe docks. Just as I was settling into the journey the train came to a halt.

It was 7.54am and we were stopping at Trimley station. A few people got on. I didn't notice anyone leaving, and I was joined by a middle aged man who was plugged into an Ipod and vaguely smelt of garlic. He sniffed quite a bit too.

We crossed the A14 for the second time at 8.01am and began to pick up speed through the countryside and past the Suffolk Showground and Warren Heath.

A friendly and helpful lady conductor sold me a return ticket for £4.20 at 8.03am and at 8.04am we arrived at Derby Road, Ipswich.

I would have liked to have read a book but the scenery kept stealing my attention. Suddenly we were passing over a viaduct and through steep embankments. By 8.07am we were once again in open fields and out of Ipswich.

At 8.10am we stopped at Westerfield where more climbed aboard. At 8.12am we were still there and by 8.14am, by now underway again, some children decided it would be fun to run up and down the aisle. At 8.15am I spotted a fox scuttling up the embankment closer to the train and by 8.17am I could see allotments and the roves of Ipswich.

We crossed the river at 8.18am over a bridge somewhere near the Boss Hall area of town and at 8.21am we arrived at Ipswich, according to the timetable five minutes late.

At 8.23am I was on the platform walking towards the station and at 8.28am I crossed Burrell Road and headed once again across the Orwell.

I arrived at work at 8.39am. It had taken one hour and 13 minutes door to door. I rather enjoyed it and it wasn't very arduous sitting on the train, despite badly behaved children but you get that everywhere nowadays.

Now after a hectic day at The Evening Star I was keen to get back to Felixstowe without too much fuss, so I arrived at Ipswich station at 5.54pm. I think I'd missed a Felixstowe train by about 20 minutes. I had time to kill and by 5.59pm I was enjoying a quick drink in the station's bar reading a book.

Almost half an hour slipped by and at 6.20pm I boarded the train on platform 1B. By the time I got on board there were a few people who had been there in the morning discussing their day - I suspect there is a bit of a regular commuter crowd who have got friendly over the years.

On time at 6.27pm the train set off. Stopping again at Westerfield, Derby road and Trimley, I hardly noticed the passing countryside, and the little halts. I was engrossed in my book - a luxury you just cannot risk when driving. In what appeared to be just moments later, the train had stopped at Felixstowe station, and I didn't even notice the time.

A relaxing walk home and I arrived by 7pm-ish. I was so relaxed and perfectly content I'd completely stopped watching the clock by then.

In a strange way the journey and burying my head in a book, had shifted the day's cares away.

I was ready for a gin and tonic and a sumptuous supper.

Cost: £4.20 day return. Weekly season ticket £17 for 7 days, Monthly season ticket £65 for 28 days.

Bother (out of ten with ten as most bother): 4/10

Feelings at the journey's end: comfortable, if a little noisy at times.

Popularity: Full train.

Time: One hour 13 minutes

Hitches: None. The train could have been a bit cleaner.