Simon Calder: 'The dawg' is here. But will it win our hearts? - News & Advice - Travel - The Independent

Simon Calder: 'The dawg' is here. But will it win our hearts?

"One pound, please." The proprietor of the café in Bulleid Way, above Victoria in central London, generously gave me the driver's discount rate for two coffees – one for me, and one for Lionel Marsh, coaching controller for Greyhound UK. He is organising the logistics for what the company hopes is the next great idea in British travel.

On this page three weeks ago, I was sceptical that the all-American concept of "riding the dawg" along Interstate highways could translate to the A3 and the M3 – the first two Greyhound UK routes run from Portsmouth and Southampton to London. So I asked if I could hitch a ride on one of the trial runs this week, which is why I am in the front seat of Peggy Sue, flagship of the Greyhound UK fleet.

This Southampton-bound bus left 20 minutes ago. It has taken us that long to reach Earl's Court Tube Station, a mere four stops on the Underground from Victoria. But soon afterwards the highway, in the shape of the A4, beckons. Forty minutes after leaving London we breeze past Heathrow Terminal 5 – not the most direct route to Southampton, but "there's roadworks in Richmond", as Lionel discovered on the way up. That is one advantage of buses – unlike trains, there are plenty of alternative routes available. And as we speed down the 10-lane stretch of the M25, counting down the distance at a steady mile a minute, I momentarily feel transported across the ocean to a country whose big cities are carved with rivers of traffic.

A sign warns "M3 J9-J11 Long Delays", but Lionel has judiciously chosen to join the Hampshire-bound motorway at Junction 12.

"Travel just got good" is the slogan of Greyhound UK. No question: it is quite the most comfortable bus I have been on. The seats are leather, and the legroom generous; during the upgrade from vehicles previously used for National Express routes, two rows of seats were taken out. For travel journalists and those with real jobs alike, mains electricity and free Wi-Fi is available. Bladder management is not an issue, since each bus has a loo at the back – next to the last three seats, which also boast legroom of business-class proportions.

How much does this premium trip cost? To echo the café owner in Victoria, "one pound, please" – and that even includes a copy of The Independent. As with any new enterprise, Greyhound UK is offering low fares to drum up business, and competitors are predictably striking back (see panel). Travel just got cheap.

One hour gone, and we have just emerged from a contra-flow at junction 14, somewhere outside Farnborough. The rival South West Trains service from London Waterloo is, at this stage of the journey, just past Winchester, only a quarter-hour from Southampton Central.

We still have 45 miles to roll, and Lionel has plenty to tell me about Greyhound's plans to take a bite out of the market between the capital and Hampshire's two big cities.

The company has a fleet of 11 newly refurbished vehicles and 26 newly recruited drivers. Starting on Monday morning, eight trips are planned each way on each route, scheduled to take a minute short of two hours to Portsmouth, and 15 minutes more to Southampton.

ppp "Welcome to Southampton, international maritime city", announces the sign at the roundabout on the outskirts. Two hours and two minutes after leaving London, Peggy Sue, Lionel and I arrive at Town Quay, beside the crumbling Watergate. All change for the Isle of Wight, or, indeed, the pub (alcohol being strictly banned on coaches).

I return by a heavily delayed train – the cause, a vehicle hitting a bridge near Clapham Junction. Road and rail just don't get on.

Hampshire fares battle begins

Travellers between Hampshire and London can look forward to a fares battle of Jutlandian proportions. In the naval tradition of spiking a rival's guns, the existing operator National Express has undercut Greyhound with a 99p "funfare". Anyone in a hurry to travel between Southampton and London will patronise the other big Scottish transport enterprise, Stagecoach, with its fast trains linking Waterloo with Southampton "Central" (a station that is anything but). The standard one-way fare is £31.70. Yet Stagecoach has a Megatrain offshoot that is offering £1 seats on a few trains on the route.

If that still does not provide enough choice, Southern Railway has another option from London Victoria: one train an hour departs during the day to Southampton, for an Advance fare of £5 – identical to the price to Purley, through which the train will whizz at 80mph within 20 minutes of leaving Victoria.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week