Tourists left baffled by Britain’s 'peculiar' transport system
Simon Calder’s career in travel started at Gatwick Airport, where he cleaned aircraft for Laker Airways and later worked as a security officer. He became The Independent’s Travel Correspondent in 1994, and is known as “the Man Who Pays His Way” because he does not accept free travel facilities. He writes across the Independent titles, as well as for the Evening Standard.
Friday 15 August 2014
Foreign tourists trying to reach Stonehenge by public transport must put up with Stone Age speeds, a new report has found.
“Barriers to Overseas Visitors’ Use of Public Transport”, commissioned by VisitBritain from Social Research Associates, slams the UK’s transport operators for baffling overseas visitors and dissuading them from venturing beyond London.
Britain’s “peculiar” transport system makes access from London to some leading tourist attractions exasperating. The journey to Wiltshire’s ancient stone circle begins with South West Trains from London Waterloo to Salisbury. Next, tourists must take a six-minute walk towards the city centre, followed by a half-hour bus ride to Shrewton. “Here, a wait of up to an hour can occur, until a Connect2Wiltshire bus continues on a 20-minute journey to Stonehenge,” say the researchers.
The 9.5-mile segment from Salisbury station to Stonehenge can take two hours, averaging below 5mph. The report calls it: “Public transport at its most fragmented and unhelpful."
Many visitors are barely off the plane before their public transport problems begin. The Heathrow Express from the UK’s main gateway into the capital is described as “the most expensive airport connection anywhere”. The report say the operator “steadfastly refuses to provide any onward journey information on the train”.
A Heathrow Express spokesperson said: “Our on-board TV provides onward tube and taxi travel information which is supplemented by on-board announcements detailing the location of the taxi rank and London Underground stations at Paddington.”
The report also criticises UK train operators’ refusal to use any language other than English or Welsh on websites. In contrast, German Railways’ site offers nine languages, while French Railways provides English and German translations.
The report concludes: “While persisting with our peculiarly British way of doing things, we have to make the adverse impact on visitors as little as possible.”
Baffling public transport has not dulled overseas visitors’ appetite for the UK. The first six months of this year set a new record for incoming tourism. On average, 90,000 visitors a day arrived in Britain between January and June - up eight per cent on 2013.
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