Day 862: Buses in Oxford, a Nightmare

We did attempt to commute in Oxford by buses as we lived over 2 miles (3 km) away from the centre, had to walk the dogs every day, and also wanted to save our legs for our runs. However, eventually, we still ended up walking a lot. The bus system IS fairly unreliable and sometimes it was simply better to walk. If you do have more patience (and time to kill) than us, you could go for the buses. Or if you manage to avoid the rush hour.

There are two main companies: Oxford Bus Company (OBC) and Stagecoach (SC). For some reason, we bought the OBC weekly ticket. It is easy to buy, you can do it via an app once you have downloaded. Pay with PayPal and off you go. But… even if you use the app of one company, it shows bus times of two different companies. AND doesn’t tell you which is which. On my first night there, I learned it the hard way. I arrived in Oxford around 10.15 pm. Bus due 10.35 pm. It came. At the right time. I got on. Tried to scan my ticket. But… there was no scanner. Turned out it was an SC bus. Same number, same route, wrong company. My ticket wasn’t valid. Well, I waited for another 15 minutes, which seems like an eternity if you have spent a total of 3 hours on the train and 3 hours in a creative writing workshop and about two hours walking up and down the hills in Cardiff (yes, there are some). When the driver had told me it was the wrong bus and my number 3 was supposed to be a yellow one, I checked the timetable. Oh, yes, the times had letters behind them: O and S, alternating.

The next day, I checked the timetable at our home bus stop when finishing my run, just to know at which time the O buses (Oxford Bus, for which we had the tickets) would come. A lady at the bus stop told me that there was no use looking at them. I shook my head. An hour and a shower later we were back there, waiting for the bus. She had been right. There was even the electronic display, indicating how many minutes to the next bus. If it said 2 minutes, these 2 minutes could last for 6 minutes, etc. Highly unreliable. The electronic displays do not tell you which company would be coming next. You could solve this by buying the ticket that is valid for both companies. We didn’t know that before. The OBC weekly ticket was £14.50, the joint ticket that would have saved us loads of trouble if we only had known… £16. Not much of a difference and you could board any bus.

On Thursday, we exited the Oxford University Press bookshop and rejoiced at the fact that the stop was just across the road. Just. The first number 3 that came was the wrong company. We waited 37 minutes for the next one. At a time when the buses were supposed to be going every 8 minutes. Once we got in, we began a slow journey. We should have just started walking in the first place and would have been home way sooner. Like half an hour before we actually did. Luckily, the dogs we were taking care of could wait for us and they were fine! Anyway, we got off the bus after agonising 25 minutes and just walked. We passed many cars and even the very bus that we had seen… about an hour ago? It hadn’t managed to get to our stop within an hour. If the traffic is normal, it’s less than a 10-minute journey. If you can, just avoid the rush hours! Go a bit earlier or later rather than around 4.30-6 pm. The streets are narrow and traffic jams inevitable.

Sometimes, there would be no buses at all and then they would arrive in a big group. Three number 3s in a row, for instance. As if they were shy animals who can only move around in a pack.

Progress Report

1. Own and live in a house.

Some work equals some money for the house.

2. Write AND publish a book.

Finished a draft for the very last story I needed to submit this term. Typed it in as well and sent it to the others. For once, I was the first one! I will be using this story as part of my assignment portfolio as well, so it was kind of important.

3. Win a major race.

A long run. 20K. So-so. Not terribly slow, but slow-ish with the pace of 5.10 min/km. Didn’t feel fresh at all. Not my best performance. I can do much better. The illness was still somewhere in my body, killing the speed.

Photo of the Day


It was the day when we visited Christ Church. Did plan to take the bus but it didn’t come. We started walking, thinking of maybe catching it from some of the other stops. We managed to walk all the way to town without seeing any buses… It took us 25 minutes or so.

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