I usually have quite pleasant experiences with public transport, and most people plan trips to Alton Towers way in advance - usually meaning dirt cheap prices that can beat the cost of petrol alone. Add the fact that motorists pay for tax, insurance, maintenance and the cost of the vehicle itself, adding on the £5 return to a couple of pounds of train fare is actually a really good deal.
I know I use the examples of Brum and Manchester a lot, but they are huge populations and half the population of Manchester don't even have a driving license - travelling from Manchester means a ride on a 125mph Pendalino in a reserved seat from Piccadilly to Stoke station, both of which are clean, safe and attractive, then a bus ride from right outside the station to right outside the turnstiles into the park - the price? £11 with a rail card (£15 without) and takes an hour and 45 minutes.
The same 50 mile journey by car means 2 motorways and miles of winding roads, a queue onto the car park, a car park fee, a queue for a monorail and the actual monorail journey. £20 petrol, £6 parking and an hour and 20 minutes, reaching 2 hours to accommodate morning traffic and the extra faff needed to get to the park itself.
Sam, though the true cost of car ownership is obscured behind the media attention given to petrol prices, we must not forget that the true costs are evident in the tarmacking of our nation, the countless deaths on our roads, the tonnes of CO2 expelled into our atmosphere and the nasty, unsociable environments that roads are filling our spaces with (A classic one is "I daren't let my kid walk to school...the roads are bad")...and all these costs are paid for by every citizen of this country, including those unable to drive.
If I can spend my mornings with a book, or talking to my friends across a table with a cup of coffee while watching the countryside fly by, or by not shouting and screaming because someone is driving at 35 in a 30 and I want to hit 50...then I'd pay triple...luckily I only pay a quarter and don't expect my fellow citizens to foot the social and environmental costs.
Yes public transport isn't perfect, but improvements are being made. Not too long ago it was much harder to visit the park using public transport. Most services into Stoke are served by new, clean, fast and punctual trains and the ATT buses are well maintained and comfortable (when not packed!)
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I'm just making the point that it is unfair to expect people to rely on public transport if they don't want to pay to park at Alton Towers.
I don't think it is unfair in a lot of cases - the fact that the journey from your home to Alton Towers would take twice as long on public transport as by car is unfortunate, and a 3 hour journey is not going to be anyones cup of tea if they had the choice between the two, but almost 60% of the population have direct
access to a train station so are in a different situation to you.
Your predicament has been exacerbated by the motorisation of this country, but the more we move away from using cars for unnecessary travel the more public transport will grow and be able to fulfil our necessary transport needs.
It isn't all about the benefits of public transport though, that's just one of a whole bunch of reasons why Merlin are in the right to charge - the main one being you are renting premium land off of them for a whole day!