New commuter route for Tunbridge Wells

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Coaches used on the service include this MAN-powered Noge Catalan Star
Coaches used on the service include this MAN-powered Noge Catalan Star

Inaugural commuter coach service launched between Tunbridge Wells and London

Centaur Coaches & Minicoaches has recently launched Centaur Commute, the first commuter coach service between Tunbridge Wells and London.

Two routes serve Royal Tunbridge Wells, Langton Green, Pembury, Rusthall and the surrounding areas with an additional route coming soon for Tonbridge and Hildenborough. The operator will cover almost 70 pick up points in and around the Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge areas.

The firm offered a free trial service on January 5 and 6, and is offering a second one at the end of the month.

The service will run two coaches on both routes, morning and evening.

Passengers also have “direct access by phone or email to those responsible for running the service,” said MD Matthew Sims.

The route makes use of bus lanes, a CCTV tracking system and skirts the notorious Longfield Road roundabout in an effort to avoid delays. Passengers can also view the tracker to keep tabs on the coaches.

An annual season ticket costs £2,488 – a saving of £1,500 compared with £3,968 on the train.

Business continuity manager at Ernst and Young Jo Collins commutes by rail to London Bridge and tested several return journeys on the coach.

She said: “The coach picked me up at Pembury Library, 200 yards from my house. Normally I drive along Pembury Road, find a parking space, walk to the station with a trolley bag and have to get on the train with it. Here there is a luggage rack in the side of the coach.

“This is more effective because the journey is less bitty and I can either sleep or work. Reception is fine on my Blackberry and, using a SIM in my laptop, I could use the internet and access e-mails. I understand they are getting Wi-Fi in March.

Simon Bishop works in the city. He said: “First of all it’s the money – the savings – and also it’s the convenience. It stops just down the end of my road, whereas usually, I would drive to Tonbridge. Door to door I have dropped about 15 to 20 minutes from my journey time if you include parking.”

Concern was raised about the limited number of return journeys as passengers were less able to dictate their working day.

Matthew Sims said the company was likely to add another coach in the evening “even if not both ways”.

He added: “Initially we expect to start at around 50 to 100 passengers, rising to 160 within three months as word gets around and season tickets expire. There are signs that it could be much more.

“For many, the door-to-door times may actually be faster than their existing means of travel.”

For more information, visit www.commutetolondon.com or call 02083 003001