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Saratoga Springs, NY
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LHR to Bristol - Thornbury Castle

I am trying to help my husband coordinate travel between Heathrow Airport and Bristol Parkway. He's staying at Thornbury Castle for two nights. On the hotel's website, they suggest getting to the Bristol Parkway train station and taking a taxi from there to the castle.

Is his best course of action to take the Heathrow Express to Paddington Station and then National Rail to Bristol Parkway?

His flight gets in at 11:05 am. Should he prebook a ticket from PAD to BPW to save money? or is his best bet buying a flexible ticket? Is a prepurchased "Off-peak" ticket just a flexible ticket good for any train, any time after peak hours (9:30am, right?). The company is paying for travel, and while they might balk at a taxi from Heathrow to the castle, I doubt they'd quibble over the fare on train tickets or the difference between prebooked cheapest rate and a more flexible fare.

Or is there a completely different way to go that would be better?

Thanks so much for your help!!

ETA: in case it makes a difference, he's landing 2 October at 11:05. He plans to stay his last night in London near Paddington station to catch one of the first express trains to Heathrow on 5 Oct. His flight leaves at 9:05am 5 Oct.

Bingley, United...
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1. Re: LHR to Bristol - Thornbury Castle

The other main options are

a) RailAir bus to Reading then train to Bristol before taking the taxi

b) DIRECT National Express coach from Heathrow to Bristol before taking the taxi

Saratoga Springs, NY
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2. Re: LHR to Bristol - Thornbury Castle

Thank you for letting me know about these options. How is coach travel in the UK? Here in the US it's not very nice - tends to be dirty and really an option of last resort, and the coach stations tend to be in areas of the cities that we really would not want to be in. It's just not something I would consider in the States.

Oxfordshire
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3. Re: LHR to Bristol - Thornbury Castle

Here in Britain there aren't "areas of the cities that we really would not want to be in."

Well, there are. But why on earth would a bus company put its terminal somewhere potential customers didn't want to go to? Why would they be dirty, since that would lose them customers? Sounds like the sort of thing only government-owned businesses in countries dominated by monopoly State organisations would dream of doing.

Outside the fantasies of Mitt Romney (or the US Postal Service) such businesses don't exist. Heathrow and Reading station may or may not be your ideal place to stay. But they're the same place whether you get a train from them, a bus or a train passing through.

I've no idea why Americans have this hang up with buses. The arguments against them apply far more to travelling by car.

I suspect the answer lies more in some weird wiring of the American brain than in the logical argument for or against using a cheaper form of transport.

Incidentally, when did you last use an inter-city bus?

West London
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4. Re: LHR to Bristol - Thornbury Castle

As our resident grouch flanneruk says, it's not like that in England. The buses are clean and well maintained, and they are used by everyone, including me. Obviously distances between towns are smaller than in the USA and it's a normal method of transport

I've looked at the schedule, and the journey time from Heathrow airport to central Bristol is 1 hour 55 minutes and costs £28. 2 October is a Tuesday so the coach won't be full up, and you don't need to book in advance. They are every hour.

http://tinyurl.com/9qmt6l8

It seems to me the most hassle free way to get to Bristol. Instead of taking 2 trains, your husband can just get on the coach / bus at Heathrow and get off 2 hours later in Bristol. (Tell him to take some magazines to read on the journey, and thanks for using British date style by the way.)

Edited: 12 September 2012, 21:01
london
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5. Re: LHR to Bristol - Thornbury Castle

The worst thing you might experience on a coach is someone with their headphones on too loud.

We don't really get 'bums' and dangerous people on them, and they tend to be clean.

However since your husband is getting his travel reimbursed I would definitely go for the train.

The easiest option is to go to Heathrow rail station and ask for a 'Super Off Peak Return to Bristol Parkway'. This costs £85.50

The restrictions on it are:

Outbound - at or after 10:30am - no problem here

Return - 10:15am or later from Bristol Parkway

This ticket is then valid for travel

Heathrow - Paddington (Heathrow Express)

Paddington - Bristol Parkway (train)

and the same coming back.

The price is £85.50

If you took the bus to Reading and train from there, the cost would be only £64.50, but you'd have two separate expense claims. Cheaper still prices are possible, but why bother.

Note that the Paddington - Bristol Parkway train runs every 30 minutes, and the HEX is every 15 minutes. Total journey time is 2 hrs 7 minutes from Heathrow to Bristol via Paddington.

The bus through to Bristol takes 2 hours also, hourly, the return fare is £50 - but it would take you back to Heathrow not to Paddington.

The train ticket on the other hand has the advantage of allowing you to break your journey coming back - in other words, you start the return leg of the ticket for Bristol - Paddington on the 4th, and then on the 5th complete the journey by travelling Paddington - Heathrow.

London
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6. Re: LHR to Bristol - Thornbury Castle

I don't know why people call flanneruk a grouch - he or she always gives accurate information in my experience.

Obviously there's no problem about the coach station in Heathrow, which is directly above the underground office. The National Express ticket office is next to it.

I've never been to the coach station in Bristol but I would have no worries about using it. The people on the Bristol Forum can give you the facts about it.

tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowForum-g186220-i479-Bri…

But it does look as if it's a lot less expensive and probably almost as quick as using the trains.

Whatever you do, don't take the Heathrow Express into Paddington, cos that will cost you almost as much as the coach to Bristol. The Heathrow Connect to Paddington costs a lot less and is only a few minutes slower.

london
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7. Re: LHR to Bristol - Thornbury Castle

If someone else was paying, I would certainly take the Heathrow Express rather than the Connect, which doesn't serve T4 or T5, and takes 17 minutes longer than the Express.

Most business travellers would do the same.

Saratoga Springs, NY
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8. Re: LHR to Bristol - Thornbury Castle

Thanks so much -- I did not know that Heathrow had a proper rail station and one could get a train from Heathrow to Bristol! I thought it was only the trains into London :-)

The last time I took a bus in the USA was probably 25 years ago and it was particularly unpleasant. I vowed to never do it again. This is why Americans are so turned off by bus travel. Companies could probably choose to make the buses cleaner, and the stations safer, but they don't. I have no fear about walking around London or Paris at night. Perhaps I'm a nervous Nellie, butI personally would not do that alone in NYC (or near the bus stations in several cities I'm well acquainted with in the US), and I have spent most of my life close enough to NYC to commute.

The cost isn't really an issue (well, a taxi to his hotel from Heathrow might be noticed, and even a car service appears to be GBP135 - which might or might not be noticed - but the trains certainly would not be questioned). His work is paying for the trip.

I will show my husband all of these options and let him make an informed decision.

Thanks so much everyone!

Edited: 12 September 2012, 21:32
Saratoga Springs, NY
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9. Re: LHR to Bristol - Thornbury Castle

BTW, FlannerUK, I don't think you're grouchy and I completely understand where you're coming from. But intercity bus travel has been in a vicious downward spiral in this country for decades. The buses are dirty and the bus stations aren't in safe neighborhoods, so people with the money to afford any other option take the other option. So the bus companies aren't taking in enough revenue to seriously improve the situation, only to maintain it. Nobody wants to invest in a better bus infrastructure, because of the common belief that bus travel is really not something anyone wants to do if they can afford any other form of travel.

Chartered buses can be fine -- they are much cleaner and are usually maintained very nicely, and since they pick your group up at a location other than a bus station, people don't object to them they way they do to regular intercity buses.

london
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10. Re: LHR to Bristol - Thornbury Castle

I'm not sure what a proper rail station is, but Heathrow trains do run into London only and not direct to Bristol. The nearest stop on the mainline is Hayes & Harlington, 2 miles along the track, but it's quicker just to take the Heathrow Express into Paddington and take the express train (which will have its first stop at Reading) to Bristol. This is a slight doubling back, between the aforementioned Hayes & Harlington and Paddington, but it's the fastest route due to the speed of both trains.

2 hours 7 minutes is the time for Heathrow Express to Paddington (15 minutes), to change onto the Bristol Parkway train there, and to reach Bristol Parkway, which is under 90 minutes from Paddington.

The coach is slightly quicker (5 minutes maybe) in journey time, but only hourly against half-hourly on the train, and being able to walk around, sit at a table, etc., on the train, is definitely more pleasant.

Personally speaking I don't like buses either, and I don't particularly like Heathrow bus station, you could be sitting out in the cold for 55 minutes waiting for the bus to come, I have been out there waiting for a bus and they've cancelled it with no notice, just cancelled even though the signs say it's coming, and you are wondering what is going on for upwards of an hour. It's not a nice experience straight off a flight to be honest. Much better to get on the nice express train to London, no standing around in the cold and wind and rain for a bus that way.

Edited: 12 September 2012, 21:40