Friday, 16 September 2011

Leaving London without style - Victoria Coach Station

Last month I was in Glasgow for the Deep Fried Film Festival. It was my first time to Scotland's biggest city and I was impressed. Especially with the food on offer. However, I chose the cheapest method to get there, by coach. Now, to be blunt, you get what you pay for, so I am not going to moan about the lack of leg room, the lack of sleep or anything else that was endured on this trip up north and back again. After all, I have done far worse on my travels by coach.

Anyhow, if you are departing from or arriving in London by long distance coach, there is a good chance that you will end up in Victoria Coach Station.

Now, to put it politely, Victoria Coach Station is not the greatest way to depart London. It does not have the class of St Pancras or the technical prowess of Heathrow's Termial 5. Hell, you don't even have the hope that Gatwick or Luton tries to give to you.

Victoria Coach Station was built in the 1930's and surprisingly the building is listed. Goodness knows why, the interior has not really changed since the mid 1980's (apart from a lick of paint every few years), the whole place feels plastic and unappealing. Look, here is the departure, boards, it says it all:

As a first welcome into London, it really does not get much worse than this. Some forgotten spot, seemingly miles away from the nearest tube station, and with separate sites for the departing and arriving coaches, this relatively small coach terminus (and it is small compared to some of the behemoths I have seen worldwide) is utterly bewildering and unhelpful. Trying to find staff is impossible and wanting any information can be tricky. I know the score, but to someone who is new here, Victoria Coach Station is just bad news. Plus it smells. I cannot put my finger on it, but there is a particular musk in the air. And it is an unappealing scent.

Victoria Coach Station is also seemingly expensive, for what is one of the cheaper ways to enter and exit the city. Food and drink is extortionate here, plus you have to pay 30p to use the (disgusting) toilets (disgraceful). But, there are a few ways to save money. If you want to buy snacks/water for the on-board journey, then head across the road towards Victoria Railway Station and up in the shopping plaza (or village) there is a supermarket, open until late, close to the Green Line Coach Station Entrance.

By the side of Victoria Coach Station there are also a few cheap places to grab a hot meal, and if you are in a pinch for time, a newsagents will sell the basics. So you can avoid the truly awful stuff served inside the station. But really, if you can hold out, London is a great city, and there are so many better places to fill your stomach...

In the end, there is not much that is nice to say about Victoria, so I will keep my mouth shut. It is a safer thing to do. To be blunt, no one chooses the coach for its lifestyle statement, you choose it because you cannot afford to use the train and/or the flight is just too inconvenient/expensive. Fact, while my journey to Glasgow would have been practically completed by train, the cost of the train (plus the relative bargain that coach travel is) meant that I was always going to take the poor man's option.

So there you have it, my little commentary on Victoria Coach Station It is not the first time I have used it, and it will probably not be the last time, as to be blunt, the coach is a fairly handy (and very cheap way) to shuttle across the UK. I may well be back, but I will not be looking forward to the process...

No comments: