Car, bus, train or bike: We tested the quickest way to commute into Leeds

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Four of our reporters took part in a 'race' with a difference last week.

At 8.15am on Tuesday, they assembled on a residential street in Horsforth for the most competitive commute of their careers.

We decided to measure how quickly it would take them to reach the Yorkshire Evening Post's offices on Whitehall Road, on the edge of the city centre, by four different methods of transport.

We chose Horsforth as it's one of the most well-connected areas of Leeds - it has a train link, frequent buses, and access to the canal towpath for safe cycling. The route was 5.5 miles in distance.

Here's how our staff got on:-

Georgina Morris - bus

Predicted journey time: 1hr 1m
Actual journey time: 1hr 15m
Reliability: 4/10
Affordability: 7/10
Convenience: 5/10
Green credentials: 7/10
Pros: No running costs, no parking issues, can work/read en route
Cons: Congestion, some areas hard to reach, indirect routes

Having drawn what was considered to be the shortest of straws, I knew the chances of me winning the race by bus were pretty much non-existent. Barring punctured tyres, bizarre localised congestion around the car that does not affect buses and a complete breakdown of all trains, I was expecting to trail into the office at least 25 minutes behind the rest.

As we set off from the starting point, the journey planner directs me to a stop around 700ft away. After a brief detour to the stop on the other side of the road, I realise my mistake and am at the correct stop with two minutes to spare for the scheduled 8.16am 50A First Leeds service to Seacroft.

While the others get some distance under their belts, I wait for the delayed bus... and wait. It finally arrives at 8.32am – 16 minutes behind schedule. It means that in 22 minutes, I’ve covered 700ft.

There’s slow traffic on the approach to the Low Lane/Ring Road roundabout but we make swift progress through the Hawksworth Wood estate. We’re back to a crawl on Morris Lane though and eventually pass roadworks near the junction with Kirkstall Lane.

Forty minutes into the race and I’ve covered three miles – but there’s more slow traffic near St Matthias’ Church and as we approach Park Lane. After passing a total of 28 stops, we reach Westgate at 9.13am and it’s time for a brisk 12 minute walk. Amazingly, I’m not last...

Emma Spencer - car

Predicted journey time: 20-45 minutes
Actual journey time: 34 minutes
Reliability: 8/10
Affordability: 4/10
Convenience: 10/10
Green credentials: 5/10
Pros: Warm, can pick and choose times, safer
Cons: Congestion, parking costs, running costs

Never a fan of public transport, I have always preferred to commute by car, but the reasons why are what also makes the drive to work frustrating – I get impatient and don’t like being sat still for too long.

Getting to the meeting point was an arduous task in itself. I joined the slow, winding line of cars making their way to Rodley roundabout before I could join the bypass up to Horsforth.

I resisted the urge to take the rat run and zip up Canal Road and Bridge Road before re-joining Rodley Lane. This is because a) I don’t think by the time you have waited to re-join the traffic you save much time and b) it looks like the council is making that road one way soon so it will be out of the question anyway.

It took 20 minutes to do the two-mile journey to the meeting point and I took this as a sign of how the rest of the journey might go, especially after seeing the line of traffic waiting in the opposite direction.

After leaving our starting point, I find the traffic waiting to go through the lights at the Toby Carvery has actually decreased, and I turn onto the ring road before taking a popular cut-through via Featherbank Lane to get to New Road Side. Traffic is moving steadily, although slowly, as I approach Kirkstall on Abbey Road.

A fair few cyclists whizzed past while I sit on Kirkstall Road which is, as expected, quite stop-start. After joining Wellington Road, it’s a fairly clear run to the office via Northern Street and my destination on Whitehall Road.

John Blow - train

Predicted journey time: 35 minutes
Journey time: 1 hour, 26 minutes
Reliability: 2/10
Affordability: 5/10
Convenience: 3/10
Green credentials: 6/10
Pros: Healthy walk to station, take in scenery, catch up on emails
Cons: Unreliable, overcrowded, limited routes

I secretly thought that I had an outside chance of winning this race as we were setting off. Roughly a 10-minute walk to the station, hop on a 15-minute train to Leeds, then another 10 minutes to the office if I got a wiggle on. Sounds simple enough.

But it seems the Murphy’s law adage – “anything that can go wrong, will go wrong” – is one commuters using rail services in Leeds should bear in mind. Starting off on foot from Stanhope Avenue at 8.10am, I only just miss the 8.23am service from Horsforth Station to Leeds.

It isn’t too long a wait for the next service at 8.36am, though any ambition of getting to the office first has now gone, and the beginning of a long, cold wait begins. The first familiar announcement comes soon after as it emerges a broken down train is delaying services. The 8.36am then disappears from the board.

The 8.51am service now billed at the top is not expected until 8.54am... then at 9.02am... then 9.07am... and then finally 9.11am.

Meanwhile, the familiar lack of reliability begins to grate as some people leave the platform to “risk the bus”, as one man put it, and face apologetic calls to their managers.

A train actually arrives at 9.02am, though with too few seats for irritated passengers to use.

Before I finally reach the office at 9.36am, my colleague who travelled by bus rings to check up on me. I’ll be taking the bus with her next time...

Mark Casci - cycling

Predicted journey time: 30 minutes
Journey time: 26 mins
Reliability: 10/10
Affordability: 10/10
Convenience: 9/10
Green credentials: 10/10
Pros: Healthy, fast, environmentally sound
Cons: Bad weather sucks, danger from cars

Cycling is quite simply the best way to commute. You arrive at work faster than any other mode of transport, it keeps you fit, you don’t contribute to clogging up the roads and your journey is emission free. And it costs nothing!

While others were crushed into buses or sat nose-to-tail in traffic I was whistling along next to the water without a care in the world.

I use the Leeds Liverpool Canal for the majority of my journey and only use Kirkstall Road during the winter when heading home as it is too dark to use the towpath.

Kirkstall Road going into town, in particular, is very unsafe for those on bikes and every cyclist I know thinks the recent ‘upgrade’ of the cycle lanes has made matters worse. Nearly two years ago I was hit by a car. I lost one of my teeth but walked away with just cuts and bruises.

I have seen the aftermath of incidents in which cyclists were far less lucky.

THE WINNER - Mark Casci, who cycled the distance in 26 minutes

1. Bike - 26 minutes

2. Car - 34 minutes

3. Bus - 1 hour 15 minutes

4. Train - 1 hour 26 minutes