Leeds transport race: Car v bus v train v bike - we test what's the fastest commute into the city

The Yorkshire Evening Post staged a four-way transport showdown to find out what the fastest way to commute into Leeds really is: car, bus, train or bike.

By Alex Evans
Tuesday, 7th January 2020, 12:29 pm
Updated Tuesday, 7th January 2020, 4:44 pm

The competitors - four journalists from our newsroom - lined up on the start line in Horsforth on Tuesday morning at 8am.

Given no advantages over one another, the competitors set off from Stanhope Avenue at 8am with one aim: get to the Yorkshire Evening Post newsroom in Whitehall Road before anyone else.

The results? Well, it's not great for the bus or car. Does this line up with what you were expecting?

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Four competitors raced into Leeds on Tuesday to find out what the fastest mode of transport is for commuting into work

1ST PLACE: The bicycle - Mark Casci

Cost: £0 (other than some effort and the cost of a bicycle) | Time taken: 26 minutes

I’ve been cycling to work for more than 10 years.

Sitting in nose-to-nose traffic or placing my faith in unreliable trains and buses was poor for my physical health and producitivity.

The competitors hit the start line

Meanwhile the cycling option would get me from home to work in the same amount of time each day, keep me fit and make me feel energised all day long.

Today was no different.

A couple of miles on the road followed by picking up the Leeds Liverpool canal got me from the start point to the office in 25 minutes.

Instead of crawling along on clogged up roads while inhaling all manner of damaging particulates I instead was able to enjoy fresh clean air and arrive in good time.

Live Reporter Rebecca Marano awaits the train in Horsforth

I’d urge everyone to consider where possible using the bike.

You’ll stay fit, protect the environment, save money and be master of your own destiny.

You don’t need a super expensive Tour de France standard bike. You can pick up a really good one for less than £500 and you’ll make your money back quickly by saving on fuel, parking etc.

The cycle infrastructure in Leeds is far from ideal but if you obey the Highway Code and be sensible with your speed) you will have a good experience in the main.

Reporter Georgina Morris waits for the bus. It didn't go well.

2ND PLACE: The train - Rebecca Marano

Cost: £4.30 return | Time taken: 44 minutes

Being a frequent train commuter in West Yorkshire, I would never presume that my race back to the office would go smoothly - I’ve learned over the years that just leads to disappointment. However, after setting off from Stanhope Avenue at 8.15am prompt and arriving at Horsforth station with time to spare and a delay of only two minutes, I did begin feeling quietly confident.

Rush hour trains between Horsforth and Leeds are slightly more frequent than normal services, with trains running on average every 15 minutes from around 6.53am. Having just missed the 8.08am service, I hopped on the 8.26am. The platform was busy, though not as bad as it would have been one hour prior. I quietly hoped that we would have one of the newer trains with enough carriages for us all.

The train arrived promptly at its (delayed) time and thankfully it was one of the newer trains meaning those at Horsforth could all manage to get on the train, though there was no chance of a seat, but then I would consider a seat on the train a luxury on Northern Rail services anyway.

It was smooth sailing from there. I grabbed my spot in between the aisles, moving down as Headingley and Burley commuters hopped on. The journey took exactly 15 minutes and I began to be sure I was in with a chance of winning as we pulled into the station. I rushed out of the Granary Wharf entrance and walked along the canal back to the Yorkshire Evening Post offices, feeling pretty confident that I was about to bask in victory.

Reporter Emma Ryan at the wheel

Unfortunately it was not to be. My colleague Mark Casci retained his 2018 title, strolling into the office at 08.41, making the trip in just 26 minutes on the bike. I arrived at 9.01, taking 43 minutes to get in. So it turns out, not only is cycling the healthier option but the fastest way to get from A to B in Leeds. It might be time I invest in a cycling helmet….

3RD PLACE: The car

Cost: £3 (plus all the many car ownership costs) | Time taken: 55 minutes

Six miles in the car - should take 15 to 20 minutes as a rule.

So, despite it taking 25 minutes to do the two and a half mile journey to get from my house to the meeting point on Stanhope Avenue at Horsforth (yes because of queuing traffic from around 7.15am) I kind of thought this journey would fare pretty much the same as the last time we did this two years ago where by car I was second back to base in just over half an hour which was pretty reasonable

Leaving Stanhope Avenue, I followed my cycling colleague out onto Long Row towards Church Avenue where I would be heading to the ring road. I passed him, he passed me at the traffic lights near Morrisons supermarket and that was the last I saw of him.

To get to the junction to turn onto the ring road there was a queue but then it was steady away to get to Featherbank Lane and on to the A65 New Road Side.

And then it all came to a grinding halt.

One car length at a time I crawled towards Kirkstall Road. It took 15 minutes to get to Kirkstall Forge station.

Thirty-five minutes had passed before I made it to Kirkstall Abbey. At other times of day this would take 10 minutes.

Finally at the traffic lights near Kirkstall Bridge I drove more than a car length at a time. Albeit briefly though as traffic was queuing along Kirkstall Road from what was the old George Pub.

It was a crawl along Kirkstall Road as I looked somewhat forlornly at the cyclists whizzing past knowing that they have covered the distance I have so far in less than half the time.

After Cardigan Fields retail park, by this time it was gone 9am, it was a fairly clear run back into the city centre save for some traffic at the lights on Wellington Road.

Just short of an hour later I made it into work, relishing the thought of getting back on my bike tomorrow.

4TH PLACE: The bus - Georgina Morris

Cost: £1.50 | Time taken: 93 minutes

Bus is the main form of transport I use to get around the city as I don't own a car. It means I'm used to all the usual gripes like arrival times bearing no relation to timetables thanks to congestion or buses being cancelled at the last minute without explanation.

It doesn't make it any less frustrating but at least I know what to expect on a bad day.

Going into the race, the best I could hope for was a train being cancelled - it's how I scraped into third place when we first did this back in 2018.

Within moments, I'm at the stop for the 50a service towards the city centre and the printed timetable tells me the next is due in two minutes. Fast forward 15 minutes with no bus in sight, and I turn to the FirstBus app for alternatives.

There is a 27 due in eight minutes but I fail to realise this particular bus goes from the stop over the road... After that sails by, I check out options at that stop and manage to get on a passing 50a within a few minutes.

It goes a few stops further into Horsforth before looping back towards the city centre.

Seat at the front of the top deck secured, I settle in for a journey that only encounters a few small queues at traffic lights nearer the city centre. The original bus journey should have been 47 minutes - or 29 stops - through to Westgate in the city centre.

Throw in the near 30-minute wait to get onto any bus and the 13 minute walk from Westgate to the office and, as originally expected, I trail in last with a time of 93 minutes. The only positive - the 40 plus journeys I do each month with my bus pass mean my tour of Leeds has cost me less than £1.50!