Monday, 17 April 2017

Sark, Channel Islands

The island of Sark, one of the Channel Islands, covers around 5 square kilometres.  It is home to a population of around 600 people.

This small island is renowned for being car-free.  Tractors and horse-drawn vehicles are the only vehicles permitted on the island.

And yet, Sark has articulated buses - of a sort.

Sark has no airport or landing strip for aircraft.  Access to the island is by ferry.

It is a steep climb from the harbour to Sark's village, around 100 metres above sea level.  So a bus service operates - but Sark's buses are not like any I have seen anywhere else.


"Toast rack" trailers carrying around 30 passengers are hauled up and down the hill by tractors.


As this image shows, on one trailer passengers board and alight on the left, on the other, boarding and alighting is on the right.  Not that it matters, on a small island without motor traffic.


In the village, the buses set down and pick up outside the Bel Air Inn.

Buses operate in accordance with the arrival and departure of ferries.

There is no website for the bus service, although the service is referred to on the Isle of Sark Shipping Company website.

The bus service does not carry luggage.

For passengers with luggage, this is carried separately, directly between the boat and the passenger's accommodation on the island.

Once again, tractors and trailers are used.

The main ferry service to and from Sark operates to and from Guernsey.

This is operated by the Isle of Sark Shipping Company.


During the summer months, the ferry operates several crossings per day.  This drops back during the winter months to a minimum of one crossing per day, although there are no crossings on Sundays between Christmas and late February.

At Sark's harbour, passengers disembark and embark using steps... many steps depends on the tide.

Because of this, the ferry is not wheelchair-accessible.

This in turn means there is little need for the buses to provide step-free access.


From April to October, Manche-îles Express operates a direct ferry from Jersey, departing Jersey in the morning and returning from Sark in the afternoon, on certain days only.

Unsurprisingly, there are no tourist buses as such on the island of Sark.  Sightseeing tours are available, however, on horse-drawn trailers.

More information about visiting Sark is on the Sark Tourism website.

Images in this post were taken on a visit to Sark in June 2014.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Royan, France

Royan lies on France's Atlantic coast, at the mouth of the Gironde river.  It has been a holiday resort for around two centuries.

The town suffered heavily during World War 2, with many of its buildings destroyed.  Because of this, most of Royan's buildings date from the post-war era.

A network of bus services operates within Royan and its surrounding communities, under the Cara'bus banner (website only in French). 

Five routes, numbered 10 to 14, operate primarily within Royan.  When I visited in August 2016, I found small single-deckers operating on four of these services.



On route 14, I found minibuses operating.

A further five services, numbered 21 to 25, operate further out of Royan to the surrounding communities.


Longer single-deck buses were being used on these services .

As a coastal town, Royan receives a considerable of holidaymakers during the peak summer months.

Bus routes 31 and 32 are seasonal, summer-only services catering to holiday traffic.

To reduce traffic congestion during the peak summer season, a free park-and-ride shuttle operates in Royan.

This service operates during the morning period, then ceases for a couple of hours during the midday/early afternoon before resuming for the late afternoon.

I found battery-powered microbuses being used, with dedicated branding as "La Navette".

During the rest of the year, when La Navette does not operate, these vehicles are used on ordinary services in Royan.

All Cara'bus services congregate at an interchange hub outside Royan's railway station.

Timetables are designed so that buses meet here, to facilitate interchange.

Fares on Cara'bus are simple.  At the time of writing, a single journey ticket costs €1.60.  This is valid for an hour, with interchange permitted.  There is also a 10-journey ticket, costing €12, while an all-day ticket is available for €3.70, allowing unlimited travel on the Cara'bus network.

Single and all-day tickets can be bought when boarding the bus, while the 10-journey ticket is sold at Cara'bus offices and agents.  Weekly, monthly and annual tickets are also available.

Buses operating further afield are operated under the "Les Mouettes" brand.  Mouette is the French word for seagull.

Three routes operate from Royan, inland to  Saintes, and northwards to the coastal towns of Rochefort and La Rochelle.

These routes run only a few times a day, from Royan's bus and rail interchange.



A 3-zone tariff system applies on Les Mouettes, with the fare paid varying according to the number of zones you travel through.  Single journey tickets allow interchange for up to 2 hours.  10-journey and all-day tickets are available, as are weekly, monthly and annual passes.


Royan is also served by long-distance coach services.  These call at the bus and rail interchange.

A ferry operates across the Gironde estuary, linking Royan with Pointe de Grave, as part of the TransGironde transport network (website only in French).  The ferry carries vehicles as well as foot passengers.


From April until October, boat tours operate from Royan onto the Gironde estuary.  Companies operating these include Croisières La Sirène (website in French) and Royan Croisieres (website also only in French).

Back on land, a road train provides a tour around the town from April until September.  This is operated by Le Petit Train de l'Ouest (website only in French).

It picks up close to Royan's tourist information office.


Finally, I spotted an unusual door-to-door transport service operating in Royan - this bike taxi.