Multi-operator tickets are a great thing, but they're nothing new. Many of us grew up with Explorer tickets allowing us to travel far and wide, well beyond the reach of our local operator. While the Explorer tickets were introduced by the National Bus Company before privatisation and deregulation, the tickets have survived in some regions, although there can be confusion as to how much the tickets cost and on which operators they are valid. This confusion has led to many Explorer schemes disintegrating as operators fail to promote the availability and passengers err on the side of caution, choosing a different destination or mode of transport instead.
One of the most confusing Explorer schemes has been in the South East, covering Kent, Sussex and Surrey. There you have different prices depending on who you buy your ticket from and in some cases, different validity, even though the ticket carries the same name. That is changing from 19th May as Explorer becomes Discovery.
It's currently only being promoted by Go Ahead's Brighton & Hove and Metrobus subsidiaries, but they say that it will be valid on a long list of operators including Arriva and Stagecoach. Let's hope it simplifies a very unnecessarily complicated product and allows it to perform its function: attracting more people to bus travel by allowing them to explore, er I mean discover, a wider region.
So which Explorer tickets are still available? Here are the ones I know of. Please leave a comment and let us know if you know of any more.
- Intalink Explorer - Largely promoted by Hertfordshire County Council but valid beyond the county borders on some operators. Also available in a weekly version.
- Explorer North East - One of the better promoted tickets, co-ordinated by Network One and valid from Berwick down to Scarborough and across to Carlisle.
- North West Explorer - Stagecoach only, but valid across a wide area, from Chester to Dumfries and across to Newcastle. Excludes Greater Manchester. Exact validity area varies according to which Stagecoach subsidiary's website you view.
- Bluestar Explorer - Valid across Go South Coast's brands, including Bluestar, Unilink, More, Salisbury Reds and Damory. Confusingly, the rest of GSC call this ticket the Dayrider ABC, but it has exactly the same validity. Years ago it also used to be valid on other operators to the East of Southampton but that has gradually been reduced.
- Explorer South West - Stagecoach only, plus some routes that are supported by Devon County Council, but Stagecoach don't tell you that.
- Norfolk Green Explorer - This Stagecoach subsidiary says this ticket is also valid on Go Ahead's Konectbus, but Konect's website doesn't carry any mention of this.
- FirstDay Explorer - Another name for the FirstDay South West, but publicity says it is only valid between Bournemouth (unserved by First) and Exeter. Not valid on any other operators' routes.