What Are London's Best And Worst Value Public Transport Journeys?

Rachel Holdsworth
By Rachel Holdsworth Last edited 19 months ago
What Are London's Best And Worst Value Public Transport Journeys?
Photo by Miss LH McKelvey from the Londonist Flickr pool

We all complain about how much it costs to get around London. But some journeys are better value than others — we've tried to work out which are the best and worst.

Worst value tube journey

We all know that Covent Garden to Leicester Square is the shortest journey on the tube network, a distance of 260m. A single cash fare between the two stations costs £4.90, working out at £18.84 per kilometre or £30.32 per mile if you haven't gone metric yet. Even if you use Oyster Pay As You Go it's £9.23 per kilometre (£14.85 per mile). What this tells us is that:
a) everyone really should have an Oyster card
b) for heaven's sake, just walk between Covent Garden and Leicester Square.

Best value tube journey

The longest journey between two tube stations is up there in the north west, between Chesham and Chalfont and Latimer on the Metropolitan line. The distance is 6.3km, which, if you travel off peak with your Oyster card, costs just £1.50. That's 23.8p per kilometre (38p per mile).

(Note: there are some journeys that you'd think would offer better value. For example: Beckton to Canning Town on the DLR costs £1.50 off peak and covers nine stations. We can't find an official distance for that route — we're sure someone knows, and will leave a comment. Google Maps reckons that to walk the approximate path is 6.3km, but that's with some detours. To keep it simple, we're looking at distances between single stations.)

The smart ones among you might have figured out that the longest possible journey would give you the best value. Epping to West Ruislip on the Central line is the longest direct journey on the tube network at 54.9km. To do that in one go, off peak, would cost £3.10 on your Oyster card. That's a bit over 5p per kilometre (8p per mile).

Bus stop on Putney Bridge.

Worst value bus journey

Tricky to come up with a definitive answer to this one, because we're looking for the shortest distance between two bus stops serving the same route. There are a series of stops on the southern end of Lewisham High Street we thought might be contenders — specifically the distance between Lewisham Park and Lewisham Hospital stops, at 139m apart.

But then we found a reference to two bus stops on Putney Bridge, which Google Maps measures at less than 100m apart. That's the equivalent of £15 per kilometre (£24.13 per mile).

Special mention goes to all the people who get the bus across London Bridge. We've seen you. We hope you're proud of yourselves.

Best value bus journey

The longest bus route in London is the X26, which runs from Heathrow to West Croydon station. Diamond Geezer puts the distance at 24.1 miles (38.8km), and we're not going to argue with him. Given that a bus fare is £1.50, that's 4p per kilometre (6p per mile).

Of course, now the one-hour bus hopper has arrived, allowing passengers to catch a second bus for free within an hour of touching in, this has all changed.

Redditor Harberton also says the longest bus route in London is the X26, which runs from Croydon to Heathrow.

Here's their plan: "Get on the second last N9 of the night at 04.45 from the Royal Albert Hall. This arrives at Heathrow Central Bus Station at 05.44. Quickly tap onto the first X26 at 05.45.

"This would be 23.75 miles on the X26 to Croydon plus about 13 miles on the N9. So that's almost 35 miles [56km]."

That works out at about 2.5p per km (just over 4p a mile).

There you have it — the best value public transport journey in London is by bus.

Last Updated 28 October 2016

Ben Clark

Your maths is off. 54.9km for £3.10 is about 5p a km.

Steve B

Try Uxbridge to Upminster, changing at Wembley Park, West Hampstead, Gospel Oak and Barking. £1.50 off peak.

Melvyn Windebank

Bus stops on City Road and Old Street around Old Street roundabout seem pretty close together ...


If you really wanted to annoy the driver, you could come up with an even shorter bus journey on a hail and ride route.

Johnny D.

Hi! The distance between Canning Town to Beckton on the DLR is somewhere around 6.1KM, meaning it would cost around £0.246/KM.

Tube Geek

What about Wembley Park to Finchley Road on the Met? I thought that was best value!


What about the cable car?


"Special mention goes to all the people who get the bus across London Bridge. "

That would include me on days when I'm trying to get to the station before my train leaves. It can save valuable minutes.

Alastair Maw

The real question is why even the cheapest Underground journey per mile costs more than running a car does. Crazy.

Kate Janoskova

The crossing of the Putney Bridge is a good one. But I reckon the distance between the Charing Cross Hospital bus stop and the one about 10 steps (honestly) down the road is a good contender. I mean, why?


Its 100 yards, if that, on route 428 towards Erith between Whitehall Lane Bridge Road and Bridge Road Northend Road.


I know it's 'For Pete's sake ...' but isn't it 'For the love of Mike' ? I'm imagining they're the names of saints, unless there's a better theory?

Kai Michael Poppe

Just for the sake of argument: The distance between Canning Town and Beckton is 6.194km (i think this could be seen as an official distance as it reads this distance in the "DLR Distance Matrix" to be downloaded here: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com... - this makes 24.2 p/km.

This same matrix shows the farthes distance within one 1.50 GBP off-peak Oyster travel is between Lewisham and Stratford International with 13.018km - this makes just 11.5 p/km.

BUT given the one-stop distance I can beat Covent Garden and Leicester Square ... West India Quay to Canary Wharf on the DLR are 199 metres apart. This makes a whopping 24.36 GBP/km or 39.40 GBP/mi if you are unlucky enough to buy a paper ticket.


The distance between shoe lane and fetter lane bus stop on the south side of fleet street is 404 feet (123m)

The Putney Bridge stops come up as 0.1 miles (160 or so metres)

Alex from CAD

I did the West Croydon to Heathrow to catch a flight. It was a slow pleasant trip. Bus with racks for luggage. Stopped right at the terminal. Low cost, fun and brillant. Loved it.


When calculating the best value fare (per km) it is perhaps not Epping to West Ruislip. It costs nothing to change tubes at interchange stations. You are not forced to stay on the Central line. What about Heathrow T5 to Epping? or Stanmore to Morden?


I tried to find the shortest distance between two adjacent bus stops. If you're measuring distance as the crow flies, the shortest is between bus stops 490013602E and 490013602W, which are Three Kings Pond and Madeira Road in Mitcham. They are used by 355 and 270 and are 11.2 metres apart. They are at opposite sides of a road and the bus goes around a loop. There are many similar examples. If someone wants to go through this list (https://pastebin.com/5VZt9MWY) to find the first sensible one, feel free! The longest is X68's Norwood Road / Robson Road to Waterloo Station / Tenison Way at 7752 metres.

Michael Morgan

I was doing the London Loop walk and went from Honor Oak Park to Cockfosters for £1.50 via Stratford so avoiding zone 1. I found out you can go Honor Oak Park to Hampstead Heath via Stratford for £1.50 (Z1&2) and also HOP to Clapham Junction for the same price but if you change at Clapham and go on the Overground clockwise to any stop from there it is £2.10. So it is cheaper to travel through Z1&2 on Overground anti-clockwise than clockwise. Took it up with TFL recently but did not get much sense.