Countdown on for student-built Rocket

For some Western students, the savings couldn’t come at a better time. With the holiday season around the corner, students will have more money in their pockets, thanks to The London Rocket, a new, more affordable means of travelling home.

Providing a low-cost bus service and offering a reliable, safe and inexpensive alternative to Greyhound and VIA Rail, the Rocket launched sales at Western recently, offering trips to the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) for the December exam period.

Second-year Political Science student Brett Heron and second-year Neuroscience student Nancy Li introduced the project to the campus community.

He said the Rocket is a student-run initiative, modeled after a similar one at Queen’s University (a student at Queen’s is actually helping get Western’s Rocket off the ground). It’s meant to give students the option of going home more often while leaving extra cash in their wallets for other necessities of student life.

Here’s how it works:

For $20, students can purchase a one-way ticket to Toronto’s Union Station, through PayPal, on the Rocket’s website – (One-way trips to Oakville or Mississauga are $18.)

Rocket organizers have partnered with a chartered bus line and have arranged set pickup times, on campus, during the December exam period. The trip schedule and pick-up locations are available on the website. Once a ticket is purchased, students will get a confirmation email with a boarding pass.

Taking a Greyhound bus home can cost close to $100 roundtrip, when you consider all associated costs, including the cab fare to the station, while VIA Rail trips often exceed $100, Heron explained.

So what’s the catch, and where are the hidden fees, when it comes to the Rocket?

There are no extra fees and no catch, Herron said, save having to ride out the trip on a school bus, chartered through Parkinson Coach Lines.

Organizers have launched a social media campaign, with Facebook and Twitter accounts, and have sent out email surveys to students, to gauge interest and predict the demand for transportation during the December exam period. Roughly 2,100 students had expressed interest, Heron said, noting organizers have arranged for five buses to run from campus to the GTA from Dec. 18 to Jan. 6.

Plans for future expansion and a more regular schedule are in the works, Heron continued, adding December will act as a test run for future service demands.

“We’re trying to offer the best alternative to students and since we’re just starting out at Western, for now, we will just run (The Rocket) during major holidays and times when students go home. We’re just testing the waters,” he said.

“In the future, it’s definitely something we would like to run on a more regular basis.”

One way organizers are laying the brickwork for future expansion, more frequent trips in the future and transportation to other cities is by reinvesting in the Rocket project, Heron added.

“We’re not trying to make (money). It’s a homegrown, student-led startup. Every dollar that isn’t expensed is reinvested in the business to have it grow in the future.”

He hopes more students get on board, not just for their transportation needs, but also in helping to keep the project going.

The deadline to purchase Rocket tickets for the holiday season is Dec. 7.

Students’ credit card information is secure through PayPal and those wishing a refund should email organizers before Dec. 2 at

The London Rocket’s luggage restrictions are the same as those of other bus lines. Students can bring one suitcase of no more than 40 pounds to be stored in the bus, along with a carry-on to be placed in the lap, under the seat or in the overhead compartment.