The UK government recently proposed sweeping changes to the way drivers are charged for using the roads, now the train operators are warning they may not be able to cope with expected growth (hang on, they’re a business, surely more customers is a good thing? Here’s a tip: buy more trains!). So, with the government keen to force out of our cars, trains being overrun and the bus service a waste of time for long distances, I’m proposing something else: luxury coach services.
There are a number of reasons why the car is the preferred method of transport: privacy, speed, flexibility, ease of access, reliability/dependability and comfort. By that I mean we don’t have to sit near, look at, talk to or hear people we don’t want to; it’s fast; it can go to whatever location we want, whenever we want; it’s parked outside (so you don’t have to get to a station or bus stop); you can guarantee the service is available whenever you need it and it’s a warm, clean, smell-free place to inhabit. Public transport fails on almost all of these counts. In it’s favour is price (although this is disputed) and time (you can spend your time doing something else rather than simply driving, supposedly).
So there’s room in the market for more upmarket public transport, nothing too drastic, just something to get rid of as many of the negatives of public transport as possible, while offering as many of the positives of your own car as is feasible. I think the answer is a bus. Not just any bus, something between a coach and a minibus in size (though for longer routes bigger buses may be preferential). The reason for the size is because it makes it easier to get into housing estates. People pay a weekly, monthly or yearly fee, paid in advance, then they get picked up at their house at a designated time and dropped off at their place of work via the most economical route. The coach should have good sound proofing, nice, big, spacious seats and onboard power (for laptops and such), some options for listening to music by supplied headphones, possibly watching a movie, or the news would be good (maybe have a shared screen with the sound off and subtitles on), a sound proof phone booth (that’s got a ring to it) to stop twits on mobiles annoying everyone and onboard refreshments.
Then you’d be offering something people would like to use. I realise that the economics need to be worked out on that. Even if you only rent the bus it’ll probably have to be custom-built. The economics would be better if you could get a bigger bus and everyone was going to the same place, but that’s wishful thinking and lacks the necessary flexibility. There definitely seems to be a need for another choice beyond just public transport or cars and whoever comes up with will make a mint. This is my idea for it, maybe I can sell it to Richard Branson (though it would be a competitor with his train company).