Monday, 18 January 2010

The public transport debate.

Even the best public transport types can't compete with a private method.

My train didn't work this morning. I arrived at my local station to catch the 7.42 to Huddersfield for university. I was there ten minutes early, so bought a ticket, sloped off for a copy of the Telegraph, and sat in the shelter on the platform to try and find news items for today's radio broadcast. Two minutes before the train was due, it was announced that not only was it three minutes late, but that it would terminate in Barnsley. Upon it's arrival I questioned the conductor as to further arrangements, but no information was forthcoming. To his credit, our flummoxed friend phoned his boss and elicited that a coach service would transport us to our intended destination.

This, I thought, would be the perfect tale with which to regale the one or two readers I have, and the ideal example to demonstrate my utter loathing of a public transport system. You see, I remain convinced that public transport, noble aim as it is, is utterly futile. Those with the wherewithal to choose will undoubtedly choose the car because it's private. It's your own little safe haven, in which dubious music can be played, you can lose yourself in your own thoughts, and you can argue with the radio without seeming like some sort of lunatic. The opportunity to condemn public transport, I thought, was not to be missed.

So in Barnsley, I hopped off the train and into a very plush yellow coach, with a pleasant chap behind the wheel and a smooth ride. Yes, it took twice the time to get to Huddersfield, yes, the driver's satnav did as all satnavs will inevitably do and directed the coach down a farm track, and yes, we encountered several sets of roadworks. But the facts are as follows. The coach gave me a nicer view of West Yorkshire. The coach was quieter, so I could hear Chris Evans without turning my radio right up. The coach had a smoother ride, so I could have written a book if I were so inclined. The coach was designed to accommodate people of proper dimensions - at a long legged 6'3" I need a shoehorn to wedge myself into Northern Rail's finest. And the coach offered me a more sedate and relaxing start to my day.

Now, at first I thought I'd managed to trample all over my anti-public transport campaign, dragging down only the image of what is admittedly my favourite mode of public transport; the train. But then I remembered that a coach isn't strictly public transport. It's a glorified bus, sure, but it has to be booked in advance, it must be paid for in a more handsome manner than your local ticket office will try and charge, and nobody even thinks of questioning your right to be there (witness ticket collectors on trains). No, the coach is essentially a chauffeur driven bus. Which makes it private transport. This puts my argument back on the rails, unlike this morning's train.

I enjoyed today's journey more because it was essentially a private way to get from point a to point b. And even though it was a private bus, it highlighted one fact. If people are to be encouraged towards public transport, it must remain cheaper than any private alternative yet must be of at least the same standard; appointments, comfort, noise levels, none must suffer. When this happens, I'll be willing to give public transport a chance.

But it won't happen, will it?

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