Monday, 9 January 2012

Bus Plus Car - But Without the Car

Bus operator Go North East's latest initiative seems to resurrect the whole concept of integrated transport - but in a wholly new and unexpected way.

No, they are not through-ticketing with the Tyne and Wear Metro or timetabling to complement Stagecoach or Arriva services. Instead, they are giving their passengers the chance to experience life without a car - but without actually having to be without a car.

Go Ahead's Key Lifestyle promotion offers a useful 15 per cent discount on all bus fares and, in addition, includes free membership to Commonwheels, a vehicle hire firm with cars that can be hired for as little as 30 minutes at a time. This means if you really have to use a car then you can get one - but you only have to pay for the time you actually drive it.

Free membership is worth £25, plus you get another £25 worth of driving credit on top. With typical hire rates being about £4 an hour, that should give you enough for a couple of free hires.

And if you don't fancy driving, Go Ahead will give you free membership of Newcastle’s self-service bike hire system Scratch Bikes instead. This is similar to London's public bike sharing scheme and again is worth £25. In addition, Key Lifestyle members also receive a discounted rate on the two-hour rental fee, which means it would cost just 20p to complete your journey by bike.

This is a neat and imaginative scheme which seems to be pressing all the right environomental buttons. What the take-up will be is anyone's guess, but it seems to offer the best of three worlds. I like it.

Will it be enough to persuade the petrol heads to abandon their Type-R's and their four-by-fours? Perhaps not. But it clearly offers normal people a few more options – and it might even persuade some that they don't need to own a car all.

1 comment:

  1. Iain This is at long last a UK operator doing what has been happening elsewhere in Europe for years. DB has a 100% stake in a bike sharing scheme and also runs bike hire along with a stake in Cambio the German car share scheme. NS runs OV-Fiets, Veolia has OYBike, etc.

    Our £1000 bung to individual motorists for car scrappage, a scheme widely applied across many EU states, was turned into a total transport deal by Belgian operator TEC - scrap your car and get 3 years free bus travel, membership of the car club and lease a folding bike in TEC colours for €13/month - fully serviced.

    I did feeed this to Peter Huntley when he was MD of Go NorthEast, and he also began cycle carriage on the route from Chester-le-Street to Consett (I didn't let on that I'd actually been using that bus service in 1990 when I was working on the cycle route)

    Getting out from the burden of car ownership potentially unlocks a 20% boost to disposable household income, with no need to print new money, nor increase pay rates, linking in bikes with buses especially delivers passengers to the bus at a substantially lower cost than sending buses wandering the country hunting down passengers.

    Slowly the other public transport leviathans are waking up. Brian Souter has seen the vision of folding bikes as the connection with trains that can cut up to 60 minutes off a London commuter journey door to desk, without any massive expenditure on trains and tracks, and into the bargain saving the cost of building bigger car parks, as the commuters drop driving and leave spaces available to pull in off-peak travellers.

    You might actually find a folding bike handy for your trip, most bus operators have no problems in carrying them, and later this year more installations like the SWT Guildford one will be in operation.