Could I just say that you are a wonderful President and are leading the Great United States of America to a new wonderful future and are making decisive decisions every day and are the great world leader of our time. At this point, rather than having my letter read to you, you might like to read it directly yourself word by word, because I have a few things to discuss privately. Thank you.
First, can I say in short words that we do not like you to say that our health service is not doing well. I have checked your exact words, and you say that our system is “going broke and not working”. I need to say that is not good enough, when I am trying to say the opposite. People are supposed to be nice to their friends, so that when they need them, they support them in turn. I could criticize you and say that I think your wall is silly, not that I do – it is a wonderful wall, or it will be when it is eventually built, but we do not do that to our friends.
In England we have an old English word called “etiquette”. It means you smooth your skirt when you sit down and hold your tea cup nicely. Etiquette says there are a lot of things that are not done and rubbishing your friends is one of them, or rather NOT rubbishing your friends. Can I say I do not expect any more of the things I am doing over here to be rubbished across the world. It Is Not Done, IIND for short. Keep saying IIND to yourself when you talk about Britain.
So, for example, I could say the US Stock Market is going broke and is not working, after yesterday’s slump, but IIND, because it would not be supporting you as world leader and might make things difficult for you, and because you are a great businessman and build good towers called Trump Towers.
By the way, if I may, did you like the bricks I sent you? I hope your wife liked the shoes. You can play with the bricks on your desk. The letters on the side say, “Trump Tower”, and they are on all sides of the brick so that it does not matter which way round you put them, though you must not get them upside down, something it is easy to do in politics. Because you have to start at the bottom, (or at least the proletariat does. ha ha ha) you have to put the bricks on in the order R E W O T P M U R T and then when you stand back it spells TRUMP TOWER downwards. I know you like things which stick up and it may take your mind off other things like wockets. Sorry I mentioned them.
We are still working on your visit. The Queen has suggested you might like to go to Balmoral, which is her castle in the North. That way you can visit your golf course, we can arrange a rapturous welcome, you could kill a few stags and have the great English delicacy called Haggis. I will send over a kilt for you to wear and although your fans all over Britain will not see much of you, it will be a royal occasion – If the Queen is well enough to attend. At present she has a nasty persistent cough. You mentioned you quite liked the idea of being king of the GUSA, and you will be able to discuss that with the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip who never quite made it. Ha. Ha. Ha. Do not mention to the Queen that you like her job or want your head on our stamps.
I am looking forward to seeing you again. I do not have much excitement over here and it is nice having a closest ally. Next time we meet we could discuss possible enemies, your brick tower and I will not mention the Russians. Oops. Thank you for getting Teresa right. I like to be three syllables.
United Kingdom (British) Prime Minister.
Christianity has had a deep impact on politics for two thousand years, but its principles and commitments have often been mixed with other attitudes and been compromised by actual Christian behaviour, so it is not always clear what they are.
It is worse than this. In the twentieth century powerful political groups – Nazis, Fascists, State Socialists and Communists sought to eradicate Christianity and especially Christian political thought. Christians were often persecuted – in the USSR, China, Nazi Germany and elsewhere and Christianity went underground for quite long periods. More insidious were the western commitments to the unfettered Individual and Consumer Capitalism which also sought to sideline Christianity and its principles, and have done so quite successfully, though there are two billion or more Christians worldwide.
These pressures have resulted in a reaction among Christian churches in the West. They have often retreated into ecclesiasticism, into the business of what happens in churches. Actually the New Testament says little about churches, and Jesus was scathing about the Temple Party and its machinations and also about the Pharisees and their construction of ethical minutiae, a problem not unknown to churches today. Moreover the Greek word, ekklesia, refers to the principal public assembly of ancient Athens during its golden age. It is a democratic word, if you like, and not at all linked to cultic practices, but more a description of the people of God living the whole of their lives before God. Politics is as much a part of being a Christian as going to church, and Jesus’ titles – the Christ, the Prince of Peace, the Messiah, the Son of Man and the King of the Jews – reflect this. Jesus main teaching was of the Kingdom or Government of God, wider than just political, but also fully political.
There is another way in which a Christian political faith has been closed down. Christianity is a Gospel of peace. Love your enemies. Don’t think of killing others; don’t even be angry with them. Those who take the sword perish by it. Blessed are the peacemakers. Forgive those who offend you. Since the mid nineteenth century the arms companies and the military-industrial complex have been out to sell arms around the world and create the tensions which lead to war. Before each World War they defeated strong, mainly Christian, peace movements, and the World Wars duly followed. Since 1945 they have been intent on showing that peace does not work and only armed deadlock does. Actually peace does work and saves trillions of resources and millions of lives, but the military-industrial complex has intimidated the church until it too accepts armed deadlock (and wars) like most other people. The Christian political message of peace has become a vague distant hope of no political consequence as the war industry intended, and Christian politics is pushed off the map.
Now, for many, there is not even any time to think of these issues. The instant political culture of the day, where the medium is the message, dominates the media. How many tweets one has seems to matter more than whether what was said was true. It cuts against political thought and more so Christian political thought. Trying to see as God sees, seeing life, the creation, history and empires as God sees, cannot be approached by tweeting. It needs a bigger canvas. The Bible was written over several thousand years and we poor sods need a bit of time and thought to begin to see that kind of picture. This little offering tries to reopen a door which was partly closed from the outside and inside in the last century and look at the Christian political faith.
There is no chance that chance explains it all,
For chance opposes law, and gravity
Does not turn off and on, or H2O
Go 3 or 5 on Thursday afternoon,
Or coffee-time, or while the washing dries.
No, laws are laws across the universe,
And dogma chance is chaos totally –
all science must close down, and nothing is.
Now I do things a little differently.
Yes, every leaf is singular, and Newton was
A bit mechanical, though he quickly learns.
To make a universe particular, and fingerprints,
Was quite a challenge, but I can think small.
Time you gave credit while you work it out.
On Remembrance Day we remember those in the armed services who were killed and injured in all wars, but especially this year in the First World War. This has been the year of Ypres and Passchendaele. We honour their memory and their dying. Yet our memory contains a huge bias. We tend to sublimate the civilians who died. Here we remember them.
In the First World War most of those who died directly were military personnel. Military deaths approached ten million, while civilian deaths were two and a quarter million, half of whom were killed in the Armenian massacres. Yet a further five and a half to six million died through malnutrition and a further fifty to a hundred million died of the “Spanish” influenza which began among the troops and was carried back across the world to malnourished populations. So, five or six times as many civilians were killed by the First World War as military people were killed. All were tragic losses, but when those who are shooting at others are themselves killed, it is slightly different. It was a tragic war which killed all these people – one not about territory, but about mistrust among heavily armed powers.
The Second World War was slightly less a battlefield War and more bombing campaigns were involved. It involved the deaths of even more people, some sixty million or perhaps eighty million. The military personnel who died were twenty one to twenty five million, a fifth of those in POW camps. Civilians killed were perhaps fifty to fifty five million, two or more times as many. Of course, dying from starvation or cold, is as much death as being blown up. Many were gassed and killed in other war crimes which were industrial processes of death. We remember them.
We remember in the wars we are now fighting, as we supply and drop bombs on Iraq, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere, the civilians who are killed because they are there, or flee to die elsewhere. We remember the fact that these figures are at least doubled by those who face serious injury and life-long trauma, dear benighted people.
Of course, if war were successful, it would be silly to think about disarmament.
As the discussion of fake news grows I have been inclined, without thought, to see it as something generated by the new fast media. Of course, there are new techniques, but I was awakened this morning by Melvyn Bragg’s In Our Time programme on Guernica, that is both the bombing of the town by the Nazis and Spanish Nationalists and also Picasso’s painting. The truth is, the town was bombed to devastation. When an uproar gathered through good reporting, the Nationalists said that the Basques had set fire to their own town themselves and they scattered tell porky petrol cans around. This counter story, though obviously unbelievable, prevented the accountability which Nazi and Spanish Nationalist Blitzkrieg required in 1936. It was, as we say, a smokescreen, and there was enough right-wing support for Fascism in Europe for it to partially work in damping outrage. As Melvyn Bragg pointed out, (thanks to that man) when Guernica, the painting was shown in Mayfair it was ignored. When it was shown at the Whitechapel gallery thousands flocked to it, and many left their boots there for the Republican soldiers.
But it woke me up again to the stream of right wing fake news which I have uncovered over the years. Some of it was predictably bad. Only yesterday I was reading Hitler’s speech when he invaded Russia with Barbarossa, the act that saved us. The USSR had a non-aggression pact with Germany. Stalin thought he might be invaded in say a couple of years but was unprepared for the invasion, and Hitler had to pretend that he was the aggressor, which he did in convoluted nonsense. I invade, but the USSR is the aggressor. Fake news. But then, as was pointed out in In our Time, Colin Powell’s announcement of the invasion of Iraq at the UN had to be carried out with Picasso’s Guernica covered up lest the obvious parallel was drawn. Fake news.
The fake news goes back at least to a newspaper scare in 1893 that we had too few warships, when we had far more than the next two powers, as Gladstone pointed out. But the lie won. Gladstone resigned and the ship orders went through. Then there was a Dreadnought Scare of 1906-9. The Daily Mail even said that Krupp and Co could turn out Dreadnoughts at one a month, when even under wartime pressure they all took more than three years. Fake news. Newspaper threats of German invasions, German spies and a German hate machine contributed to the outbreak of the Great War. Fake news.
The War was run on fake, and hate, news about the Hun. There was a post-War Red Scare in the United States. Fake news. The Fake Zinoviev Letter in 1924 just before the election was of course fake news involving white Russians, the Daily Mail and the Conservative Party. That was a fake election. The Fascist Coup attempt against President Roosevelt uncovered by General Smedley Butler, a massive Right Wing assault on democracy, was obliterated from the American print media because they did not want it discussed. It was fake non-news. The Liberty League run by the Du Ponts and other media stuff was only met by President Roosevelt by his fireside chats otherwise he would have been defeated by the right wing media.
But perhaps the biggest area of reinterpretation we must undertake is Churchillian appeasement. Most people think that Churchill was fighting against pacifism in the era after Hitler came to power. That is an interesting story, but it is not the main one. Mainly, Churchill was fighting against the Fascist and Nazi sympathisers in his own party, in the British establishment, and in similar right-wing establishments in France, Italy, Spain and most of the other countries in Europe and beyond. Fascism was the way of seeing off the workers and socialism, and the rich and the capitalists backed it in their droves. Churchill had Fascists in his own extended family. Oswald Moseley was having an affair with Lord Curzon’s wife. The King, until abdication, had fascist sympathies, as did much of the aristocracy. Hitler got vast amounts of money from American capitalists even after the Battle of Britain. Churchill’s appeasement problem was not pacifists like Clem Attlee, who were defeated by the war machine, but his own kind who actually supported the Nazis and Fascism, as we know from the history of the Daily Mail and Lord Rothermere. The Mail’s version of Hitler’s Night of the Long Knives was that Hitler had saved his country. Which brings us back to Guernica and the Fake spin.
But the pattern continued after the Second World War. The McCarthyite era was in part an attack on Hollywood Socialism. Hitler did not like Chaplin’s Great Dictator. Socialism had to be demonised and the politicians and the right wing press created another Red Scare which put the Cold War in place. The Militarists and the Media lied about the extent of USSR bombers and missiles, so that the arms companies could get more orders. The US Right Wing Media thought they had obliterated US Socialism until Bernie Saunders came along.
For decades in Britain the right-wing media have demonised socialism. The Sun, Mail, Express and other papers with fake and twisted news. My favourite was the Sun’s coverage of one election. They did a double page spread in which they got a clairvoyant to call up people from the past to see how they would vote in this election. A number of worthies including Churchill were going to vote Conservative, of course, and then the demonized figures including Marx and Stalin were going to vote Labour. But there in the middle was John Lennon. What was a Beatle doing in this line-up? Of course, what had happened was that the hack who had been asked to write this page had not heard of Lenin, but had heard on Lennon, and had “called him up” by mistake. That is an example, and there are probably others, of fake, fake news.
And so it continues. There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and western authorities knew that from Kamal Hussein and others. It was a convenient fake story. Trump has merely grown up in a fake era, and does fake naturally. Putin backed by oligarch capitalists does fake and may have colluded with Trump. But fake is widespread. It is not a problem of the new media.The Democrats have been talking up the Russian threat because it suited the military. All news needs to be tested, and retested, for the truth.
The Christian understanding of this issue needs to be made central. Those who possess false power, the power to control, who believe in their own power, will use the news, sometimes subtly, sometimes brazenly, to their own advantage and to defeat others. The truth will become obscured, whatever the media. The confrontation of Jesus and Pilate is central. Pilate had the power of the Roman Empire and soldiers, the power to beat and crucify. He could ask, “What is truth?” but he was already compromised. Jesus rule was based on witnessing to the truth and being the truth, without hypocrisy, twisting or fake. It involved crucifixion, because telling the truth involves suffering from the faking people. But the suffering message is clear. The earlier the confrontation, and the acceptance of being subject to the truth, the less the suffering for all. The truth can avert wars and conflict. The truth brings down the mighty from their thrones. The truth secures democracy. None of us owns the truth, but we follow the one who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
This paper, appearing in stages, suggests western Christianity of differing types has fragmented and in part lost its way. As a result of this failure Secularisms of various kinds, some dangerous and destructive, have dominated the West and caused and are causing massive problems. It is time western Christianity recovered, and this primarily involves once again seeing and living the big picture of Christian truth and moving away from the subcultures and holes we have often dug ourselves into. Many of the two billion plus Christians around the world are already doing this in a variety of ways, and this paper merely throws in its contribution.
A Short History.
After the partial defeat of Fascism in 1945, an idolatry which sought to replace Christianity, like atheistic Communism and other modern movements, it seemed Christianity would be able to grow without persecution, except in the USSR and China. There were missionary movements planted in many countries which were honest and trusted and Christianity grew. Except it did not in the West as other cultural forces took over. These included Individualism, where life centred on me, Consumerism, where the advertising industry promised the new world to sell its goods, and Choice or Freedom, where the individual choosing his or her life was the most ultimate reality. New generations choose these ways, as the ideologies for them swamped churchgoing and Sunday School.
Gradually, years of teaching, prayer, churchgoing, family life conveying a Christian faith or ethos receded in varying degrees. God was not worshipped, except occasionally, or on Sunday and was marginalised in the media, especially television. There were compartments for Christianity – RE in schools, religious slots on radio and television, civic and national events, and for a lot of people the weekly church event, but Christianity was being marginalised.
There were also educational and intellectual challenges. Perhaps the main one was a scientific neutralism in the natural and human sciences which was philosophically and really without foundation, but claimed to know. Facts, causes, logic, data, evidence, theory described what is really the case and all other views were consigned to belief or ideology. In the popular mind evolution not a seven day creation proved God did not exist, and even more formative was the cultural division between the natural, what is explained by something else, and the supernatural, whatever might then be unexplained. Some Christians addressed these. Some secularists saw their own problems, but most did not. Even worse, many Christians slowly retreated from intellectual engagement.
Throughout this period there were good things. Millions of Christians lived mainly good lives, serving others, being reliable, having good standards of conduct and helping good economies emerge, stable and relatively peaceful states, health services, education systems and good marriages, families and relationships, although there were also Christian failings of course. These contributions are the great unwritten history of the late 20th century to be noticed only in the 21st century as they disappeared in selfishness, aggression and self-promotion.
But Christians did not reflect on their reactions. One was to churchify and internalize. They deliberate for decades on proposed church unities, sifting organisational quagmires. They spend decades on whether there should be women as vicars and bishops when men have been cross dressing for centuries. Ecclesiastical issues became so convoluted that no one could understand them. People did things in churches which were cultic and weird, and more sadly churches were bought off – Anglicans by the British establishment and American Christians by the Republican Party in what is one of the most serious issues on the planet. So, western Christians collaborated with Secularism, mainly because they wanted to be nice and fit in.
Within this internalisation, various Christian isms emerged. One of them was moralism, the ism which Christ opposed in the Pharisees. Another was liberalism, an accommodation with whatever new thought form might emerge in the culture. Another earlier one was fundamentalism, a flight from Darwinist thought and possible a white racist reaction to black Christianity. Another was Evangelicalism, growing out of the world-wide spread of Chriistianity, and taking various new turns. Another was the charismatic movement. Catholicism had its own set of emphases. These isms often reflected important aspects of Christianity, but they had an inability to reflect on their own limitations or see Christianity aright. They were subcultural. Just as earlier, denominations had seen Baptism, the Eucharist or Lord’s Supper ( or whatever you choose to call it) , Congregationalism, the Priesthood or something else as the defining issue, so these groups were subcultural. They made a bit the whole.
This was even worse in theology. Theologians, enamoured of their own work, often picked up a post trendy philosophy, grafted it into their theology, when it was already outdated, and spilled words on it. Even worse were those who undertook to defend God in theology, or “doctrine”, as it was often called, failing to notice that Christ’s teaching was infinitely more subtle and comprehensive than theirs. Often, they were essentialists, seeing one “doctrine” as the touchstone of all truth. It may be substitutionary atonement, or even more strangely “abortion” which carries the weight of all veracity. There is, of course, good theology, but the discipline strained at gnats and swallowed camels. They talked theology, but ignored the whole corpus of knowledge world-wide into which Christianity has spoken for two millenia and now should have been speaking to billions who were, or might become, Christians.
Culture moves fast, especially with the internet and television. Now the crap of militarism, western and Islamic, is let loose on the world. Western capitalism has conquered with its own self-serving faith. The process of individualism is driving billions to success at the expense of others. The planet is in danger from fast, or slower, destruction though the human predicament of sins and idolatry, yet Christianity, especially in the West, and despite the bigger wisdom of Pope Francis and others, is fragmented and not up to the task it should face. It is time to wake up, friends, and this essay will try to provide breakfast in a number of later additions.
Liam Fox, the UK Government International Trade Secretary, spoke at the DSEI Arms Fair and is quoted in The Independent as saying the following:
“If nations and peoples have an inalienable right to look after their own defence, those of us from advanced economies must remember that if we do not provide countries with means of defending themselves, then we will see a proliferation of uncontrolled and unregulated arms sales free from oversight or inhibitions. To allow such a situation to develop would be vastly irresponsible.”
Let us try to understand what Mr Fox means. First, we read, “If nations and people have an inalienable right to look after their own defence…” It seems to be that Mr Fox adds mentally, “and they do.” Because of that supposition, Mr Fox argues, “those of us from advanced economies must remember” . . . This is rather a strange thing to say. First, it implies that those of us from advanced economies are in danger of forgetting, might have an amnesia in this area, whatever it is. Second, it focusses on “those of us from advanced economies”, which of course might mean you and me, but does not because we have not even thought about forgetting our inalienable rights. Rather, what Mr Fox is doing is suggesting, or presuming, that the business of defence is on a par with the “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” mentioned in the Declaration of American Independence, an inalienable right. He is doing his best to legitimate the selling of arms and is speaking to mega arms dealers from “advanced” countries at an arms fair who are not likely to forget that they need to sell arms to provide countries with the “means of defending themselves”. It is an entirely concocted conceit.
But, Mr Fox is not actually talking about selling arms, which might bring to mind selling arms to dictators, to those who attack other countries, to human rights abusers, indirectly to terrorists and to those who have or might attack us. No. Mr Fox is talking about not selling arms. If we do NOT provide… This is a warning. But what kind of warning is it about not selling arms? What prophetic words are being laid before us if we are not supplying arms to those who would defend themselves?
This is where Mr Fox produces his supposed coup de grace. If we are not selling arms to those who would defend themselves, then “we will see a proliferation of uncontrolled and unregulated arms sales free from oversight or inhibitions.” There is only one response to this sentence, something like “Eh?” or “You what?” or “The logic eludes me.” Why should not selling arms to countries which would defend themselves lead to a proliferation of uncontrolled and unregulated arms sales? Would the US, UK, Japanese, German, French, Russian, Chinese and other Governments suspend all their regulations and allow a proliferation of uncontrolled and unregulated arms sales, when they have suffered from terrorism and opportunist wars? Would these Governments seek to allow North Korea and terrorist groups to buy arms because we are not selling arms to those who would defend themselves. It is flattery to call this an idea, or to seek for a causal relationship which inhabits Mr Fox’s word, “then”. There is no causality, but this is merely a scare dreamed up somewhere in Mr Fox’s head or left elbow. He is greasing the arms trade that he has served so well, but without the semblance of an argument. It is empty of any conceivable sense. It is a thought in absentia.
To “allow such a situation to develop would be vastly irresponsible”, but that is precisely why it is unthinkable and why Mr Fox is talking nothing in a long sentence. In fact, the real question to which Mr Fox might turn his mind is whether the West selling arms to Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Israel, Libya, Argentina, Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan and throughout much of Africa and to countless dictators has helped world peace? We could wait decades for an answer. Meanwhile , it is through this kind of rubbishy scare that the trade in arms is justified by our Government. The question is whether the scare works, as other scares by the arms companies and their acolytes have. That is up to you.
Anglican Christianity did not express a strong view on Brexit. It issued a prayer for the Referendum which was scrupulously neutral between staying and leaving. It seemed that the Anglican commitment to Christians in Europe was not strong enough to sway God through our prayers, and presumably God heard our indifference. The prayer was a fudge.
This position is understandable because by and large the Church of England is a national, even nationalist, understanding of Christianity. It was founded by an English monarch. Its creed has been the 39 articles. It central document is the Book of Common Prayer, and the Anglican Communion which forms its primary international relationships are based on the British Empire and Commonwealth, not on our European relations. Anglican contact with the Reformation was heavily expunged in 1662 by the Act of Uniformity and the ejection of some two thousand ministers soon afterwards, the ones most influenced by the European Reformation of Luther and Calvin. Indeed, in the 18th century when Wesley was also influenced by European Christianity, he too had to leave the Church of England.
This pattern continued during the 19th century when mission was strongly identified with the Empire, and then, since the visit of Moody in the 1870s English Christianity has been more exposed to and influenced by American Christianity than anything from Europe, and, apart from some notable exceptions, the European connections have been relatively weak, compared, for example, with the links between Scottish and German theology.
Most Anglicans do not see this as a problem and the possibility that we might need insights from Europe in English Anglican Christianity scarcely crosses our minds. We are happy to be little Englanders cut off from European Christianity for the foreseeable future.
Actually, this is in part our problem. Anglican churchgoing, practice and liturgy carry on, but they are hardly inspiring for much of the time, partly because they are introverted and do not see European insights and awareness. One obvious contrast was the way Angela Merkel and the German Christian Democrats welcomed a million refugees in an obvious Christian response to people in need. It was a courageous Christian act, echoing the Good Samaritan and the teaching of Jesus. Meanwhile, the British Government withdrew, passing by on the other side, and the Church of England made statements which were on one side and the other with its usual lack of clarity. We need to think whether the European political engagement in both Protestant and Catholic churches in Europe does not have something to teach us.
More than this, Europe has exposed our national self-promotion. We always want to be leaders. We rubbished the French for not supporting the invasion of Iraq, when the French were right. We talk of leading Europe and come up with a financial crisis and self-important interventions in Libya and Syria which are making matters worse. Europeans get on with one another. England faces an identity crisis born of our own arrogance, as the Scots have recognized. English identity has nothing to do with Christianity. The Christian faith is not merely marginalised; it does not feature in our public life. Yet, none of this is addressed by the Church of England. Perhaps we should reflect as to whether English Christianity has anything to say? Does it, for example, have a worldview rather than a national view?
Meanwhile., the Anglican Church becomes increasingly spineless and parochial, unable to make any real public interventions and spending three decades on the internal business of moving towards women bishops. It is odd that the Old Testament prophets, and Jesus himself, spent so much time critiquing the domestic leaders and politics of their time, when the Anglican Church does not dare to say anything which might rock the Westminster establishment. The Pope takes on Presidents, but we dare not offend the Daily Mail and dress up to go through the next ceremonial act of State.
Brexit, the withdrawal from Europe, is a defeat for English Christianity, a withdrawal from millions of brother and sister Christians in Europe, a withdrawal from part of Christendom. Rather than just going with the flow, like a wrapping paper sliding along the gutter of British nationalism, we could engage with our European brothers and sisters. We could give and receive a European Christian holiday each year, link churches across Europe, have a European Christian website, language exchanges for children, have forums for European theology, Christian art, Christian economics; we could feature European churches, visions, failures and challenges. We can reconstruct Christian Europe as a body formed in Christ. Some of this happens but European Christianity is too much to lose.
We share nearly two millennia of Christian history with Europe, Christianity came to us through Europe and we should know that this agape relationship is rich to bless all of us. It is time to wake up, Anglicans, and think of yourselves as members of the Church of Europe.
Tackling road congestion requires the highest efficiency in passenger movement, especially in terms of using road space. Cars are profligate, using 20-60 metres per passenger. Coaches cut this by a factor of 15 or more, simply by grouping people. This vast economy can be mobilized throughout the main congested road and motorway system. More passengers can be moved in coaches at 60mph than sit in stationary cars in a traffic jam, and the Transmilenio System in Bogata can move 35,000 people an hour in one lane.
Coaches also cut fuel use by 80%, (actually 90% through other factors), eliminate billions of hours of driving time, use the vehicle a hundred times more efficiently than cars (in terms of lifetime passenger miles) and can potentially clear roads, congestion and much urban parking. They can also improve the efficiency of buses and road safety.
If coaches are such an outstanding mode of passenger why are they not more used? In part, they are unsubsidized, ignored by the establishment, marginalized in policy, and coach companies have transferred earnings into train franchises. Yet, mainly, they presently provide an infrequent, pre-booked service (apart from the Oxford-London route), are based on city centre to city centre coach stations which mire them in congested city traffic, have slow journey times with inadequate transfers for most journeys. They are not an attractive mode of travel.
This study suggests a different rationale for coaches – gathering from the suburban and outer city populations for medium and long journeys which at present can only be done by car. These constitute most of our travelling. They are vastly duplicated, often congested, driver monotonous movements, and ripe for mass transit. Coaches could provide quality journeys. They can be as comfortable as we choose to make them; they are merely another form of stretch limousine. A set of some hundred Coachway transfer stations and, initially, ten thousand coaches gives frequencies of five minutes or less and a capacity to cut car movements on the Strategic Road Network by 5% (at present average occupancy rates). Because coaches cost some 40p per passenger mile less than cars to run, these economies can drive growth and demand. They can become the arteries of our road passenger movement, benefitting cars by the extra road space they create. A coach at 60mph cuts out a mile of car traffic.
The infrastructure for this change centres on Coachway interchanges at major road and motorway junctions. These need careful design. They must not be “Park and Ride” or the areas would be clogged with cars. The coach to coach movements must be fluent and rapid. There should be flat entry and exit, pleasant seating and facilities, and easy transfer. Crucial is the gathering system to the Coachway. Buses, coaches, shuttles from rail links and bike parks must be designed to provide the fast full journey times to and from homes. Coachways will be gathering local populations of often 100-500,000 into the national system of mass road transit. Fortunately the land for these Coachways is often available at motorway intersections.
This plan doubles the effectiveness of buses by providing a rationale on most routes for bus journeys out of town to the coach link. It makes bikes more effective by providing the long distance movement that bikes cannot do. Other local gathering systems become possible. It helps the poor and carless. It cuts the car ownership needs of millions, especially the young and complements rail’s city-centre to city centre emphasis. It is the intermodal completion of the road passenger system.
Key are the orbitals round the M25, Birmingham, Manchester, Cardiff, Bristol, Edinburgh, Glasgow and other cities. At present these are heavily congested by cars, and they therefore offer big potential transfers to coaches both on the orbital and radial motorways. But orbital movements are themselves major traffic components for commuting, moving around cities, as part of longer journeys. They can be grouped and streamlined by coaches. They can pull rail movements out of cities and avoid many within-city journeys and meliorate its traffic. Additional gathering possibilities are present on orbitals when there are bridges; here layby coach/bus stops can give local people direct access to the orbials and thence links to the Coachways. Billions of journeys can be improved.
This policy change, because it mainly uses motorways and trunk roads fifteen times more efficiently for passenger journeys, is low cost in terms of infrastructure and running costs. It is also flexible in business terms, because it allows an easy demand expansion. It offers a major growth industry in producing coaches and subsidiary technologies. The main costs are the Coachways and the coaches (which immediately become earning investment). These require an investment programme of, say, £10-20bn over five years and a Strategic Authority to implement them.
But, absent a policy awakening, this change will not happen. The coach companies are not organized. DfT is asleep on the issue. Transport for the poor does not count. The car lobby will fight tooth and nail against a possible substantial reduction in sales, and the rail lobby likewise, although there is limited competition. Politicians do not turned up to briefings. My suggestion to the ORBIT study of 2003 was weakly built into their proposals. It remains a largely unthought possibility in public policy.
The rationale is incontrovertible. Coaches address global warming by cutting car emissions per passenger mile by a full 80-90%. They cut congestion where it is worst, save driving, de-stress the road system and offer to make our cities better and emptier of pollution. How can this policy and the infrastructure it requires be ignored?
A NATIONAL INTEGRATED COACH SYSTEM FOR £10-20bn IN FIVE YEARS.
Chapter One: The Present Car Empasse.
1a. Cars are convenient, popular and flexible.
1b. Cars are clogging the system.
1c. They produce massive energy loss and pollution.
Table1: Energy Consumption in megajoules per passenger km.
1d. Cars contribute substantially to global warming.
Chapter Two: The Private, Public and Real Costs of Road Transport.
2a. The private costs of cars are, say, an average of 50p a mile.
2b. The public, government and full costs of cars.
Table 2: Guesstimated Public/Real costs of car use
2c. Cars really cost 75p a mile, or 50p a passenger mile.
2d. Buses cost 10-50p a mile and have subsidies.
2e. The 10p a mile coach.
Chapter Three: Coaches and the Economics of Road Space.
3a. Car and coach use of road space.
Table 3. Car and Coach Road Space Per Passenger (RSPP)
3b. Cars 30 and coaches 450 per lane mile.
3c. An example: the M25 passenger capacity.
Table 4. The total car and coach passenger capacity of the present M25 at different speeds.
3d. The crucial policy conclusion: Coaches solve the road space problem.
Chapter Four: The Present Failure of Coaches.
4a. City centre transfers do not work.
4b. Overall journey speeds are slow.
4c. Coaches gather passengers inefficiently.
4d. Coaches are infrequent and booking is tiresome.
4e. Coach quality needs improving.
4f. Coaches are stuck in low demand.
4g. The Department for Transport is asleep and has no policy for coaches.
4h. Yet coaches are the Policy Good for everyone.
Chapter Five: Apologia – advantages of the Coach
• Cutting car driving time.
• Low infrastructure costs.
• Efficient use of vehicles.
• Cutting Car Ownership
• Transport for the Car-less.
• The intermodal links – doubling the purpose for buses and the underground.
• Orbital travel.
• Demand led development.
• Frequency of service.
• Journey flexibility.
• Eradicating parking.
• Fast transfer.
• Ecologically the best.
Chapter Six: The Strategic Coach Network.
6a. The main coach network.
6b. Coach priority.
6c. The system requires a fleet of some 10,000 coaches.
6d. Gathering systems are key.
6e. Journeys are linked through some 90-150 Coachway transfer stations.
6f. The Cloverleaf or Desegregation Problem.
6g. Development Costs.
Chapter Seven: The M25 and other orbitals.
7a. Orbitals link to most of the population.
7b. They gather for the main journeys.
7c. The M25 Orbital Necklace.
Table 5: Possible M25 Coachway transfers.
7d. The Radial coach lanes and Transmilenio.
Chapter Eight: The Overall Strategy.
8a. The required policy now.
8b. A Strategic Authority and public policy.
8c. The technologies and a new industry.
8d. The opposition and the culture of cars.
8e. Let’s do it.
Chapter One: The Present Car Empasse.
Most of us are aware of the present car empasse. It occurs daily in queuing traffic all over Britain. Yet, how we perceive it affects our response, and we therefore review some parts of the picture.
1a. Cars are convenient, popular and flexible. For most people life without car transport would be difficult and even unthinkable. They are available, comfortable, usually offer door to door movement (though this is less so than is often assumed) and they are often cheaper than public transport. They are also relatively fast. Journey speeds across England are about 53 mph on the trunk road and motorway system. They are the most successful mode of passenger road transport. There are 32 million cars in the UK, about 1.2 for each household. No transport policy which does not take all of these and other advantages into account can work. An alternative strategic policy cannot be crudely anti-car. Especially, it must address the jump-in-a-car convenience of the first mile or two of a trip and the full journey time. It should be able to replace a substantial proportion of car journeys, and even cars, with transport that is relatively fast, cheap, comfortable and convenient. It could even aim to improve car movement. That is a challenge, but maybe it can be done.
1b. Cars are clogging the System. Cars dominate passenger transport mileage; for every twenty miles we travel, seventeen of them are in cars. Car use tends to grow, absent recession, by about 1% a year. DfT projects an increase of 27-57% in vehicle miles between 2014 and 2040. Traffic growth is especially heavy on motorways, increasing by about 3% a year. Recently, we have squeezed more out of the major road system by patterns of traffic management, but the load continues to increase. We know congestion is, and will be, a major transport problem for millions of us; it will increase faster than road use, because much of the road system hovers on the edge of congestion. Even now hundreds of miles of motorways and major trunk roads are clogged for several “rush” hours a day. Voluntary temporal displacement of journeys earlier and later eases this congestion, but it grows towards four hours on some roads. Recent Department of Transport expenditure reviews have opted for widening motorways; the M25 is four lanes throughout its orbit, but still is often clogged. Road building will not solve the problem. The personal and structural costs of congestion will rise year by year. It is estimated to cost some £13bn in 2013, moving to £21bn in 2030.
1c. Cars produce massive energy loss and pollution. Cars use vast amounts of energy relatively inefficiently. They weigh about a ton and a half and move about 1.6 persons. With air travel they are the most profligate energy user. John Houghton set out the energy consumption by mode.
Table 1: Energy Consumption in megajoules per passenger km.
Typical occupancy Full
Express coach 0.3 0.2
125 train 0.8 0.4
Suburban train 1.7 0.4
Small car 1.4 0.5
Big car 2.8 1.0
Air 3.5 2.3
Note, because this is our theme, express coaches fuel use is 11-21% of car use, say 20%, at normal occupancy. In congestion fuel use rises alarmingly. Millions of car passengers are sitting in traffic jams burning up a limited and valuable resource. Petrol will probably become more scarce and expensive; North Sea oil is declining, peak oil may soon come and oil import costs will weaken the economy. Each household uses about 9 litres of petrol a day (including through its wider economic demands). Obviously, this is accompanied by exhaust fumes pollution which results in thousands of deaths and costs in health/work loss and medical costs of several billion pounds aside the personal suffering. This huge energy consumption and car-caused urban pollution needs to be cut.
1d. Cars contribute substantially to Global Warming.
Cars are obviously a major contributor to CO² emissions. This was partly understated by manufacturers cheating in recent car trial figures. Cars create over 50% of all transport CO², perhaps 13% of all UK CO²; they are a substantial main cause. They produce about 150-100gms of CO² per passenger km. We will use 120gCO²/km as a generous rough indicator for the coming decade or so. Car improvements may reduce this to 100gms, but it remains profligate. Far and away the most effective way of cutting this energy use and pollution is to group people together on the roads. It prevents using vast quantities of steel and tyres to move very few people and cuts wind drag and friction by having people in the same shell. We anticipate the direction of this study by noting that, by contrast, coaches presently run at 29gCO2/km (which can fall to 11-20 more or less immediately), a 70-89% cut on present car pollution, and even better than trains. For other reasons, the total fuel and CO² saving by using coach transport amounts to about 90%, an amazing economy and one we should reap.
Chapter Two: The Private, Public and Full Costs of Road Transport.
2a. The private cost of car mileage are, say, an average of 50p a mile.
Private motoring costs now amount to some £60 a week per household, with, of course major variations with two and no car households; my estimate is £67 , pushing towards £3,500 a year. Cars are thus an expensive form of transport, costing some 50p per mile in average private expenditure. It is interesting to map estimates of the constituent costs. A rough calculation of average costs would be30p a mile fixed and 20p variable. The former includes most insurance, tax, purchase price (perhaps not fully included) /depreciation/ loan costs, MOT, fixed parking and garaging costs including household garaging (often ignored). Variable costs include petrol, wear and tear/repairs, tyres, paid parking, oil etc and some insurance. The cost of having a car is greater than that of using it. Once the car is on the drive, the marginal cost of using the car at 20p is low, encouraging overuse. Many drivers see running costs as “just petrol” which may be 13p a mile, which leads them to drive even more. When you have a car you might as well use it.
2b. Public, government and full costs of cars.
In addition to the private costs, there are very substantial government/public costs. They include road building and maintenance, safety, policing, noise control, urban and national planning costs, hospital care resulting from accidents, noise management, urban parking and the costs resulting from CO² and NOX like respiratory problems. One EU study suggests this could be 10-20p a mile, pushing up the overall public and real cost to 60-70p a mile . A study by Bradbury and Nulty suggests even wider public costs.
Table 2 : Guesstimated Public/Real Costs of Car Use.
a. Government Expenditure on Roads. This is running at something like £5-7 billion a year, partly depending on when big motorway projects kick in. Say £6 billion
b. Parking. The public costs of car parking on roads and in municipal car parks over and above any parking charges paid by car users. The Bradbury and Nulty estimate is £6.7 billion. Some of this features as congestion costs.
c. Cost of accidents and breakdowns. This includes police, accident and emergency cover, hospital treatment, work lost. The UK calculation by DETR for 2002 was £17.8 billion which we will call £18 billion.
d. Police, Court and Prison Costs. Apart from the driving-related policing and court costs, there are also the costs associated with car theft. Say £3 billion.
e. Annual return of the asset value of roads Bradbury and Nulty argue that because rail is expected to generate an 8% return on the asset value of the rail network, so should road users. That produces a figure of £32 billion, because obviously this is a very expensive asset. Normally we regard it as a free or public good, provided by previous generations, but clearly it is an asset enjoyed by road users. As a compromise divide the B/N figure by four to give £8 billion.
f. Environmental and Pollution Costs. These include the recognition that several million properties near motorways and trunk roads have their values reduced by a substantial proportion. Vehicle noise requires double glazing and other noise reduction strategies. Noise pollution costs alone are estimated at £3-10 billion. Land by roads is degraded. Exhaust pollution contributes to global warming, reflected in the costs associated with extreme weather events. There are health costs of getting fat and accident costs, but there are also breathing difficulties and chest complaints associated with road pollution and particulates. There are five million asthma sufferers and 1,400 deaths a year. – perhaps £25 billion.
Congestion costs. This is the cost generated by cars on the road slowing other cars. All of us have been held up in traffic jams, wasting private or work time paid at their normal rate. Many, not just lorry and taxi drivers would find their output climb dramatically were it not for other vehicles crowding the road. Expensive vehicles are immobilized and fuel consumption rises, perhaps by £2 billion. Total cost £20 billion.
Historic costs. One of the biggest costs of car use will emerge in the future as oil prices rise, let us say to double the present level. Then, it will emerge that we have used us our resources at a profligate rate and we have extracted and marketed North Sea Oil at the historic period when prices have been lowest. The cost of this short-termism could quite minimally be seen at 5p a litre, which would cost some £2 billion
Defence Costs. The oil guzzling west requires a policy of control of the Middle East in order to prevent monopolistic control of the market. This will be even more acute in the coming decades as the concentration of reserves in the area becomes even more acute. As President Carter pointed out two decades back, this policy of high consumption oil dependence will both generate high defence costs and lead to war. The two Gulf wars have partly been about oil, and it would not be unreasonable to see them as related to oil use. An estimate would see 10% of the defence budget of £37 billion as related to oil, say £3.7 billion.
2c. Cars really cost some75p a mile, or 50p a passenger mile.
These external costs are difficult to assess, but a guesstimate of the full real cost of car travel comes out at a further c£90 billion. This pushes the realistic cost of motoring up by 25p to, say, 75p per mile per car, or given an occupancy rate of 1.6, about 50p per passenger mile, As a public cost tax on petrol (at the average 7 miles per litre) this would come to £1.75p a litre without paying for the petrol. Perhaps the proper cost of petrol, ignoring future scarcity, should therefore be something like £2 per litre, about 70% more than we currently pay.
This makes car a far less efficient a form of transport than many of us assume because we do not incur these costs directly. For example, congestion costs are often spread into business and private lives as time lost in traffic jams, whereas we just want to get home. If, for millions of people, the private and real costs of passenger transport could be cut by 10-40p a mile, it would be a massive national benefit.
2d. Buses cost 10-50p a mile and have subsidies.
The two other forms of road passenger transport are bus and coach. Buses are local, urban and rural. They cost some £3.20p a mile to run, say £4. Once there are 20 people on a bus, the cost per passenger is down to 20p per passenger mile – extraordinarily low. Full, it is even lower. After a fall in use in the 1970s through to about 2005, bus transport recovered, especially in London, because of this efficiency in grouping people. Now the journey figures are falling because local authorities are financially strapped and subsidies are declining.
Yet, this efficiency is only achieved in patches. Buses are subsidized to the tune of 50p a mile or so in three ways – a local government subsidy to some routes, through the OAP free bus travel, and through a fuel duty exemption. Bus use works best during commuting times for children to school and adults to work when they are often packed, but they are less well used in the suburbs and at non-peak hours. The average occupancy is 19.8 in London, but only 9.8 in England outside London, giving a cost of over 40p a mile. In most of the national system they are not operating in a sweet, profitable, congestion-saving way because occupancy is too low. Their overall range of costs is 10-50p a passenger mile, but they operate much of the time at the top of that range. They are subsidized to keep them on the road often with few passengers. Thus, the bus system can cut urban congestion, but works badly. Maybe that could change.
2e. The 10p a mile Coach.
Finally, there are coaches which receive no subsidy and have a similar, but slightly lower cost per mile than buses (because they travel with fewer stops) say £3.00. The National Express normal occupancy of coaches is 30 , and that gives a private, real, and public cost of about 10p a passenger mile or £10 per hundred miles. The contrast between 50p plus for cars and 10p a passenger mile for coaches is stark and strategic; it is bi-planes to jumbo jets. It results simply from grouping passengers and thereby, cutting weight, wind drag and friction loss per person. Coaches are the most economic form of powered road passenger transport – neglected, unsubsidised, low supply and demand for seats, little infrastructure and no political interest, yet they have this amazing economy of operation and extraordinary potential if properly developed.
Chapter Three: Coaches and the Economics of Road Space.
3a. Car and Coach Use of Road Space.
Road space is a key economic variable, and complex, because on the same road at different times space is abundant or acutely scare. It is variable depending on how it is used. Perhaps the major congestion/road space problem is on the Strategic Road Network, where millions of cars crawl daily. Here, coaches save space dramatically; the faster a car goes the more space it needs, while the coach bunches people together safely. Let us assess the space required at various speeds. The Highway Code sets out the thinking and braking distances that contribute to overall Stopping Distance. We add car length of four metres per car to the stopping distance for the overall road space required per vehicle and divide by 1.6 for the road space per passenger (RSPP). In the case of coaches we presume a 25% increase in stopping distance and a fifteen metre length, both extravagant, and the normal occupancy of 30.
Table 3. Car and Coach Road Space Per Passenger (RSPP).
The Highway Code points out these distances for cars are the minimum and should be doubled on wet roads. These are remarkable figures showing the demand on road-space which cars and coaches create.
3b 30 car passengers and 450 coach passengers occupy a mile of roadway.
We focus on 60 mph as a good speed. At this speed 21 cars, or 34 passengers at a 1.6 occupancy rate (rush hour occupancy is lower), take up a mile of roadway. Usually, of course the gaps are not uniform and there will be fewer than this. Let us call it 30 passengers a mile for cars.
By contrast, if we give each coach 100 metres at 60mph, there are sixteen per mile. At a normal occupancy of 30, this gives 450 passengers a mile. With full coaches and larger capacity ones (the Japanese megaliner has 84 seats) this capacity goes up to a thousand (1344) a mile. If we focus on 450 per mile for coaches compared with 30 per mile for cars, we see the crucial economy of road space that coaches offer – fifteen times more people. Suddenly our present road space becomes more than generous. At 60 mph each coach takes out a mile of car traffic. Coaches-on-roads becomes the key to our passenger transport system. They replace cars and clear our roads.
3c. An example: the M25 passenger capacity.
The M25 is 118 miles long and this means that a single lane can carry 2500 cars at a 60 mph speed and about 4000 passengers at an occupancy rate of 1.6. On the eight lanes, assuming two are used by lorries and vans, the passenger capacity is thus 12,000 each way. Thus we have room on the M25 for fewer than 24,000 people at a decent speed. During the rush hour occupancy is down to 1.15 reducing the capacity further to 17,250. Obviously the people who need to use it far outstrip this figure for several hours most days and traffic slows. Below is a chart of M25 car passenger occupancy at various speeds.
Table 4. The total car and coach passenger capacity of the present M25 at different speeds.
Speed Car Capacity Passenger Capacity Coach Passenger Capacity
Stationary 189,903 303,845 2,010,737
20mph 71,203 113,942 1,266,020
30 42,201 67,521 776,876
40 28,485 45,577 569,709
50 19,990 31,984 427,282
60 14,798 23,678 322,477
70 11,394 18,231 244,161
This is with six lanes given over to cars or coaches. There is a certain poetic justice in the conclusion that coaches travelling at 60mph can carry more people around the motorway than can sit static in cars on six lanes of “the world’s biggest car park”.
Of course, in practice, coaches replace cars incrementally. A rough rule of thumb is that 150 coaches each way on the M25 would clear a lane of cars. That would require 400 in service, including stops and backup coaches, although rush hour loads are heavier. Clearly, a fleet of 400 could make a substantial dent in morning and evening rush hour traffic. Put in other terms, given the car low occupancy rate during the rush hours of 1.15, four full coaches per mile could double the speed of a 20mph rush hour crawl over three lanes.
The on-the-ground scarcity of road space differs under a range of factors – at junctions, with weather, at road-works, with holidays, at rush hours, with the weekend flux, and most of these can only be addressed by facing the extravagant use of space which cars require. It does not matter much if the roads are clear, but it is crucial in congestion. Expanding the M25 to ten lanes would not create sufficient road space at rush hours, and the surrounding roads would continue to be hopelessly clogged. We need a system which drastically economizes on road space per person. There is only one available and fortunately it is a rewarding alternative.
3c. The key policy conclusion: coaches solve the problem.
This problem of road-space the coach radically addresses simply by eliminating the stopping distance between isolated passengers and having people four abreast. This is an extraordinary leap in efficiency, and this factor allows the coach to transform our transport system, if we use it properly. It has been done in a different system from that proposed here. The Transmilenio System in Bogata, carries up to35,000 people an hour on mass transit lanes commuting into the City, an amazing people moving exercise. It now suffers from overuse. We in Britain need an organized system to reap these similar benefits, a national coach system which can replace millions of repetitive, inefficient car journeys. But first we consider the failures in the existing coach system.
Chapter Four. The Present Failure of Coaches.
The present coach system is thin, infrequent, weak on comfort, service, speed and connectivity. This destroys the possibility of high levels of demand. We do not even know accurately what the situation is, because DfT does not have the data. The weaknesses of the current coach system include the following.
4a. City centre transfers do not work. We presently talk about a rail system. It has transfers based on city centre stations built in the 19th century. They allow movement from one line to another quite easily via platforms. Coaches ape this rail system with City Centre Coach stations, including Victoria Coach Station in London. They usually compete with rail and lose, because they are surrounded by road congestion. Let us take one journey taken at random– Manchester to Reading by National Express. Here the transfer points are Birmingham and Oxford Coach Stations or London Victoria. The journey time that results varies between 6 hours 25 minutes and 9 hours 11 minutes. The average speeds corresponding to these times are 28-20 mph. Newcastle/London is 40mph. The mode of transport can do 70mph. But these slow speeds reflect congestion and waiting times in Birmingham and Oxford or the long drag into and out of London. These speeds are unacceptable for a national transport system. Can coaches do something instead that rail does not do?
4b. Overall journey speeds are slow.
Although average coach speeds vary with the time of day and the routes concerned, they are regularly below 30mph. But full journey speeds are even slower. Someone in outer Manchester or Birmingham has to travel to and from home to the centre in addition to the coach journey, often adding twenty miles and one or two hours to the journey. This can slow the full journey speed towards 15 mph, unacceptable for most people. Indeed the system was better half a century back. If passengers could go directly out to an orbital link, have fast transfers and some road priority, many overall journey times could plummet. The achievable aim is to push average speeds over 40 or 50 mph by providing such routes and infrastructure.
4c. Coaches gather passengers inefficiently. Quite a lot of coaches gather passengers by calling at a number of places. This slows the journey time. The Stagecoach Oxford-Cambridge X5 coach increased the number of stopping places en route in 2004 to pick up more passengers by moving in and out of towns, and the average speed for the full journey has slowed to 22 mph. This guarantees a small pool of demand. What is required is a fast national system where gathering and dispersion are carried out by subsidiary services that feed the strategic network. The underlying requirement is a fast, frequent motorway based coach system with limited stops into which people can easily plug their full journeys. Passenger concentration for a mass transit system requires new gathering systems.
4d. Coaches are infrequent and booking is tiresome. For many people transport is a get-up-and-go business, especially if the journey is less than a hundred miles. Catching a booked train or coach is time wasting, because of the cost of missing departure is a safety margin of 15-30 minutes. Booking a fast train is tolerable, but booking a 25 mph coach is too little of a bad thing. When departure frequency is high, people can turn up and go. The London-Oxford route with a less than ten minute service generates levels of demand five or ten times higher than other coach routes in the UK mainly because of its frequency. Booked infrequent coaches have low demand. Frequency of five minutes on major routes is relatively easy to achieve, given the size of the coach units, compared, for example, with a train.
4e. Coach Quality needs improving. Car manufacturers have been addressing issues of comfort for years, and many cars are very comfortable, given the awkward sitting position that their design seems to require and the limited space. Coaches by comparison have seemed less pleasant, cramped and difficult to enter. Many coaches now are very good and improving, but, as yet, coaches do not have a good transport image.
4f. Coaches are stuck in low demand. Overall, it is not difficult to see why coaches presently have low levels of demand and seem to serve passengers badly. With some exceptions, they are stuck in a low demand, high fixed cost mode with underinvestment and high prices. Car dominance in public policy has made coaches a marginal service for decades. Moreover, coach companies have often transferred some of their profits to rail franchises. Yet, this position is not intrinsic to the mode, but the result of historic failure.
4g. The Department for Transport is asleep and has no policy for coaches.
Part of this failure can be located with the Department of Transport. The DfT has no strategic policies for coaches, no staff and even collects no separate data. It offers no subsidies to encourage coach transport and has blanked initiatives except the Milton Keynes Coachway, and a coach lane on the M4 for a few years. The ORBIT study recommendations on an M25 coach orbital were ignored. This failure to have any coach policy, collect separate data, think coach infrastructure is surprising in view of the fact that it is the greenest form of motorized transport and we are supposed to have been cutting CO² emissions for decades; it probably arises from the likelihood that Government Ministers and Senior Civil Servants hardly ever use coaches. Rail and air cannot expand much and are limited in their journey possibilities. Bike, bus and walking are good for short journeys, but there is at present no policy alternative to inter-city and long distance passenger travel by car except the coach which is totally without DfT consideration.
4h. Yet coaches are the policy good for everyone.
This study suggests that, despite the present failings of coach transport, it can become the basis of a vastly more efficient road passenger transport system for everyone. It is pro-car by saving space. It saves money. Crudely, transferring 10% of car passenger transport to coach/bus saves £9.8 bn (24.4 bn miles at 40p) and 20% saves some £20bn. Because congestion costs are also reduced by perhaps £5bn or more, and car purchase could fall substantially, the savings are even greater. Yet these economies are unthought, because of the dominance of the car lobby and the skewing of our transport system away from public road passenger transport.
Chapter Five: Full Apologia for the Coach.
Other than the strategic advantages of low cost and road-space economy, coaches have a number of other advantages as a mode of travel.
• Speed. They travel fast and well on open roads and motorways. A regular cruising speed of 60-70mph is easily obtained in a modern coach with high visibility and a wide wheel base. There is no faster, safe speed available for inter-city and orbital road travel without breaking the law. Crucial is not just the cruising speed, but the speed including stops. With good motorway based transfers, average speeds of 50mph are possible on the major motorway routes up and down the country. Through coaches could easily manage an average of 60 mph, and the average orbital speeds on the M25 and elsewhere with more stops could be 30-50 mph. These compare well with cars and trains for many similar journeys
• Cutting car driving time. Self drive cars are now a major technological investment by the car industry, because of the driving problem. “Britons have become so reliant on their cars that most spend more than one working day (10 hours) every week driving”. Coaches do it now and without a windscreen fixation. One careful driver replaces twenty or thirty car drivers, freeing them up to do other things and reducing their experience of stress and the monotonous work they do. At present millions of drivers are duplicating quite simple work for relatively small returns (carrying 0.6 other people), a grossly inefficient process. Coaches could open up perhaps a billion hours of work/leisure a year for people in transit.
• Comfort. Coaches can be comfortable as we want them to be. They are big stretch limousines. Some already have tables, good seats, work stations, media centres and a range of other features. They should have flat entry and exit via platform Coachway stations. They can have wi-fi, films, social areas, tables, good disabled areas, family seats, seminar and other such areas. The mix of public/private specialized coaches can grow with coaches offering office facilities, holidays, outings and party facilities. In other words these vehicles can be a rich form of road travel, sociable and comfortable. At present we are stuck with the idea of cars as luxury and coaches as cramped and unpleasant transport; that can be fully reversed.
• Low infrastructure costs. Infrastructure costs for a coach system are extremely low, or, rather, they have already largely been met by the motorway system. There are development costs, like the Coachway stations, system maintenance and information technology, but they are relatively low. A high proportion of costs is located in the operating capital – the coaches – rather than in the infrastructure necessary to make them viable. This is any investor’s dream. In an era when major transport infrastructure expenditure, like HS2, is vast, a development where the major emphasis is on using existing resources fifteen times more efficiently is practical politics.
• Efficient use of vehicles. The Coach, easily covering 30,000,000 passenger miles in its life, is deeply efficient simply because it is on the road most of the time and groups people. Cars manage perhaps 200,000 passenger miles in their lifetime. Actually, our cars mainly sit in the drive deteriorating through age. One piece of equipment, a coach, can cover 10,000 passenger miles a day, while the average car might clock up 20 a day. They are “used up” a hundred and fifty times more quickly. Thus, coaches save vast amounts of inefficient manufacture and are much greener. Each car embodies about a year of car use CO² in its manufacture and each coach saves this a hundred times over. It is this fact that makes coaches 90% or more greener than cars, the kind of saving that can address global warming world-wide.
• Cutting car ownership. Cars are an economic burden to own and are often needed for only part of the week by owners. Many city commuters just use them at weekends to “get away”. If coaches enable these journeys, ownership becomes unnecessary. A Coach system allows many more people, even several million, to be without cars. It saves on a major item of capital and weekly expenditure, on parking in roads and garages and on the overall efficient use of personal capital. A coach, costing say £300, 000 does as much work as perhaps 200 cars costing £10,000 each, a big increase in personal capital efficiency. People can be richer in their living by not buying as well as by spending.
• Transport for the car-less. Some 20% of households are presently without cars and this pattern is also linked to poverty. The poor are more often car-less and necessarily more immobile. Some of those with cars can scarcely afford them. Others are too old or disabled to drive. Any system of transport which gave this group access to cheap, effective, long distance travel would be a major national boon. Coaches do it.
• The intermodal links – doubling the purpose of buses and the underground. Coaches complete a road-based public passenger system. Buses at present cater for journeys into town, but their routes usually offer no reason to take people out of town. Perhaps, there is a lonely terminus. Yet if people could also use buses to get out onto a national coach network, we would suddenly have a two-way purpose for buses. The same applies to the outer underground stations in London, usually empty at their outer termini. The planned orbital and inter-city coach links give the outer journeys of both bus and underground train a strong passenger focus. So the end of the Piccadilly Line at Cockfosters is a short ride away from M25/J24 on the 298 bus, when both are usually quite empty at this stage. These modal links makes the bus and underground systems far more efficient, especially at the rush hours when they move against the dominant metropolitan commuting flow.
• Orbital travel. Coaches address orbital travel, unlike any other public form of transport. Much of our present rail, underground and coach system is still based on the in-out model, ignoring the fact that most people often moving laterally for work, shopping, trips, family and leisure. The lack of orbital public transport in outer London is well known and explains the congestion on the M25 and associated roads from cars. The ORBIT study looked at the problem in depth and the journey variations. Something like 43% of the journeys on the M25 start and finish outside its orbit. The Coach Orbital necklace addresses this need directly, as we see later, by putting coaches where the problem is – on the congested orbits.
• Demand-led development. Coach development addresses existing demand and helps create further demand because of its efficiency. More than this, the emerging coach network can be focussed where existing traffic flows and congestion are at their greatest. You put the supply where the potential demand is; when you have a couple of people a second using a section of motorway, there is a good possibility of picking up custom. Origin-to-destination coaches often have not fitted the national flows of human traffic; this national system goes with the flows already established by car movements. We know the demand for the M25 or M62 is great and can put the coaches there. It is merely a question of seeing how much of that potential demand can be translated from car to coach.
• Frequency of service. The unit size of coaches promotes high frequency and short transfer times. Tube and intercity trains have capacities of several hundred and are therefore relatively infrequent and load more slowly. Coaches with a capacity of 60 are frequent with reasonable demand. Waiting times would be cut, say, below that of the underground. The Oxford-London coaches are able to offer a less than ten minute service at present simply by providing an unbooked, on-off service, despite congestion and the need to go in to Victoria Coach station. With an effective network most of the inter-city motorway journeys could have a waiting time of five minutes or less. Once people could use this system with confidence in its regularity, demand would surge as it has on the Oxford-London route. Then high occupancy coaches could emerge.
• Journey flexibility compared with rail. Coaches are more flexible than trains in the routes they are able to access the connectivity on the road system. By contrast, new train routes will not emerge often. Additional supporting coach routes can be fed into the basic system from local points without large capital expenditure. The system can penetrate into the areas where most people live. Some 60% of city dwellers live in outer boroughs, and the flexibility of the car in this area can be copied by coach, bus and other links without the rigidity of rail.
• Eradicating parking. Operational coaches do not need parking. The costs of parking are considerable in domestic garages and at the other end of the journey. Bradbury and Nulty suggest that as well as the parking costs to motorists of £1.25 billion, there is a public estimated cost of between £6.7-15 billion. Parked cars dominate streets and verges. On-road parked cars restrict traffic, contribute to accidents and disfigure areas. However, the personal costs of parking to the driver are also considerable. Many drivers crawl areas to find open parking spaces, often contributing to traffic. Other drivers have to park a long way from their destination. Being able to leave a vehicle without retaining responsibility for it is often liberation. This the coach offers on a mass scale, another virtuous cicle.
• Fast Transfer. Coach transfers can be quick and easy for passengers, although they are not so at present. It is relatively easy to step off one coach and onto another on the flat via a platform system. They can have multiple doors. Waiting times can be far lower than for trains, taxis or underground. Coach reliability can contradict the reputation that many bus services have developed over the years of three arriving at once. This requires that coach services are moved out of the congestion lottery that makes bus arrivals often so uneven. This seems easier to organize on motorways than in the congested and complex urban areas which buses inhabit. The location, design and conception of transfer stations we examine below, but they can create transfer ease and comfort.
• The out of city rail link. At present trains carry passengers who journey to and then from city centres taking advantage of its speed and directness. There are few out of town stations which can be accessed from the suburbs. One is Bristol Parkway, some 7 miles and most of an hour’s travel from Temple Meads. If it were located less than a mile to the East, near the M32/M4 motorway junction is could be easily reach by bus and coach by half a million people in much less time than the full journey into Bristol. There are other Parkway stations, as their name implies for parked cars, but actually, having a car at such a station is a liability and usually incurs high parking charges. Far better to have coach/bus links to outer city stations for another modal link, cutting inner city congestion.
• Ecologically the best. Coaches are energy efficient beyond their own use. They use less fuel, cut congestion, pollution, the energy costs of car manufacture, parking and garaging. They therefore move above a 90% saving in CO², and in some areas will be well above 100%. Any who take global warming seriously must see that cars-to-coaches is a planet wide imperative, not just a local issue.
• Safety. Coaches tend also to be about three times safer than cars. They are large units with a stable wheel base, high driving position and good visibility. Drivers are probably less distracted by passengers. With seat belts and a careful set of driving rules, it should be possible to push down accident levels on coaches further.
Thus, coaches have these multiple advantages which can be fed into our transport system. Though the car lobby will not see this, they are also the best news for car users by addressing the congestion of remaining cars. Coaches can be fast, flexible, frequent, energy efficient, clean and relaxing, though they are not always so at present. Moving millions of journeys over to this form of transport would save money, energy and massively cut pollution. Nor would these changes be marginal. Coaches can pick up 20% or more of present car transport and decongest the nation’s roads.
Chapter Six. The Strategic Coach Network.
The strategy is for a coach network which functions smoothly and efficiently as a national system. It needs to be based on the most heavily used motorways and trunk roads. It should not ape rail routes in linking city centres, but access the large populations living in suburbs (31 million, 55% of England and Wales ). It requires fast transfers and gathering systems. It is not the Park and Ride model, because car traffic congestion near the Coachway stations impedes fast movement. Key is decongesting the coach. The gathering systems are as important as the coach network in making full journey times efficient. The strategy involves something like a five to tenfold initial expansion in scheduled coach travel.
6a The Main Coach network. We focus mainly on England as an example. The Network of Coach routes would largely centre on the Strategic Road Network which carries a third of all traffic. It comprises 4,300 miles and with, say, another 700 miles of linked routes makes a 5000 mile network of frequent, fast coaches operating outside urban congestion. Where and when car congestion occurs, priority for coaches on hard shoulders, exit lanes and even moterway lanes can occur on the moral principle that people in these vehicles are taking less space. Almost entirely this development uses the existing network more efficiently. It has zero net cost other than signage and road markings.
The network would cover all the main motorways and trunk roads of the UK Of course, each route would need to be assessed against a number of criteria and the system could be introduced regionally and extended across the nation as a whole.
6b. Coach Priority.
Good coach speeds require some coach priority to rescue this efficient form of travel from some of the congestion cars create. The purpose is to guarantee a certain level of journey security to passengers in terms of speed and reliability in the face of congestion. Here is an important ethical principle. If you choose a road-space saving coach, then road space should be available to you with some priority. The aim is to move traffic into the space-saving form and substantially, but fairly, transform the market in road use. Since it also benefits car users, it is a case which should be acceptable to most thinking drivers.
The detailed priorities are matters for the experts, but there are a number of possibilities. 1. Coaches use the hard shoulder at 30-40 mph when the motorway is blocked. 2. Triggered traffic lights give coaches priority at intersections and roundabouts. 3. Coach lanes can emerge(when the utilisation levels are high enough). 4. Channelled lanes can give coaches priority using overhead motorway signals in slower moving traffic. The aim is to keep coaches moving at decent speeds in all conditions to give passengers security in their journey times. Option 1 seems an immediate, costless possibility, especially because coaches leave at most major junctions on the slip road.
With a 60-70mph cruising speed coaches should begin to nearly match car journey times especially during the rush hour and on the busy orbitals, encouraging demand yet more.
6c. The system requires a fleet of about 10,000 coaches. A step change is needed in the level of coach service. Given a minimum system speed of 30mph, a fleet of some 10,000 coaches could service this network at the different level of frequency required, say, every five minutes. The present National Express fleet is under 1000. This level of passenger provision reduces car use on the system by about 5%, a substantial cut in congestion. Such a fleet would cost, say, £3-5bn, which would immediately be working capital. A 20,000 fleet and a 10% reduction should be an entirely realistic medium term ambition.
The coaches should be comfortable, run quietly, have tables, wi-fi, drinks, food, media centres and good leg room as the ORBIT study suggested a decade ago. They can be single/double decker, be linked, open both sides with several doors, have lounge areas, have flat entry and exit through platform level access, and cruise at 60-70mph. High levels of use would later possibly generate faster linked coach trains. Modern coaches are already good, but this move offers a design jump to another level. Designing and building the fleet would be a strategic investment, perhaps for one of the car manufacturers.
6d. The Gathering Systems.
For many people it is the first few hundred yards of their journeys which are the most important. It is the journey to and from coach interchange points which need to be easy and fluent. This is helped by the fact that often these journeys are short. Bike, taxi, walking, drop off and other links become easy because they are a mile or two. Gathering systems need to emerge to allow the mass transit system to work. They include:
1.Local park and rides to the Coachway.
2.Cycleways and bike parks.
3. Drop off and pick up facilities.
4. Area taxi services.
5. Local route hitch-hiking points.
6. Disabled routes.
7. Links with rail and underground. On the M25 these can be done with a 1-3 mile shuttle at almost all junctions.
8. Estate gathering buses.
9. Walkways. People often enjoy walking a mile or two off-road.
This business of gathering journeys, often a strong community activity, is an important part of the overall change. When people know what their journey will be through an intermodal journey planner, they can co-ordinate with others.
6e. They are linked through some 90-150 Coachway Transfer Stations. A key decision is to avoid the Park and Ride model, which would encourage car congestion near the Coachway stations and slow the operation of the whole system. The only present UK example is the Milton Keynes Coachway. It has a rather weak design where coaches reverse away from the pick-up place. Actually, there are a range of other designs which could be used, depending on location, junction lay out, types of access and the populations likely to use them. They should at least be the quality of a modern railway station, with platform level coach entry and easy transfers, capable of handling several hundred coach and bus movements an hour. They can have newspapers, information, food, donate-and-collect libraries, a screen choir area, art, busking and warm areas and be good pleasant communal places. The priority in the system is the fast movement of the coaches on their dominant route. For that reason they should be on or close to the motorway junctions, say in central roundabouts, near the slip roads or even a platform style transfer directly at the side of the motorway. They should be safe, have shops and facilities and be pleasantly designed especially for wheelchair users.
There are a number of possible models. The Roundabout End Model uses either end of a Motorway Junction roundabout to merge buses and coaches, linked by a walkway. Platform models can be used if doors are on both sides of the bus or coach. Illustrated is my Carousel design, located in one corner of a motorway roundabout with the slip road upper left, capable of six/twelve or eight/sixteen concurrent coach/bus arrivals, or a hundred and fifty plus an hour.Another design uses L shaped platforms at corners of the slip road with shuttle links around the intersection. Another offsets the interchange to an area where route mingling and bridges are easier. Another model has an inside coach flow and an outside bus flow linked by a horseshoe platform. Often, suitable areas are available because of their closeness to the motorway makes residence or other uses for the land difficult. Clearly, there are local major design issues, but the task is easier given the non-urban location of the Coachway interchanges.
6f. The cloverleaf or desegregation problem.
One problem is that cloverleaf and other major junctions designed to keep the traffic flows separate thwart the integration of coach and bus routes. We could call this the cloverleaf or desegregation problem because of the difficulty of mingling the separated flows of traffic. There seems no obvious safe way in which a transfer point could be built into one of these interchanges. Actually, it can be addressed in a variety of ways – through linking separate platform interchanges with underpasses, through the use of offset bridges, through new road links and shuttle transport. For example the M1/M25 junction can be displaced half a mile east to the SE corner of Junction 21A, provided two feed lanes travelling in the same direction are merged north and south of the M25. Nevertheless, some junctions, like the M25/M4 interchange are very difficult without major engineering. Another technique is an earlier transfer to coaches that go left or right, as, for example, at the M40/M42 interchange SE of Birmingham. It can be done.
6g. Development costs.
The overall cost of the Coachways is difficult to assess. The Milton Keynes Coachway cost only £2.6 million in 2010. Although that is real and low, we have to give a more speculative costing to this development. There are likely to be variations and greater costs to the major junction interchanges. If we assume 120 Coachways will cost £20 million each, with a further ten costing £100 million each, the overall capital costs may be some £4bn. Information and administrative systems may cost £2bn. The coaches, operating capital, cost £3-5bn. This does not seem a difficult development to get underway. The private coach companies will be keen to co-operate, given the new infrastructure, and a rough guesstimate of £10-20bn does not look unrealistic, even generous.
Chapter Seven. The M25 and other Orbitals.
6a. Key to much of this study is orbital movement. In contemporary cities there are very large orbital traffic movements to work and other destinations by cars, lorries and commercial vehicles. Here a lot of congestion occurs – West on the M25 towards Heathrow in the morning and East in the evening. If conurbation orbital passengers can be moved efficiently by coaches in large numbers, many of the worst congestion problems in the UK can be eased and even solved. Orbital movements begin and end either inside or outside the orbital motorway in a range of different short, medium and long-distance movements. Some of them will be long-distance and others commuting, local, shopping, leisure and work related. We focus on the M25, but Bristol, Southampton, Cambridge, Peterborough, Ipswich, Wolverhampton, Birmingham, Leicester, Norwich, Stoke, Nottingham, Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Doncaster, York, Hull, Middlesborough, Sunderland and Newcastle are open to the same kinds of solutions. The aim is to move a high proportion of the orbital passenger movements from cars to coaches.
6b. The M25 Orbital Necklace.
Clearly the M25 orbital requires a set of major interchanges. They form a necklace of coach to coach and bus to coach transfers allowing passengers to move round London, or the other cities, smoothly and without waits or interruptions.
THE M25 Necklace of Coachway Transfers.
The M25 offers a necklace of transfer points offering strategic links to cities and anywhere in the London area. Here are the most likely links and areas of access.
Table 5. The Possible M25 transfer stations.
Junction Motorway/Road Access to
2 A2 Dartford,Bexley, Gravesend, Canterbury, Margate
3 M20 Swanley, Maidstone, Folkestone, Dover, Channel Tunnel
5 M26 Sevenoaks, Tunbridge Wells, Hastings
7/8 M23 Redhill, Crawley, Gatwick, Brighton
10 A3 Guildford, Chobham, Portsmouth
12 M3 Camberley, Staines, Winchester, Southampton
14/15 M4 Slough, Heathrow, Reading, Swindon, Bristol, Exeter
16 M40 Uxbridge, Oxford, Leamington,Birmingham
20 A41 Watford, Aylesbury, Bicester
21 M1 St Albans, Luton, MK, Northampton, Nottingham, Leeds
23 A1(M) Welwyn, Peterborough, Doncaster, Newcastle, Edinburgh
24 A111 Potters Bar, Barnet, Hatfield, Welwyn
25 A10 Enfield, Cambridge, King’s Lynn
27 M11 Woodford, Gatwick, Cambridge, Norwich
28 M12 Romford, Brentford, Colchester, Ipswich, Harwich
30 A13 Grays, Basildon, Southend
All of these places can be reached by express coach from any other with two coach changes of less than five minutes. These radial coach links offer access to the whole of Britain. As they are already strategic, so they can be strategic for more people by coach.
Another local move is possible. There are already a series of bridges over the M25 which can offer rapid contact to local populations who would face a several mile journey to one of the big transfer stations. At either side of these bridges bus and car put down facilities linked to a layby stop on the M25 for some coaches could provide dozens of points around the orbital for direct access. An example is Byfleet, close to the M25 but two miles away by road. It has a population of 7000 and perhaps 4000 cars. A link at the Rectory Road bridge would mean these people have an immediate walking access to a national coach network. Further along the same is true for Chobham at the Stoke D’Abernon Bridge. These stopping coaches could link with the major Coachway stations on their way round.
6c. The Inward Radial System.
Each radial motorway has a trajectory into the city. Here the Transmilenio commuting pattern of offering a fast coach lane route towards the centre of London or the other major cities can open up. For example, the A/M40 Western avenue, as well as bringing in the present 15,000 daily Oxford-London passengers coach passenger towards the centre into Paddington could pick up a similar number from the M25 orbital and make a space saving dedicated coach lane, possibly a tidal one, viable. So in London, as elsewhere, the deep, daily congestion problems within the city could be solved from the outside as the passenger movements are concentrated in efficient, relentless, frequent space-saving coaches. Each of these moves can be repeated across all the orbitals.
Chapter Eight: The Overall Strategy.
8a. This is the Required Policy Now.
A national coach system seems the required response to global warming and the growth in road congestion. The energy economies make coaches the only real option, and this study suggests its infrastructure. Detailed costing is difficult, but at, say, well less than £20bn it could provide benefits of more than twice that amount in decongestion, economic movement, car ownership and use reduction, pollution and safety benefits. The capital cost to the Exchequer with a reasonable public-private mix is really quite small. This is a practical, immediate, option.
Moreover, it can be done quickly. A year of planning and four years of preparing the Coachway Stations, supply of coaches, logistics and support system could see most of the national system in place in five years, because the infrastructure needs are so limited. Moreover, it should produce is robust income stream out of the £100bn spent on cars annually as return on capital. Because each coach is easily capable of a million passenger miles a year return on the capital is not difficult.
8b. A Strategic Authority and Public Policy
The policy seems to need a new Strategic Authority. It cannot be left to the present private operators, both because the systemic integration must be great and precise, and also because private coach companies have previously operated with a much reduced vision. My original proposal was centred on the M25 and suggested that a Strategic Authority be set up to run this orbital coach plan. ORBIT recommended the same. This Strategic Authority must explain and implement the vision and strategy with Government backing. A two stage plan looking to a 5%and then 10% replacement of cars could be in place over a decade timescale.
Further, this policy requires good governmental support based on sound economic principles to establish the right pricing, often co-ordinated across modes. If cars cause pollution, congestion and other costs which coaches prevent, then tax –subsidy levels need to reflect it. It might be possible to aim at a public price of 10-15p a mile. A sophisticated intermodal pricing system could make it easy to use and attractive across most journeys. Subsidised pricing to the young, often without cars anyway, could convert a generation to move through life being far less wedded to cars than their forebears and both fitter and richer as a result.
8c. The technologies and a new industry
The coach industry cannot but grow in the coming decades. An order for ten and then another ten thousand coaches kickstarts this industry in the UK. Yet again, this development offers a range of possible technological advances in coach travel including real time demand response through phones, integrated transfers, coach trains and coupling, double-sided door systems, flexible coach priority motorway systems, grouped small container luggage movement, full information systems and other innovations. Coaches can easily move up to 200 passengers.
8d. The opposition and the culture of cars.
Of course, there are reasons why this policy has not opened up. The car lobby is dominant and opposes policies which cut its demand. The idea that we could manage with far fewer cars carrying 1.6 people is unthinkable to a demand-seeking industry. Moreover, there is a tacit prejudice against coaches among much of the establishment – the civil service, the politicians and the plush and ordinary car owners who probably do not travel much by coach. Most people are so subconsciously car wedded that this move is unthinkable. The basic level of thinking seems absent in Parliament. In 2010 two colleagues and I arranged a Coach Seminar in the Grand Committee Room of the Commons backed by two Parliamentary Committees. About two dozen transport economists turned up and one MP, and he was chairing it Generating political awareness of this policy has been slow, and opposition will be strong. Much of it is unthinking, or interest-based, and whether public debate and scrutiny can open this strategy up is an open question.
8e. Let’s do it.
Yet, on this assessment the policy is both necessary and good for all. With a little, really quite simple, thought its justification becomes clear. Perhaps, the traffic jammed car users, the poor, the planet and the car-less deserve the policy commended here. Let’s place it in Milton’s marketplace and get it adopted.