Thursday, October 11, 2007

Air passengers: 1 - ferry passengers: nil

News from a public transport system that works:

"Qantas intended spending $10 million on introducing its Cityflyer brand, which now operates between the six main Australian centres, to New Zealand. That would include:
* A $3 million upgrade of domestic club lounges in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.
* Refurbishing aircraft cabins.
* Self-serve check-in kiosks at airports.
* An enhanced free food service and morning newspapers.
* A free bar service from 4pm on weekdays."

While I read that, sitting on a wind and rain-swept Auckland ferry Pier 2, I can't but marvel with envy at how the free airline market caters for its passengers. Imagine what ferry travel would be like if there were Qantas ferries competing with Infratil for customers. We'd be pampered with Koru club style waiting facilities instead of wino hangouts; have refurbished ferries that don't stink of diesel and freshly pumped out sewage; ferries that might actually arrive on time instead of patronizing warnings that ferries will not wait for you; and all for prices that can go down instead of always up.
(I'm only using the ferry as an analogy, the same is of course true for bus and train services)

Come on, Qantas/Pacific Blue/AirNZ, branch out into our transport mode and give a heave to bad and expensive service.

Why is the ARTA negligent in its job for it guarantees the present monopoly gouging to continue? And how do we get rid of it?

My point is that the lack of competition is the direct cause of bad and overpriced service on ferries. 1,000 commuting passengers a day is a large market - how many plane routes or bus lines carry that many people twice a day in New Zealand?
Virgin runs planes and trains in the UK, so multiple transport modes can be run by one company (Infratil runs buses, ferries and airports!) - hell, they could even offer "frequent flyer points" applicable to all their transport modes.

Booking seats on ferries in advance would be quite handy and those advance sales are attractive for traveler and company alike, as it does for planes and the Naked Bus Co. It would force Fullers to actually deliver a reliable and attractive service instead of the guaranteed monopoly they enjoy now.
Imagine if you could book your daily commute bus seat: no more standing room only and the driver knows where to pick up his booked passengers. Guaranteed filled seats and regular income - perhaps even without a public subsidy. Everybody would be better off with some lateral thinking and free market innovation.

There would be nothing wrong with cut price peak services and extra charges for extra services like a Koru Club or free drinks. It would offer passengers choice. Now the only choice we have is a stinking Jet Raider at first class fares.