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London’s buses, especially the new Routemasters, have taken on all sorts of advertising, the new buses being especially suited for this purpose making some very creative and eye catching adverts. This latest one is amazingly for eBay and it’s without a doubt one of the most colourful looks for the new buses so far. It also got me thinking along the lines of what if London’s transport system was given over to eBay? In other words, no more shitty TfL or Southern trains.

(Or even South Western Railway – witness the clusterfuck that happened today 19th November 2018. – yep NR over-ran engineering works however SWR simply threw the towel in!)

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LT208 at Piccadilly Circus.

I’ll come back to the question of eBay transport in a moment, but first let’s take a look at the ‘ebay’ bus itself! Its LTZ 1208 or LT208 which I understand has spent practically its entire working life on the 38. I spotted it the other evening as it came through Piccadilly Circus. I wasn’t planning on taking any pictures of London’s buses, its rare that I do these days. However the sight of this one prompted me into bus enthusiast mode! After photographing it as it came through the Circus, I decided to try and catch it as it headed towards Green Park in order to hitch a ride to Victoria.

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Nice side view of the 38’s eBay bus as it turns into Piccadilly itself.

No luck I wasn’t able to catch it despite the slowish traffic. I almost caught it at Green Park, had there been a minute or so more I’d have been on it. Instead it was just starting down the hill towards Hyde Park Corner so I decided to get the tube to Victoria and wait for the bus there. Within a minute of my getting to Buckingham Palace Road the bus had turned up and I was able to photograph it coming into Terminus Place and the bus stands.

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At the Victoria bus stands. Yikes they’re still developing the bus station area. How long has that been going on?

The bus itself was nothing special it was in slightly sub standard condition. The interior too had graffiti on the upstairs deck, quite a rarity on these newish buses. I got on the bus and rode it back to Green Park, where I then took further opportunities to get some good photographs of it.

Okay so what’s this about eBay public transport? Let’s take the Piccadilly Line as an example…. as most will know its the current ‘misery line’ and it needs huge improvement. So how about an eBay shot in the arm? Like people getting on the train and they bid for the journey itself. If its a good journey and on time hopefully people will give it top bids thus deriving what can be termed a good revenue earning service.

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Christmas happens because its eBay!

If its late, totally screwed up what ever (as the Piccadilly’s service usually is) then the bids will be very low, perhaps even nil. You see no one wants to pay for shit. You wouldn’t pay for a bar of chocolate that was essentially all wrapper and no chocolate to be seen? This is the problem with the railways and other forms of public transport. If the contents within the wrapper itself is spoilt, torn, damaged, or its contents missing one still has to pay for it. Under the present arrangements the railways monopolise their supply and demand chain – and if its ‘damaged goods’ they can still sell it. No wonder many commuters feel they are massively exploited by the railways buses and tubes in London, not forgetting the other UK towns and cities that place a huge reliance on public transport.

In terms of an eBay transport service anyone wanting to bid for a seat on a delayed train could well get away with say a fare costing just 50p for example, as long as they are prepared to endure delays and whatever other woes may come. If its a good service the demand for it will be higher and so the tickets will be more expensive. Also bids will be higher for those going towards Heathrow than for those wanting the Rayners Lane line instead. A clear example of supply and demand – and no doubt its a very good capitalist innovation lol! Had Marx been alive he’d have by now decreed the new opium of the masses was in fact eBay 🙂

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Late running westbound Piccadily hot footin’ it through Ravenscourt Park. ‘Come on driver step on it – or we miss our profit targets!’

On the other hand eBay transport might be even better than paying the usual full, and extortionate, fares and then when the shit hits the fan the act of trying to claw back one’s losses via Delay-Repay or one of the other many ‘payback’ schemes which are meant to give passengers (oops sorry, customers) some solace our railway companies at least really do care about those who seek a passage on their trains between any sort of A and any type of B, but which a lot of the time these transport companies’ returns policies largely disappoints a huge number of passengers because their payment for a fare has in fact not been made in good faith due to the companies’ failures.

Actually in terms of eBay public travel, its not so very different from our present transport arrangements. Premium fares are charged at peak hours where, in theory, the service frequencies and availability are meant to be far superior to other times when there’s less trains, although this contrived method is in fact exploitative. Its a practice which does not work well because most services in the rush hours are well, tbh, utterly shit and fraught with numerous problems leading to unacceptable delays.

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London Bridge station – imagine it as a ‘depository’ for eBay train services! Station managed by Amazon perhaps?

You see, our railways are rather like many companies that sell goods and products! The problem however is our trains and tubes and planes (and buses, coaches, ferries, to an extent) come with a really dire returns policy! When there are delays one just cannot go and complain to the relevant authority/company’s department with the offending article in question. In other words one cannot return the train or the bus or the plane they have just rode because its simply just not possible. Its not like other companies’ products where dissatisfaction and prompt return of an offending or faulty article usually results in the full return of one’s money. Its clear public transport is technically ‘used goods’ thus the ‘returns’ policy in my view has never really been properly effective – and its quite flawed.

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Class 450 galore at Clapham Junction. Imagine these trains, as ‘eBays’ waiting to go in service – depending on how many bids are made…

The problem with our buses, trains, tubes etc is there is no such thing as the customer is always right. Its the other way round The transport company is always right – or that is at least how it seems! Changing the point of payment so it is effectively in the customer’s control would remove the ambiguity of the ‘returns’ policy operated by most transport authorites/companies. Even if one did pay for a journey and it wasn’t at all satisfactory one could then put a block on the payment!

Would an eBay transport system really work? Who knows, it might be very successful! But on the other hand the very danger is it could turn transport into an exclusive luxury simply for those who can afford it. Society has a lot of new ideas and sadly a lot of old ideas that do not work well. More effort needs to be expended on sorting the wheat from the chaff especially in terms of our very uncertain futures on Planet Earth.

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Class 455 en route to Shepperton. Now re-branded as South Western Trains but have colours somewhat like eBay!

Transport has to be for everyone and very importantly allow anyone to travel regardless of wealth or ability. This isn’t happening at the moment – yet the very threat of turning it into a eBay operation might cause our transport planners and governments to re-conceptualise the ways and means by which transport is presented to the public – and ultimately be forced to make it more of a level playing field. Very importantly, both better affordability and availability would be even more attractive to a wider range of users than at present.

You never know, someone might soon realise the present fares system, especially on our railways (not so much the airlines since competitiveness was introduced) was in fact not working as it should. Our transport systems have basically had the same sort of fares systems ever since they first began. Yet a lot of other systems have moved on in terms of economics, management and quality of service. Our rail fares systems are quite long in the tooth, and despite some recent improvements, are no doubt still archaic and new ways of raising revenue are in my view needed. These need to be doubly more fair and easier to understand too and there should be no-one turned away just because they cant afford a certain fare. And if greater subsidies need to be given to the railways, then so be it. In my view its time to end the argument that subsidies means far worse train services.

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Britain’s busiest railway junction. Come to think of it… perhaps Amazon should maintain the tracks and stations?

The imminent, and potentially dangerous environment crisis we are facing no doubt means public transport has to do this sooner than later, as our rail systems, bus services, and so on can give proper and serious solutions to the environment crisis. Its something that has to be embraced and that’s why I deem there needs to be a totally new approach as to how we use and pay for transport. Even if it means we have to go as far as making transport free for everyone then so be it.

If our transport operators and governments don’t want to progress in this urgent sense, well then perhaps its time to give the damn lot of the UK’s public transport over to eBay!

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