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Door-to-Door Transport

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Is what most people want. It is why the car is so popular (and bicycle). The convenience, the end-to-end journey time and comfort are other factors. Many households have multiple cars (we reached 5).

But suppose that instead of owning a car you had a car available on demand? You sometimes do, it is called a taxi. Taxis however, are inefficient, not always available and expensive. A taxi with 4 seats typically operates at well under 10% utilisation.

Cars are also not the best solution for long journeys. Trains are much faster – I can get to London from Macclesfield in 1h 42m – driving would take twice as long (at least). The problem with trains is that they only make the city centre to city centre segment faster. What is really important is door-to-door journey time. It takes me 35 minutes to get to the station, park, wait for train and another 25 minutes from Euston to get to my client near Trafalgar Square. Overall journey time = 2h 42m.

High-speed trains (e.g. HS2) do not significantly shorten overall journey times. I will still have to get to a high speed “node” (e.g. Stafford) and wait for an HS2. Only city centre to city centre times will be shorter. And the shorter the “high speed” segment and the more nodes (waypoints/stations) the less effective high speed becomes because trains have to speed-up and slow down.

A 30 minute train time between Manchester and Leeds is great for the few, the accountants and politicians with city centre offices, but for the many there is no major benefit. If it stops at Morley, Huddersfield and Stalybridge the journey time increases dramatically.

The Germans studied this and realised that what is really needed is an integrated door-to-door transport solution, combining taxis, regional transport (e.g. S-Bahn, trams) and inter-city rail. The “taxis” are comfortable 6-8 seat vehicles that travel a variable route, picking people up and dropping them off – for a fixed price of £50 per month.

Technology is moving fast as well. We will soon (2025-30) have autonomous vehicles making this quite feasible economically.

Many households will still want one car (traditional or autonomous) but the need for as many cars goes, it is much more sensible to have a “transport subscription” just as we have film and mobile phone subscriptions. The autonomous “Taxmobils” will operate at a high utilisation. The school run will be transformed – children will be picked-up from their house, stopping to collect others on the route, and then on to school.

Similarly, a Taxmobil will pick me up from my house, take me to Macclesfield station in time to catch the fast train to Manchester where I will walk across the platform to catch the fast train to Huddersfield. At Huddersfield another Taxmobil will be waiting to take me to my client in the middle of nowhere.

The nature of work is also changing for many people. Working from home (WFH) is increasingly common, and if you only go to your office 2 times a week, the economics of running a car change. Most people want to live close to where they work so apart  from leisure travel, HS2/3 is irrelevant for the many. The £65bn can be put to much better use.

Eventually, we will have hyper loop (Very high speed trains) but the city centre to city centre problem still remains and it is best suited to long distances

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