I have blogged in the past about the dawn of the the forth industrial revolution, and the implications that this may have on the bigger life picture. Be that the robots that replace skilled construction workers resulting in the effective demise of that career path. History has shown that life evolves indeed who foresaw that in the 1890 ‘s the rise of the internal combustion engine would swiftly replace horses, always seen as the fastest form of transport. But within a generation the private car had utterly replaced the horse as a means of transport, as well as becoming a status symbol for the proud car owner.
Some suggest that here in 2018 we are at a similar tipping point, although it is hard to predict what people’s travel habits and patterns will look like in the coming century. Will people need to travel less, without doubt less people are visiting the Hugh street as home delivery and online shopping become easier for all. So, what does this mean for the humble bus, is it really like the horse close to extinction.
For over 200 years buses have been an intrinsic travel need for all. They are classless, indeed civil rights have been paramount in ensuring that all people travel together in the same buses, at the same prices, sharing the same stops. This was not always the case, but the bus has been the means to define communities. Indeed it offers iconic brands from the London double decker to the romance of the Greyhound road trip. The truth is that the bus is an equaliser it matters not what class you are you all pay the same and go to the same places.
However, modern day facts make for disturbing reading bus decline across the UK is rising as is rail today only 5% of journeys are made by bus with 10% by rail, increases in walking and cycling have not helped, but the killer is the car or taxi accounting for 83% of journeys made. And of course the dramatic increase in 45,000 plus Uber style cars added into the mix have taken their toll In addition the rise of taxi services plus minibus services have bitten away at conventional bus services.
The Institute for Public Policy Research have recently published a report that states that the rise in digital technology like smartphones, will put 63% of transport jobs at risk over the next 50 years. They also suggest that fleets of autonomous vehicles will slaughter the car industry reducing the number of vehicles required in the UK by a whopping 75%.
So, what are we to make of all this? Could we truly face a future world where people are able to function without the bus? Well, in truth no one really knows, partly because in this rapidly changing digital world people will no doubt live by different rules, with different values. One thing is almost for sure it is highly unlikely that I will be around in 50 years maybe by then I will have been long since dead and buried, maybe I could enjoy one of those classic Viking funerals as typified by classic sixties movies starring the likes of Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtiss back in the day. Although instead of me being sent to Valhalla on a burning Viking long boat I can be put to rest on the upstairs back seat of a London Route Master. Truly a fitting end to a Busman’s journey methinks.