Platinum connected

The fight is on for business-commuting coach passengers between Canberra and Sydney as Greyhound’s platinum class service starts

Platinum connected
Platinum connected

By David Goeldner | May 25, 2012

The fight for business class coach passengers on the Canberra to Sydney route is on in earnest with this week’s launch of Greyhound’s ‘Platinum’ service.

Although just one coach is being used on the busy run, the vehicle doesn’t come much classier, having being acquired by Greyhound in January from Richard Dawes’ Australia Wide Coaches operation.

Greyhound Australia General Manager Express Kevin Lyons says the Scania-Irizar coach is similar to other vehicles in the Greyhound fleet, with some unique features added.

"This coach has a greater seat pitch with high quality Napa leather seats," he says.

Lyons says Australia Wide Coaches in Sydney had specced the vehicle for another task which didn’t eventuate.

"We bought the coach and added power and USB connections to each seat," Lyons says.

"We’ve branded the coach ‘Greyhound Platinum’."

The service commenced on May 1, and officially launched late May with an event in Sydney featuring Greyhound Australia ambassador and noted jazz musician James Morrison.

In fact, Morrison appeared an apt choice to launch the service, given he is licenced to drive a heavy vehicle, and regularly travels between Sydney and Canberra.

"In the fast-paced business world every minute matters," Morrison says.

"The fact that you can board the coach and have uninterrupted internet and mobile phone reception from the moment you board until the moment you disembark is priceless.

"I’ve traditionally chosen to fly between Sydney and Canberra for work but with the new Greyhound Platinum Business Class coach service in action this will be my preferred method of travel."

Lyons says Morrison had "a lot of fun" on the day at the launch, and got behind the wheel of the coach for the media entourage.

As in music, coach travel also requires precise timing, and could be the key to the success of the new Platinum service developed by Lyons and his team.

"We wanted to get the service operating and get the timing right," Lyons says.

The service leaves Canberra at 6am and arrives in Sydney at 9.15am and back to Canberra at 4.30pm, allowing people from Canberra a full day’s work, travelling city centre to city centre.

"We are doing some research to work out where we would run the coach during the day in Sydney," says Lyons.

"We’ve only got the one coach at the moment, and this is a ‘proof of concept’ for us.

"If this works we will be looking for more of these types of coaches, not only on Canberra to Sydney but other similarly-timed routes."

Lyons says Greyhound was considering similar Platinum services between Sydney and Wollongong and Sydney to Newcastle, and from Brisbane to Toowoomba, Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast.

As for the Canberra-Sydney service, Lyon admits that the Greyhound service is in direct competition with noted Canberra operator Murrays.

Presently there are about 25 coach services a day running between the two centres.

"It’s the only express route that Murrays have, but we are really pitching this to airline travellers who are considering the alternatives."

Lyons says the coach service avoid the scenario of going to the airport, then through security, wait in the lounge for the aircraft, and then fly without power or Wi-Fi connection.

"We are really after that Canberra community market that is looking for an alternative to flying," he says.

"And there’s a very strong student market out there between Canberra and Sydney."

Lyons says the primary benefit of the coach service is providing each passenger with a power outlet for a notebook computer, with USB and full Wi-Fi connectivity.

"We want to differentiate ourselves and provide the opportunity for passengers who want to work on the coach for the entire journey to be able to do that with power and connectivity, with Wi Fi included."

Of course the Platinum pitch is in the ticket price, but at $36 dollars for a Canberra to Sydney luxury coach leg, it pales in comparison to a typical $70 cab fare to the airport, according to Lyons.

Lyons says the coach load factor for the new service was ‘good’, and he was encouraged by word-of-mouth feedback vindicating the decision to operate with just 50 seats, contrasted to a 63 seat coach operated by Murrays.

And unlike an expanding list of long-distance scheduled coach services along Australia’s eastern seaboard, the Platinum brand is not pitched at Greyhound’s burgeoning backpacker market.

"Certainly not, this is targeted at the Canberra commuter market, whether it be business people or students," says Lyons.

"This is a very different product for what we put in the market for backpackers."

Lyons says the Platinum service coincides with a strong period for Greyhound.

"We’ve diversified into the mining industry which is going ‘gang busters’ at the moment," he says.

"In fact we are shaking our heads wondering how we are going to manage all of the contracts."

Under development are services to transport workers at the Wheatstone LNG operation north of Onslow on Western Australia’s Pilbara coast.

"We won the contract last year, but we are just starting to roll out the services," Lyons says.

"To put this in perspective, this one contract could be as big as what Greyhound carries around the rest of Australia at the moment."

From the tourism side of the business, Lyons says patronage is up from last year.

"So that’s encouraging even though tourism is a bit ‘soft’ at the moment," Lyons says.

And with new CEO Neil Taylor joining Greyhound Australia earlier this year, Lyons believes the company now has a "complete management team".

"We are doing extremely well on all fronts and the business is on a stable footing at the moment," he says.

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