Sunday, 14 September 2014

Guided Buses

This article is a follow-up to one I did in June; please read it for essential background:
Last week's Oxford Times had a front page article on guided buses. Several traffic and transport officials in Oxfordshire County Council have suggested installing a guided busway in the area; it is to be based on the Cambridge model. The Cambridgeshire Guided Busway is the longest in the world, stretching from Huntingdon railway station to Trumpington, a suburb south of Cambridge. The route includes two guided sections altogether making up sixteen miles. A guided bus is a passenger vehicle powered by a conventional diesel or electric engine with normal wheels and chassis etc. It looks outwardly like any other bus, except that it can be steered by external means. There are several different guided bus systems; the most common is kerb-guidance in which the bus has a second set of wheels mounted horizontally which rest on a track running along the side of specialized carriageways, so steering the vehicle along the lane. In this way guided buses resemble, in role and function, light railways or trams, except guided buses are far more versatile because they can retract the guide-wheels and drive on ordinary roads as well, where they are manually controlled by the driver using a steering wheel like any other bus. There are more sophisticated guided bus systems in which the bus has no extra wheels and no track; instead an electronic optical system follows a painted line on the road. In this way guided bus lanes have no special infrastructure and are essentially exactly the same as ordinary roads; they can even double up as them. I'm in no doubt that these vehicles represent a transition between the personally-controlled and the driverless transport that I discuss in the background article above. Like driverless cars, guided buses have advantages; they are faster, safer, easier to use and more fuel efficient. It's perfectly understandable that the planners at Oxon County Council are considering installing them. However, the general trend they represent does concern me for the reasons I describe in the background article. I know a bus is not personal transport anyway, but it is a way of testing and introducing the technology necessary to manipulate personal transport. What works for buses could just as easily work for private cars; maybe even motorcycles. We're handing over more and more of our individual means of travel to higher authorities which gives them more and more power to monitor and control our movements as they see fit.
See here for the website of the Cambridgeshire Guided Busway:

1 comment:

Ben Emlyn-Jones said...
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