Coach travel is normally seen as a cheap and cheerful alternative that you'd never seriously pursue for business purposes. But what if the coach offered free Wi-Fi and power outlets at every seat? Road Worrier decided to find out by trying Greyhound's Platinum Business Class service on a trip to the nation's capital.
The twice-daily Platinum Business Class service runs from Central Station in Sydney to the Jolimont Centre in Canberra. Apart from the Wi-Fi , the service also promises a better seat pitch than a typical coach.
Sydney-Canberra is a competitive route. Flying takes under an hour, but isn't always cheap and you have to factor in the hassle of getting to the airport at either end. Driving takes around three hours, depending on traffic. The coach takes around four hours, while the train trip is over four and dumps you outside the city centre.
As a non-driver, I've favoured a mixture of train and plane in the past, but the option to have power at my feet was just too tempting. So last Sunday, I ventured to Canberra on a day-trip to test out the coach service.
The good bits
Travelling on a Sunday has its advantages: there are only half-a-dozen passengers boarding at Central, so we have room to spare. The driver hands us a complimentary bottle of water as we board and reminds us to use our seatbelts once we take off, as well as telling us not to put hand towels down the toilet. (I note there's no ban on taking a dump, which is often the suggested rule when rock stars hit the road.) Surprisingly, he doesn't actually mention the Wi-Fi option until we've been on the road for an hour.
The speeds from the service (provided via Global Gossip) are very unremarkable. I ran multiple speed tests throughout the trip, but the performance was fairly consistent: around 0.3Mbps for both downloads and uploads. That's fine for browsing and email, but stretching the friendship for video.
In truth, you could probably achieve similar or better speeds by tethering to your own device, especially if you have a 4G connection. That said, I'll always use someone else's data if the option is there, and apart from a brief outage just after we hit the Federal Highway, the service seemed reliable and usable, which .
Given the prevalence of mobile phones, the real selling point for this coach is arguably the power outlet. While many modern notebooks can manage four hours, being able to plug in means you arrive with a fully-charged device. There's one point per seat; on my very uncrowded bus, I could easily have used both outlets and charged my phone at the same time.
The seat pitch claims also hold up. I'm 180cm tall and my knees weren't touching the back of the seat in front, which isn't the case on most coaches (or indeed on most planes).
The bad bits
Few other services which promote themselves as business-class would still choose to use seat patterns that would shame an RSL carpet.
That, though, is a minor annoyance. What I really could have done without was the shocking CD of muzak which played for the first hour or so of the journey. The travel experience is not enhanced by an instrumental version of 'Hey Jude' or any version of 'I Never Promised You A Rose Garden', a song which should be erased from our collective memory.
Unlike conventional coaches, you don't make multiple stops in weird out-of-the-way towns, but your coach will stop at the international airport in Sydney if there are passenger pick-ups booked from there. This wasn't a major drama on a Sunday morning, but could make the journey substantially longer if there was more traffic about.
Oh, and the clock on the bus was displaying the wrong time entirely (it was two hours and six minutes behind). Yes, I'm stretching; there wasn't much to complain about.
Value for money
I booked the cheapest possible fare in advance, which came in at $29.58. This is lower than the basic train fare, and much lower than the cheapest flight (by watching specials, I've scored flights to Canberra for $49 in the past, but $99 is more the norm). The regular fare hovers around $40 (note that this is the same price you'll pay for a non-Platinum coach, so it's worth using this option if you can.)
I can definitely see this becoming part of my Canberra travel repertoire. For speed, flying can't be beaten, but the ability to stay productive, connected and charged is a major boon.
Lifehacker Australia editor Angus Kidman had forgotten how dull the Hume Highway is. His Road Worrier column, looking at technology and organising tips for travellers, appears each week on Lifehacker.