Royals Express was launched last month and offers consumers a truly unique experience of traveling from Lahore to Islamabad for as low as Rs. 1. The bus service claims it provides luxury travels at lowest rates of Rs. 1, Rs. 200, Rs. 400 or Rs. 800 whereas other bus services like Daewoo charge over PKR 1000 for the same distance.
Users will have to book their ticket before others to avail the Rs. 1 ticket and as the number of passengers grows the fare increases. We visited the Royals Express service located at Rahbar Travels terminal on Band Road, Lahore to record the experience of consumers.
The Royal Bus can be seen from a distance as it is a shiny red-colored vehicle which feels and looks ‘expensive’ in contrast to its cheap ticket rates. The waiting area is clean and customer representatives are well dressed and most importantly well mannered.
Similar to the exterior, the interior also does not give a hint of cheap pricing as the seating is spacious with adjustable leather seats. WiFi is available through a Wingle device connected to the driver’s port and a mobile charging port is available on every seat but most them were in poor condition.
Danish, a student who travels every week from Islamabad to Lahore and back, says he has been using the service for a month now and it is the first time that he has been successful in securing a Rs. 2 ticket. Defining the easy mode of payment as a convenient facility he said, “You don’t have to physically come to the terminal which makes it easier to book a seat for a low price.”
Danish compared Royal’s service to other bus services he had previously been traveling with and said if not better, it is definitely on par with other buses. While he talked about how good the services were it was surprising to see that only 5 people were traveling in the bus. It either means that the new buses have seen very less marketing to their name or the standard of services has not been consistent.
Another student, Imad, said he has been using Royals Express since more than 2 months and has observed a decline in some services. He revealed that while the booking process is very easy, it has now become difficult to book a ticket for Rs. 2.
Answering a question about the facilities offered inside the bus he complained that the WiFi password has not been provided to him since the last 3 travels and the mobile charging ports are broken at several seats.
Only 5 people were traveling to Islamabad at the time and all of them were regular customers of the service, using it every week and some had tickets booked for the coming weeks too. Whether we consider the scarce amount of passengers or the cheap ticket rates, it is a point to ponder that how has this service been able to generate profits (if any) since its introduction.
Waleed, who is the conductor of the bus, says he has worked in the transport industry for many years and has never seen a service matching Royals Express Service’s ‘flexible pricing.’ Many people don’t believe if the ticket really costs Rs. 1 but it actually does. The service is best for students and has never been introduced by any company before.”
Band Road is a major hub of transportation services and agencies and two other services, who requested for their names not be exposed, said the introduction of such a service has not affected their business in any manner and a Rs. 1 ticket was nothing but a marketing gimmick.
The overall quality of the bus was nothing short of any other service but work needs to be done on marketing the service through the right channels if the company wants to sustain competition and remain a market player for years to come.