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In it for the long haul

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There is no other mode of transport which comes even close to matching the low carbon footprint of coach travel. As the long-term viability of the door-to-door convenience of personal mobility based on the motor car comes increasingly under scrutiny, environmentalists are eyeing up the alternatives.

In the past, coach travel was seen as being mainly aimed at students and pensioners. It was the budget alternative for those without the wherewithal or desire to drive themselves, and its image was anything but glamorous. Today, things look very different.

“Our buses are all custom-made for us,” says CEO Mario Rocco Carlomagno, whose family started the company in the 1940s. “We have very comfortable seats with extra width and length so that passengers can stretch out on our overnight routes. With air conditioning, free pillows, complementary hot drinks and integrated charging sockets we try to think of everything that will enhance passenger comfort on their journey.”

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Saj operates a daily service linking Calabria with Milan and has four scheduled daily services to Rome. “We also have five connections to Bari every day and a frequent service to Tuscany,” says Mr. Carlomagno. “These are our most popular routes. We specialize in longer distances and offer mainly overnight services. Around Christmas and at other holiday periods, demand peaks and we lay on additional routes and service frequencies.”

The popularity of its service means that Inter Saj is able to keep its fleet of 32 vehicles fully employed with both scheduled and charter business. “Unlike the airlines, we have a very transparent pricing structure that remains stable throughout the year, even at peak times,” says Mr. Carlomagno. “And while we often have special offers for students and pensioners, we also have business people and tourists using our service for work and pleasure.”

Of course, it will take a major readjustment in cost for people to abandon cheap flights and opt for the environmentally friendly alternative. “We operate at a structural disadvantage that is kept in place by politics,” admits Mr. Carlomagno. “Nevertheless, we have concrete ideas for the future involving a network of services offered by different companies that will help us win business when the balance inevitably tips in our favour.”

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