V/Line will never go for a snack pack, complimentary or otherwise. It's not in their interest to provide such a thing, as it starts cutting in to profits and adds unnecessary work for the driver.
It's worth remembering that places where the snack pack/drinks are available are mostly places where competition between bus companies exists on routes. EG, if you take go to the Istanbul bus station (the "Otogar") and look for a ticket to go to Ankara, you'll be met with a thousand touts competing for your business, hence companies start offering these extras to entice people on to their coaches. V/line, on the other hand, doesn't have competition from other operators, realistically. Hence, they've got little reason to offer such frivolity.
Yes, but if you can attract more people to the service, and generate revenue, then that has some advantages. I'm not talking about food with any kind of expiry date or anything that requires any special storage requirements. I'm talking about something that can be kept in the bus or at Southern Cross. The question is whether the act of giving a person a bottle of water, and a little pack that has some cheese and crackers and a chocolate biscuit in it makes the service more attractive. Yes, it is more work for drivers or station staff, but it also means that the driver has a positive interaction with the customer. That's really the point of this - it provides the operator with the ability to provide a good customer service experience. What's the cost going to be? A few dollars at most - and if you are targetting long distance customers (who pay higher fares) then that's a pretty small amount really.
I'm not suggesting water and snack packs for journeys that are short - but rather for long distance journeys where customers don't have access to the amenities that you might find on a long distance train.
V/Line might not be in competition with other bus companies, but it is absolutely in competition with private cars, and even planes on some routes. Public transport has to stop thinking it is a monopoly - it's actually competing with a whole range of other modes - and having it's smeg kicked for certain types of travel.
As to whether a rest stop is necessary or desirable - shouldn't that be a decision based on customer feedback or trialled to test customer reaction? If you run a bus express from Mildura to Melbourne (with a driver change), you can do it in less than six hours. Most V/Line services (via Swan Hill or Bendigo) take more than seven. If you add a thirty minute stop is that something that customers want? If you stop somewhere that has lunch boxes for sale - can you drop it to 15 mins? If you stop at Bendigo and say to customers that you have the option of getting off there for a break and catching the next train, how many would switch across.
Now I think of it - that would be a really interesting experiment - if you offer customers a coach from an outer regional area, via a station on the RFR network into the city - what proportion would switch to the train vs stay on the bus for a faster journey.
In regard to 2+1 seating, you wouldn't have to do the whole coach - if you did a section of it, then you might be able to strike a balance between capacity and comfort (knowing that one person occupying two seats in 2+2 seating is still pretty good).
So how about this? For long haul coaches:
- Increase the average age permitted for buses, but set much high standards for cleanliness and refurbishment.
- Arrange buses with a combination of 1+2 and 2+2 seating
- Provide a bottle of water and small selection of snacks
- Let customers pay for an empty seat next to them (subject to availability)
- Make driver expectations clearer (for both staff and customers - so everyone knows what they should expect)
- Remove restrictions on eating/drinking other than alcohol, hot food/drinks.
- Work with kiosks and local businesses to sell snack packs suitable for consumption on buses
- At key interchange points, ensure that station staff assist passengers and greet them in an appropriate manner.
Removing a sense of unease for some occasional travellers is really important. If there is someone waiting at the door of the bus who greets the passenger, checks their ticket, hands them a bottle of water and snack and tells them what time they can expect to arrive at their destination - that's a really good service.