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2015 Predictions in Bus Operations

Pete Adney | January 09, 2015

Tags: Public transport | Commercial operator |

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Prediction #1: Fear of spending will continue

I’m going to start this series with a slightly depressing – and perhaps obvious – prediction. Unfortunately it’s also a pretty unavoidable one.

As I speak to friends and colleagues at bus operators around the country it seems clear to me that we are still struggling to shake off the effects of the recession.

People are nervous about spending money, which has created a culture of caution when it comes to investment. Of course, failure to invest results in limited tools to break free of constraints, and so we have the potential for a vicious cycle of underinvestment.

This situation has created a culture where all purchases are ruthlessly scrutinised for their return on investment.

I fully expect this to continue into 2015, which means systems that quickly pay for themselves in cost savings – like DAS-Web or NOVUS DT – will continue to be successful.

Prediction #2: We’ll get better at satisfying passenger needs

Ask a passenger what they want from a bus service and they will tell you buses every five minutes; with comfortable seats; that’s quiet and eco-friendly. But is that what they actually need? Almost certainly not – but how do you know?

I believe the data we now hold about services and passenger movements have placed us on the brink of a sea change in terms of bus service delivery.

Services have always provided a schedule, but now we actually have the tools to analyse which services we need to run; where and when.

2015 will see us move from a world where the Number 11 follows a route simply because it always has, to one where operators can use data to accurately identify exactly where services are needed and how often.

This information will enable operators to adjust services, reducing costs by eliminating wasteful services, but also providing a reliable service aligned to what the passengers actually need.

Prediction #3: It’s going to be a good year for bus operators

In prediction #2 I outlined why I believe that data will help us satisfy customer needs. Not only does this help to deliver better passenger experience; by better targeting services I believe operators will be able to better focus their resources so as to deliver better services with reduced cost.

The combination of increased demand (resulting from better services) which can be met with reduced costs, coupled with lower fuel prices will mean one thing: 2015 is going to be a good year to be a bus operator.

Prediction #4: Centralisation will continue

You are probably aware that centralisation was something of a theme in 2014 (link to centralisation article). But while last year a large number of operators talked about centralisation and a few actually did it; in 2015 it’s already on the agenda for many of the customers I speak to, with business cases in place and projects set to begin.

This year I expect to see centralisation adopted on a huge scale – and in as many different ways as possible. So for example, a product like DAS-Web will tell drivers when they’re working; Electronic Sign-On will tell the office when the drivers have arrived; and Vehicle Allocation will tell them which vehicle they’re driving and where it is.

Centralisation was a big theme of 2014 – but I have a feeling what we’ve seen was merely the tip of the iceberg.

Prediction #5: The rise of the Superuser

With many operators reluctant to invest in new systems unless they can be shown to derive immediate cost savings and/or revenue, the option of training staff to better utilise existing technologies is one which can deliver short term benefits with relatively low costs.

At Trapeze we are seeing a trend towards operators investing in training and consultancy. After all, this is a competitive sector with systems that have evolved over many years of updates and enhancements.

I know our Duty Allocation System (DAS) has countless modules and features designed to improve operations and save money – many of which are often overlooked or become forgotten when staff leave an organisation.

This was a theme of one of the client-led sessions at our 2014 UK Conference, where National Express’ Kieran Barry talked about his own experience as a DAS Superuser.

With budgets set to remain constrained in 2015, I expect Superusers to become more prevalent – and their importance better appreciated – as operators focus their attention on ways to make the most of the technology in which they have already invested.

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About Pete Adney

Pete Adney has worked in the bus industry for over 30 years: as a driver, inspector, assistant manager, manager, and business analyst. In his present role for Trapeze he forms the crucial connection between what the bus sector needs and technology can provide: on a daily basis that involves everything from system specification to implementation. He prides himself on strong customer relationships and feels fortunate to have been part of the bus industry for so long.

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