Blog post:

2016 Predictions in Bus Operations

Pete Adney | February 10, 2016

Tags: Commercial operator | Future of transport |

Looking back to this time last year, it’s fascinating to see which of the predictions I made in 2015 have come true for UK bus operators – and which are still ongoing. With this in mind, I wanted to make some further predictions about trends we can expect to see in 2016 – and highlight areas that industry professionals will want to keep an eye on…

Prediction #1: Centralisation, centralisation, centralisation

One of my key predictions in 2015 was that we would see a large number of operators looking to adopt policies, schemes and initiatives with one goal in mind: centralisation.

This prediction certainly came true in 2015 – so much so that we actually ran a session on this topic at our annual conference, where we invited our clients to share their stories of what they’ve done in this area. It was a fascinating experience.

A good example is Abellio London & Surrey, who have centralised operations to ensure that meaningful information is readily accessible to staff whenever required. As a result, they have been able to improve processes to make better use of their resources and enabled staff to multitask so as to become more effective in their roles.

The benefits of centralisation suggest it’s a theme that will continue for some time, so I expect to see it on the agendas of even more bus operators throughout 2016.

Indeed, as I point out in this article, we appear to be at a point where a perfect storm of factors – financial, technical and cultural – are driving operators to embrace centralisation. I believe the future will see the use of technology further assist operators increase efficiencies, improve communication processes and internal collaboration, while also making significant cost savings.

What we’ve seen already is just the start of something much bigger – which could very well prove to be a revolution in the way UK bus operators work.

Prediction #2: Big data will get, well, bigger

The sheer volume of data that is now available to bus operators is staggering, and it represents a significant opportunity for organisations to realise some big benefits if they utilise it effectively.

By tracking passenger movements, numbers and demands, operators can capture a better picture of what their customers need. Isn’t it inevitable that we will find ever more effective ways to use this information to update and improve operating strategies?

It’s a fine art putting a vehicle on the road that not only meets passengers’ basic requirements but actually exceeds their highest demands. By utilising all available data, operators will be able to do so more consistently.  

I believe there’s no such thing as “too much data” – it’s all information that can be used to make better informed decisions that improve services to passengers. Because of this, I predict that 2016 will see a rapid rise in the number of organisations gathering and utilising data.

Prediction #3: Learning from passengers

Technology has and is changing the game. The rise in the popularity of Smartphones, along with the availability of Wi-Fi on buses and the increasing use of journey planning tools and passenger information apps, offer bus operators the opportunity to gain a new level of understanding of passengers, and how the public are using their services.

This is because the data generated from this technology can help operators learn about their customer’s habits: who they travel with, when they travel, how they travel and – most importantly – why they travel.

Used correctly, this information can help operators redesign routes and services to give passengers the service they need, and in a form that is just as flexible – if not more so – than the private car.

In 2016 I believe we will see operators learning from their passengers and tailoring services around passenger demands. This will help build a relationship between operators and passengers that is vital in increasing passenger retention and ridership.

Prediction #4: The rise of the machines

Increasingly, technology is automating processes in order to address operational challenges. New software, for example, can understand and process data better than ever before, and use this data to improve operational processes.  

Because of this, I expect to see an increase in the number of machines, solutions and systems bus operators utilise over the course of the coming year.

As I’ve already pointed out, increasing availability of data means it is now possible to automate work that was previously done manually – gathering and crunching data without human input, for example. This improves the accuracy of data, reports and information, schedules and timetables, while also reducing costs for operators.

And of course, these machines can also improve the lives of employees. Just think of Traffic Office Admin, which enables managers to better focus their time on valuable activities such as business development, or analysing routes and services that improve the business as a whole.

Prediction #5: Yes or No, the EU Referendum will have serious implications

Obviously, there has been a lot of discussion about what impact a British exit from the European Union would have – not only for bus operators, but for the country as a whole. With talk of an early referendum this summer it is perhaps not surprising that I expect this to play a big role in shaping industry trends this year.

Many businesses have been concerned about what a Brexit could mean, yet for bus operators it’s important to also consider the implications of a ‘remain’ vote.

For instance, if voters choose to stay in the EU then operators must be prepared for any legislative or regulatory changes that may come with it – responding to any European High Court rulings that affect them, such as the recent Average Holiday pay ruling and its impact on bus driver hours and pay.

Equally, if the vote is to leave the EU, this could require operators to introduce retrospective changes to working processes that move away from EU regulatory compliance and instead align with UK legislation.

In other words, change is happening either way, and this can cause significant financial impact for organisations.

The best way to respond to change, of course, is to be ready to adapt effectively. To do this, operators need to be as flexible as possible. Fortunately, advances in software and technology mean there are tools available for organisations that provide and enable this flexibility.

By investing in the right technology solutions, organisations can prepare for whatever impact the EU referendum may have on their business, and be ready for any change that may come.

What do you think will be the key trends and developments over 2016? Are you ready to adapt to any and all changes?

If you’d like to find out more about what technologies are available, please get in touch.

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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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