A Bus Man’s JourneyPete Adney | July 25, 2014
Anyone who has met me will know that I’m a bus man. I grew up travelling on buses and later went to work on them. I’ve been in the industry – filling a variety of roles – for almost 30 years.
I come from an era where buses provided a public service, which is probably why I believe the passenger should sit at the heart of the public transport industry – and all the decisions we make should be with the aim of improving the quality of service provided.
Things may not always have been perfect, but we shared a sense of pride in the service – and buses were integral to the communities in which they operated.
Back then buses were run by the local councils with a focus on public service. Cost controls were a secondary consideration – and the idea of shareholders and corporate parents would have been too strange to imagine.
As a consultant for Trapeze, I visit plenty of bus depots. Following deregulation and decades of commercialisation, cost cutting and credit crises, the modern depot has become a pressurised and under-resourced environment where managers are constantly challenged to reduce and simplify, providing a ‘comparable’ service with fewer drivers, vehicles and staff.
We have attempted to convince the public that nothing has changed (or even that things have improved), but bus users aren’t stupid: they have seen low demand routes reduced or removed leaving remote villages and communities isolated. Public perception of bus travel has been damaged.
When I worked for an operator I tried to combat these pressures while maintaining quality of service by looking creatively at routes, drivers and vehicles. I tried to find ways to enable us to operate better and leaner: to become better at what we do.
I now take a similar approach to my job at Trapeze – only from the other side of the road.
There are different ways to use technology. Of course we can use it to make the things we do cheaper – but we can also use it to make them better.
Some examples might be: using technology to help operators to build lasting, trusting relationships with customers, or to use passenger movements to tailor services to actual demand (making better use of the resource we have). In other areas, technology can be used to improve driver training, to increase passenger safety and the quality of their experience.
We have been through a difficult period, but I believe we are entering an exciting time for public transport. Technology is helping to deliver a better service to the people – and bringing back a little of the industry I grew up loving.
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