Our latest print issue is our 400th Bus and Coach Professional. The first one landed back in March 1998 and I have been flicking back through the pages of those early issues to see what has changed, and what hasn’t.
The first thing that clearly hasn’t changed is change itself. Our opening comment read: “Today, operators face continuous change and development, where the only certainty is change itself.” I could write exactly the same sentence today.
And regulation and commercialisation is another old chestnut. The then transport minister Glenda Jackson [yes, I’d forgotten that as well] warned operators that reasserting local control over bus services was still firmly on the agenda. Oh, the heady days of the New Labour government elected in 1997.
And we also managed to get in a story on electric vehicles in that first issue. Stagecoach Oxford had taken over a service in the city backed by the county council using electric hybrid Iveco minibuses, originally championed by Thames Transit. Sadly the experiment was being curtailed due to local authority cutbacks; plus ca change.
But the bus industry back in 1998 was largely run by those who had come through the transition from public ownership and heavily regulated regimes, and compared to now, it is in some ways unrecognisable.
The biggest change to me about today’s industry is the new generation of managers who have entered the sector and worked their way up through it. A new breed of more commercially-focussed, tech savvy and marketing-aware leaders that are seeking to transform the positioning and the branding of the bus and coach product.
One of the key motivations for me in launching the magazine 21 years ago was that I had fallen in love with an industry that I’d arrived in by accident, and become enchanted with the professionalism, warmth and charm of the many characters it comprised. Today, little has changed for me, it’s still the people that make the difference and they’re the reason I aim to stick around for a good while yet.