Searching for the up-side

The latest Bus Industry Performance report from Passenger Transport Monitor makes quite stark reading with a further decline in bus industry profitability and a sharp fall in capital investment. The report’s authors, who analysed the accounts of more than 100 operators around the country for the 2017/18 financial year, say that the profit figures are the worst they have recorded over the past decade. And less than a third of the companies are earning 8 per cent or more which is believed to be a reasonable threshold to meet ongoing financial obligations and invest in the future.

The operating environment has rarely been tougher and it will require all the creativity and ingenuity of the industry to ensure it can survive and thrive.

On the up-side, we are seeing some very significant advances in technology which is making a real difference to the way that buses are operated, and how they are perceived by users and potential users. But although the new breed of transport techies are a great asset,

smart gadgets are clearly not the only ingredient of a successful bus business

Local bus managers need to, and the best ones already do, look at their network from the perspective of a stranger arriving in your town with no idea how to use the bus. From branding to marketing materials, smart staff, clean and welcoming interiors as well as simple-to-understand ticketing systems, none of it is rocket science, but if implemented effectively and consistently, it makes a huge difference.

I look forward to meeting some of the leading thinkers and creators at Coach & Bus UK next month. See you there.

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