2019 Making Buses a Better Choice

Making Buses a Better Choice: the Peter Huntley Memorial Award sponsored by sponsored by Heathrow

Winner, Gold Award, Glider – Translink

In September 2018, Translink launched the flagship Belfast Rapid Transit (BRT) Glider system. Delivery of the new system was a key objective of the Northern Ireland Programme for Government and has an important role in the sustainable growth of Belfast. Glider, is the culmination of a decade long, £90m programme that has transformed public transport in Belfast. It included extensive works to provide bus priority across the city, public transport interchanges, new halts, a major vehicle service centre and off-board ticketing system, enhanced passenger information systems, a fleet of hybrid articulated buses, feeder services, over 130 new staff and new operational arrangements. The system was developed by Translink in conjunction with the Department for Infrastructure, key stakeholder groups and local communities. Glider largely replaced the existing urban bus services on routes to East and West Belfast and into the expanding Titanic Quarter. Since launching, Glider has produced unprecedented growth in passenger numbers on the corridors and outstanding operational performance.

The judges appreciated that the scheme was made possible by heavy scale government investment in infrastructure and pointed out that Glider has brought communities together over and above the creation of a modern and well used transport system linking the east and west of Belfast. They also noted excellent partnership working throughout the project and the basis to expand the system across the city in the future.

Winner, Silver Award, PickMeUp – Oxford Bus Company

PickMeUp is an innovative on demand ride sharing minibus service, launched in June last year by the Oxford Bus Company. The service operates a fleet of high specification minibuses, offering air conditioning, free WiFi and USB charging, high-backed seats and wheelchair and pushchair friendly low-loading. From launch, the fleet consisted of seven brand new minibuses, with two more added in March due to increased customer demand. The service depends on technology designed in partnership with Via Transportation Inc and enables passengers to book and pay for rides using an app, and then track their minibus as it comes to collect them from the road side a short walkable distance from their location. The technology continually calculates the best routes for the fleet to use to carry passengers, enabling rides to be shared between several different parties at any time, reducing congestion, pollution and costs. The savings are passed on to passengers, who pay a flat fee of just £2.50 or £3.00 for most journeys anywhere within the travel zone. The service operates seven days a week.

This seven day operation fills a gap – or as one of the judges commented: “It’s the right service in the right service in the right place.

Winner, Bronze Award, metrobus Bristol – First West of England

First West of England’s metrobus has revolutionised bus travel in Bristol. An innovative new service, it has carried more than two million passengers in a little over a year and customer numbers are still growing. It uses guided busways, bus only bridges and buy before you board ticketing to speed up journeys. The dual door buses feature free WiFi and charging points alongside comfortable seats. These investments are paying off, encouraging modal shift to bring new people onto the bus and with very high reliability satisfaction rating and 80% of customers would recommend the service to a friend. Overcoming initial scepticism, the routes have exceeded expectations of stakeholders, media and customers alike and the network is now Bristol’s flagship service for the future of mobility in the city.

The judges said that this entry demonstrated what can be achieved with good partnership working between politicians and other stakeholders, and bus companies.

Finalist, purple 17 – Reading Buses

Purple17 is Reading Buses oldest bus route running for 80 years. With a policy of changing vehicles every seven years, the current vehicles were coming to the end of their lifecycle on the route. The project set about to improve everything about the service – buses, reliability, helping those with mobility issues and promoting best value fares while maintaining the 24/7 service. At the start of last year, £5.1million was invested in Scania/ADL double deck biogas buses with a high-quality interior for the route. Combining Reading Buses renowned customer focus with technology, and partnering with local authorities for bus priority, the company has made buses more punctual and customer satisfaction has improved. Despite average traffic speeds in Reading slowing, the re-vamped purple 17 route has got 5% more customers and 8% more revenue while using one less bus – a colourful result!

Finalist, Transforming Rosso – Rosso

Founded in 1907, Rossendale Transport (or Rosso) was a council owned bus company with a long and distinguished history. With a challenging operating and geographic environment, and crippled by congestion and years of under-investment, Rosso was a company in decline. Transdev approached Rossendale Borough Council believing they could turn around the fortunes of this failing company with its winning formula of motivating people and revitalising services to generate growth. Rosso, and its 220 employees, joined the Transdev family in January last year, and since the, the company has been turned around. Six new brands have been introduced and there has been investment in people and vehicles, returning the company to growth and profit. Rosso is shows what can be achieved through investment, partnership and customer focus in a relatively short space of time. The image of the bus to the people of Bury, Rochdale and Rossendale has been transformed.

Finalist, N21 night bus – Stagecoach South West

Following one of the regular “Meet the Directors” sessions at Barnstaple depot, some feedback was picked up from drivers who said that some teenagers would wait in the bus station after 3am waiting for the first bus in the morning as they could not afford a taxi home (some taxi fares from Barnstaple to Bideford were over £40 which is expensive when travelling alone). The Operations Director and Operations Manager shortly afterwards spent a Saturday evening travelling on route 21 to see if there was a potential market. One key observation was the line up at around 8pm in Barnstaple of over 30 taxis which are not normally present during the day. These were clearly part time taxi drivers and there was a market potential for a night bus service. The N21 brought night services to rural North Devon initially linking Braunton with Barnstaple to Bideford but later extended to Ilfracombe following a petition from residents. The service operates every 30 minutes from midnight until after 4am following the same route as the core 21/21A service during the day. The Night Service has grown the market for bus travel. The revenue taken is clearly from non-regular users.There is evidence that evening traffic is growing between 7pm and midnight (before night bus starts).

Finalist, S6 Swindon to Oxford Improvements – Stagecoach West

Stagecoach West identified the opportunity to improve their long-standing inter-urban bus service, the S6, which serves the two increasingly popular areas of Swindon and Oxford. With growing numbers of proposals for residential developments along the A420 corridor, it became clear that a more frequent and attractive bus route was needed. To increase patronage and maintain a commercially viable service, Stagecoach West needed to change the S6 service to meet changing customer needs. Following their customer research into priorities for bus travel, Stagecoach West made a £3m investment in the route, introducing 12 brand new E400 MMC vehicles and also increasing the frequency at peak times to every 15 minutes, representing a “turn-up-and-go” service offer. The implemented changes had a significant improvement on patronage, with March 2019 seeing a 16% increase in passengers travelling in comparison to the previous year. At a time in England where local bus passenger journeys are declining and local authority transport budgets are taking cuts, Stagecoach West has successfully made customer-focused changes to strengthen the S6 route and stabilise the future of a commercial bus service.

Finalist, Connector 98/99 – Thames Travel

Didcot Great Western Park bus services – Connector 98/99. Great Western Park in Didcot was highlighted in a recent “Transport for New Homes” report as an example of a modern housing development not planned or constructed with buses in mind, with such developments often leading to their residents becoming trapped in car dependency. Despite this unpromising start, we have worked proactively in partnership with Taylor Wimpey and Oxfordshire County Council to develop a network of high quality bus services for the development which have seen growing levels of patronage, making the development a more vibrant and attractive place to live – as well as encouraging the use of other public transport modes.

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