Driver still plays a big part

Independent watchdog, Transport Focus, has launched its eighth annual Bus Passenger Survey.

Highlighting the report’s most salient finding, Director, David Sidebottom, said: “Despite all the great technical innovation out there, passengers are telling us that it’s still the bus driver that can make or break their journey experience.”

The survey identifies factors that help deliver ‘good’ and ‘great’ passenger journeys. It found the helpfulness, positive attitude and driving standards of the bus driver had a significant impact on both the ‘good’ and ‘great’ journeys.

Speaking to almost 48,000 bus passengers across Great Britain, Transport Focus also found that:

  • • Overall passenger satisfaction was 88% in England, outside of London (89% in Scotland and 90% in Wales)
  • • As in 2016, 65% of passengers were satisfied that their trip provided value for money
  • • 73% of passengers were satisfied with the punctuality of their service
  • • Once on the bus, 84% of passengers were satisfied with the journey time

There were some significant improvements in passenger satisfaction with punctuality and timeliness of trips in cities like Manchester, for example. However, there were also some significant declines in satisfaction with punctuality and timeliness of journeys in towns such as Reading, as congestion and the ‘growing pains’ of town centre redevelopment slow traffic down.

Transport Focus is now to take these results out to governments, transport authorities and operators.

Industry’s response

Commenting on the results, CPT’s Chief Executive, Simon Posner, said: “Passengers have once again given a ringing endorsement to their local bus services. The scope of this important annual Survey is truly representative of the view of bus passengers – the people who really matter. An average satisfaction score of 88% is an extraordinary result and one many other industries can only aspire to achieve. Each year this Survey proves the resilience of the industry and demonstrates that the bus industry is delivering for passengers. CPT looks forward to continuing to work with its member operators, central and local Government, and all stakeholders to further promote the benefits of bus travel.”

Giles Fearnley, MD at First Bus, said: “These results confirm what we already know, that we need to continue our focus on improving customer experience, but it’s pleasing to see that our value for money rating has increased, as well as achieving outstanding satisfaction results across some of our local businesses.

“We are investing in our people by increasing the amount of customer service training all of our drivers receive with our industry leading Journey Makers programme. We are also reviewing our entire customer service proposition and improving our omnichannel approach to customer service enquiries.

“Our customer-focussed projects are ambitious and change will not take place overnight – it will take time for this to filter through the results of surveys like this. However, we’re more confident than ever that we’re on the right track and that we are focussing on the best ways to improve the customer experience going forwards.”

The Harrogate Bus Company achieved a 91% overall satisfaction rating in the survey. Additionally, 90% of bus users in Harrogate were satisfied with the speed of their journey, higher than the West Yorkshire average of 80%. CEO of the Transdev owned operation, Alex Hornby, said: “The positive journey time rating is especially important to us, as it demonstrates to motorists and rail users alike that the bus isn’t a slow way of getting from A to B. All our buses in Yorkshire will also soon be offering contactless payment on-board, to make travel quicker and simpler, while our recently launched ‘Transdev Go’ smartphone app offers real-time travel updates and instant access to amazing value ticket deals in the palm of your hand.”

Go-Ahead Group has received the highest satisfaction rating of all operators in England, with a score of 91% (closely followed by Stagecoach on 90%). The company has been awarded the joint-highest score an UK national bus operator has ever received, tied only with its previous best in 2011.

Go-Ahead Group’s MD for Bus Development, Martin Dean, said: “For customers to give us a record score at a time when bus services generally are under threat from growing congestion in our cities, is a testament to the dedication of our staff.”

Satisfaction with Stagecoach bus services has risen to 90%. MD for Stagecoach UK Bus in England and Wales, Mark Threapleton, said: “These independent results are a fantastic endorsement of the hard work of our employees across the UK in delivering better bus services, better customer service and industry-leading value for money. Bus users in metro-mayor areas across England, including Greater Manchester, are backing the work we’re doing in partnership with other operators and transport authorities to provide easier, more affordable and better joined up journeys. We are also seeing high levels of satisfaction with our bus services in the rest of England as well as in Scotland and Wales. We know there is still more work for us to do, but we desperately need tougher action from local authorities to address the impact of car congestion.”

Reading Buses overall satisfaction at 88% placed the company joint eighth score in the country out of 64 bus operators. Its CEO, Martijn Gilbert, said: “Most encouraging of all is recognition of the vitally important role of our frontline employees in delivering the best possible service to customers. Despite road closures and notable traffic disruption in the town at the time the survey took place, customers still rated our drivers highly and appreciated our efforts to get them where they needed to go.”

A reduction in satisfaction was due to falls in journey time and punctuality. Martijn said: “The reason for this is not remarkable when considered that the survey took place between September and December 2017 during road closures, roadworks and notable traffic disruption across the town and beyond, elements outside of Reading Buses control.”

• Full details of the Bus Passenger Survey are available via the Transport Focus website at:

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