Passenger satisfaction rises
Passenger satisfaction with bus services has gone up 4% since last year, according to research published by Passenger Focus, with an overall score of 88% across the industry
The Bus Passenger Survey (BPS) was conducted in the autumn of 2013 with responses from 34,000 passengers covering 34 areas/operators
Within England, the survey was conducted in: six former metropolitan authorities; two transport authority areas-groups and 11 local transport authority areas. For the first time it also covered operations in Scotland. It also saw 22 authorities and 15 different area-operators buying extra survey responses to enhance its usefulness
In England, the top scoring operator was Reading Buses, with 94% total satisfaction. In second place was Ipswich Buses, with 93%. Lothian Buses achieved a 96% overall satisfaction score, with punctuality and waiting times rated at 90% and 91% respectively, higher than the national averages of 77% and 76%. First Glasgow also scored very well, with 91% of its passengers saying they were ‘very satisfied’ or ‘fairly satisfied’ with their overall journey. Across FirstGroup, overall satisfaction was 86%. Passenger satisfaction amongst other operators was: Arriva 86%, National Express 86%, Go North East 90%, Stagecoach 90%, Abellio Surrey 86%, Blackpool Transport 88%, Diamond Buses 86%, Ensign Bus 90%, Norfolk Green 89% and Wessex Connect 84%.
Of the transport authorities and regions surveyed, passenger satisfaction scores were: Greater Manchester 86%, Merseyside 89%, South Yorkshore PTE 89%, Tyne and Wear (Nexus) 90%, West Midlands (Centro) 86%, West Yorkshire (Metro) 88%, Tees Valley Group 88%, West of England Partnership 83%, Blackpool 89%, Devon 90%, Essex 83%, Kent 90%, Lancashire 84%, Milton Keynes 84%, Norfolk 89%, Northumberland 85%, Suffolk 93%, Thurrock 84% and City of York 88%.
Commenting on achieving top results, Chief Executive of Lothian Buses, Ian Craig, said, ‘Knowing that the vast majority of our passengers are satisfied with all aspects of our service is excellent news and shows the outstanding levels of service that our staff are continuing to provide. The fact that we have topped the survey is even more encouraging and reflects the efforts our team make across the business to provide the best possible fleet and services. At Lothian Buses we are always looking for ways to improve our offering to our customers, especially as we prepare to run Edinburgh’s new tram service.’
MD of FirstGroup’s Bus Division, Giles Fearnley, said, ‘Today’s Passenger Focus results are further evidence that our transformation plan is working. The positive Passenger Focus results come as no surprise. We’ve made some far reaching improvements throughout the UK that are reaping rewards. Fares reductions in Manchester, for example, have persuaded an extra 150,000 people per week to travel with First and contributed to an improvement of more than 30% in our value for money score in that area. Our new simpliCITY network in Glasgow is providing better and more frequent services which is reflected in a tremendous overall satisfaction score of 91%. Across all our operations, including those not covered by Passenger Focus’ survey, our transformation programme is resulting in better bus services and passenger growth. Of course we’ve still got more to do across all our markets and I’m very confident that Passenger Focus will have an even better First customer satisfaction story to share next year.’
CEO, Reading Transport Ltd, James Freeman, said, ‘After a year of ups, winning multiple awards, and downs when suffering from the effects of appalling traffic chaos, this survey provides vindication for the hard work of all our frontline staff. We view this survey as an essential marker of how we are performing as it is carried out independently of us by Passenger Focus using our customers’ opinions of our service. Perhaps the most pleasing statistic from the entire survey is that 63% of Reading Buses passengers have made a conscious choice to travel by bus – an increase from the 56% in the previous year. One of the most pleasing features is the 10 point leap in the 16-34 year old group to 94% – no doubt spurred on by the success of Solo – an initiative that has removed barriers to young people travelling by bus. Solo has resulted in 500,000 extra rides in the first year and is growing 25% to 30% year on year. And the great news for Reading Buses’ Academy is that all sections covering the bus drivers’ performance increased, including such measures as greeting customers, helpfulness and safety of driving. This is the second year that we have taken part in this survey and again at our own expense. It is money very well spent. The survey gives us an invaluable insight into what our customers are thinking about us and it provides an invaluable comparison with other operators.’
Ipswich Bus MD, Malcolm Robson, said, ‘We are really pleased with these results, it demonstrates the efforts the whole team has made over the last 18 months developing Ipswich Buses into a great local transport option. However, we will not rest on our laurels as there are still some areas of the survey that have revealed things that we need to work on to bring everything up to the 90% level. However, we believe these results give us a great springboard to show people who do not use the bus regularly that it really is a viable option for travel in the town and we will challenge car users in the town to give the bus a go.’
Chair of the North East Bus Operators’ Association and MD of Go North East, Kevin Carr, said, ‘These results are a real thumbs-up from people in Tyne and Wear that bus companies and bus workers are delivering good services and improving the quality of the bus network in the region. But we don’t want to stand still – we want to make bus travel in the North East even better. We have put forward a package of proposals to Nexus that will allow us to build on the excellent bus network we already have and take it to the next level. Partnership will deliver more multi-million pound investment in new greener buses, smarter ticketing, better value fares, and more involvement for the local community in the development of their bus services. It will also save local taxpayers hundreds of thousands of pounds. We hope local politicians listen to what bus passengers are saying in this survey and work with us to get even more people back on board the bus.’
CPT’s CEO, Simon Posner, said, ‘How many other industries can claim to have a satisfaction rate of 88% by the people who really matter – their customers? Bus operators have worked hard to improve the passenger experience and this survey shows the results of the efforts made. Last year’s ratings were very impressive. To show further improvement is an exceptional result for operators and demonstrates once again that Britain’s bus industry delivers for its customers, day in and day out. The industry recognises that despite these high scores there is always room for improvement. The industry will look carefully at the detail of the Survey findings and will work to improve still further the services offered. Through sharing best practice and working in partnership, the industry is confident it can improve still further on the satisfaction levels. For the people who matter – our passengers – reliability and punctuality remain the number one concern. Today’s Survey results show what can – and has – been achieved by working closely with local authorities and stakeholders. This proves once again what we already knew – the partnership approach works.’
Passenger Focus Acting Chief Executive, David Sidebottom, said, ‘This improvement in bus passengers’ overall satisfaction demonstrates what can be done when bus operators and transport authorities use the BPS results to identify improvements for their passengers. And the evidence from some areas shows they are doing just that. With the right approach it can make a significant difference. From our ongoing work with the industry it is apparent that improvements can come about from better working arrangements between authorities and operators. These can provide a focus on what passengers really want from their bus service. However, there is still room for improvement. The survey provides pointers for future action and our conversations with operators and authorities have helped identify what could be done to further improve passenger satisfaction.’
to see the report in full
By Chris Peat