Tag Archives: Bus

Business planning 101

business plan


Sunday afternoon working and while we try to avoid Dilbert’s optimism and buzzwords in our Strategic Plan for next year I have also been reading between the lines of the new Transport for London Business Plan. For what its worth my initial thoughts on the business plan are offered, prepared for the South London Partnership .

Kickstart returns

From Ruth Kelly’s (farewell) speechtoday at the Labour party conference:

“And because buses are a vital lifeline to many in our communities I am delighted to announce today an extra £25 million to kickstart new bus services, in both urban and rural areas.”

A bit of digging with DfT suggest this will be new money – yes I know that’s rare – but as always open to a nice little competition, especially if pet topics are covered – “DfT will be particularly interested in proposals that demonstrate how local authorities will use the new bus powers for partnership working in the Local Transport Bill”. 

As council bus men fight to keep their existing services running they will be overjoyed to spend their weekends writing complex business case bids for a 1:50 chance in the Kickstart lottery.

Couldn’t we just have the 25m for the shortfall in concessionary fares payments?

Oh and I marked the Kelly commitment to Crossrail down for further reference – as the last recession was used as an excuse to kill off the first Crossrail scheme – we shall see.

“So that is why the Government will stay true to its commitments – on Crossrail, on Birmingham New Street, on Reading and across the country.”

How am I going to get from here to there?

“Google maps – your public transportation options mock me”

The well meaning world of internet journey planners – as Ernie Hsiung says Google doesn’t always get it right either. The comments Ernies post generated reflect a US perspective (even with SF having better than average PT options), but I can imagine the same comments here.

In the UK (and I will go out on a limb here) we have TfL Journey planner which I find pretty good and reliable, the National Rail Planner which is much improved and which I consult almost daily, Traveline varies by region and Transport Direct – sorry, still not good enough.  Google Maps UK only offers you the driving route, so can’t offer a comparison between UK and US versions.

Now I recognise how hard it is to get complex journey combinations right in the fragmented UK public transport system, but getting credible and sustained mode shift needs information about the product. Other consumer goods seeking greater market share wouldn’t be sold in such  away that potential customers give up before they even get to the bus stop. 


Bus /bike interface

Flickr photo courtesy of Tom Burnham

 “These buses were commissioned by the Dartford Tunnel Authority to carry bicycles through that tunnel. The batch consisted of TT 1-5, and entered service on 18 November 1963. Service was already replaced on 31 October 1965, due to lack of traffic, by Land Rovers, operated by the Tunnel Authority. The lower floor was for bicycles, passengers could sit on the upper floor. There were special platforms to enable the passengers to enter the bus.”

When I worked for Kent County Council in the 80s I recall the long debates we had about providing transport for cycles through the Tunnel – the bus above had only a limited life – other fotos on the spotters pages. Now you get a free ride in a Tunnel van – I saw one the other day, hence the reminiscence.

And motorcycles go through for free – probably because its not worth asking them to pull off their gloves, open their jacket and find a quid for the congestion it would cause!

[Anorak now put back in closet 🙂 – well its a wet Saturday afternoon]

Bus Driver Blogs

(Image from Bus Driver, the lifelike 3D bus driving computer simulation!)

Its surprising how many bus driver blogs there are and how (beyond the usual comments about passengers and traffic jams) they give a good sense of life behind the wheel. I wrote last year about corporate blogs, usually written by the suits (yes, me included) and with the active or at least passive support of the bosses – I need to read these a bit more to see whether the blokes (yes they are all generally blokes) are taking a stand or getting away with it because bus company managers just don’t pick up on this sort of thing. Most reaffirm my confidence in the people at the wheel – very few “this job would be ok if it wasnt for the passenger” whinges…

try these for size:

The Hampshire megabus driver blog – which first got me exploring this corner of the bloggersphere

All Aboard

Bus Driving

Nik the Elf (a Megabus driver)

To the Regiment

Brighton bus driver

National Express driver

Birmingham Bus Driver

Bus Driver Jimmy

An eye opening account from a glasgow bus driver at http://www.bloodbus.com/

and from a different perspective I am the Passenger

comments welcome!

Under the title “Logistics”…

the BBC Radio 4 Bottomline business programme interviewed Keith Ludeman, CEO of Go-Ahead Group. No great revelations but Keith responds well to Evan Davis’s digs on rail reliability, fares, etc.  Previous week included interview with CEO of Atkins, so maybe our industry is getting a higher profile?

Worth a listen – download the podcast here 

Maglev Bus?

From Engadget:

Japan’s world’s fastest maglev train may still be quite a few years away from becoming a reality, but it looks like the country can now brag about another slightly smaller but similarly contactless vehicle, with a new suitably futuristic bus now making its debut at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport. As if that bit of technology wasn’t enough, the bus is also a hybrid vehicle, and promises a sixty percent reduction in carbon emissions compared to those old 20th century-style buses. Unfortunately, there aren’t a whole lot of other details at the moment (and what is available is subject to the wonders of machine translation), but it looks like the first bus is already in service, and covering a 4.2 kilometer area around the airport.

White elephant or emerging technology? Airports are the usual proving ground for Maglevs – enclosed environment, cash to spend. From the article I am not convinced but would like to see more 🙂

Rockstar credibility

Chrissie Hynde

Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders rides a bus to promote public transport in Akron Ohio – not surprising knowing her support for “good causes” but will be interesting to see if a trend is starting… (bus pass rockers?) its a bid to get additional funding for local buses and a Dial a Ride service.

“If you feel you have to have a car, you feel trapped,” she said, adding that people who rely only on cars “forget what it is to walk and enjoy the city.”

(even in Akron?)

Local Transport Bill

Random bus from Taunton!

From the DfT press release the draft bill from May comes back to Parliament relatively unchanged and slightly underwhelming – not enough in it to annoy the bus industry or PTEG. Needs further detailed review, but the possibility of creating new Integrated Transport Authorities may raise some interest in the long term – maybe we will finally see a south Hampshire PTE (long an ambition of my erstwhile colleagues there).

A “Bus Champion” is also being sought to represent users, which will be interesting if real authority is given.  Perhaps best not mention the problems of concessionary travel in England, then…

Draft Local Transport Bill

It’s finally here and first impressions suggest that it will equally please and upset both sides of the regulation/deregulation debate. Will do a more detailed review and see what the press makes of it over the next few days…

With the Planning White Paper out for consultation over the same period (summer holidays, not that I am paranoid) we will be busy working out what it will mean for us if it gets enacted unchanged.

Camera fines not going back to the Treasury – shock!

From the cash generated from fines on bus lane enforcement cameras in Reading, up to £10,000 per month is going to be made available for new Readibus services. Good for once to see the linkages working, where transport money stays in transport.

The enforcement cameras came into play in September last year and apart from initial press excitement seem to be doing their job. Of course the fines income will probably reduce over time as people learn that they will get nicked, but as it helps the least mobile in the town its almost a charity – maybe I should run through the bus lanes a few times to aid this good cause!

Actually as a motorcyclist Reading has always been enlightened about powered two wheelers (as we now have to call them) using bus lanes and government is coming around to less antagonistic view – see the latest DfT guidance.

Disclosure: PBA works for Reading Borough Council

Economists and buses


Stephen Dubner, of “Freakonomics” fame comments yesterday on bus stop behaviour in New York. Gaming the bus system must come more naturally to UK passengers, especially in London, where I will often go “upstream” to ensure I get on the bus and get a seat. Any other user tricks of trade please post to the comments section… 

Buses (not) on track

Excuse the pun but with the protesters (with their own PM’s petition) saying that the the Cambridge to Huntingdon line should be reopened as a passenger railway its obvious the whole debate on Bus Rapid Transit is far from over.

From a disused station to a guided busway

Today the announcement that  Stagecoach, Huntingdon & District and Whippet Coaches have agreed to purchase the necessary high quality vehicles and abide by the rules to use the 25km busway.

Perhaps a station upgrade programme is next, although perhaps a Victorian “look and feel” would work – after all guided bus technology is over 100 years old 🙂 

Small earthquake in South Yorkshire

The first statutory Quality Bus Partnership is now signed off for North Sheffield and the PTE is ecstatic. Well pleased to be first anyway, to my mind they are putting in a lot of infrastructure and the operators are bringing forward the bus purchases they already had lined up – who is getting the most out of the deal?  Good to see that they will be getting a “Real Time Intelligent Detection system” – I know what they mean but doesn’t sound quite right, just suitably “techy”.

Obviously the eyes of the world, well PTEG and CPT, will be on the this trial – whether there will be lessons for smaller towns and cities remains to be seen, but it perhaps spikes the re-regulation argument for a little longer.

Time to save the planet – with economics

Eddington report finally released and initial reporting mixed – politicians generally supportive, the business community perhaps more positive than they expected to be, Roadblock was far from enraged – worth reprinting their comments:

The implications for those campaigning for less roadbuilding and more traffic reduction are great. This report will shape future transport policy for many years. The media spin on the report was that Eddington was recommending a national road pricing scheme, and not recommending a major roadbuilding programme. This is unfortunately only partially true.

What Eddington actually said was that the current roads programme is justified in the meantime (up to 2015), in the absence of road pricing. He also strongly said that without road pricing there was an economic case for roadbuilding even when the environmental impacts are costed, and specifically recommended another 2,900 – 3,500 lane kilometres of extra roadbuilding between 2015 and 2025. Only when road pricing is brought in, might the need for roadbuilding fall to around 500 – 850 lane kilometres (an 80 per cent reduction). However the report was very helpful in some respects as it also strongly supports and recognises the economic benefits of cycling and walking schemes.

However soon “experts” were being wheeled out to say that the detailed forecasting was flawed, etc. etc. (just like with the Stern report) While the academics will argue the Government is keen to build this and the Barker report (and of course Stern) into new legislation on planning and transport in spring 2007.

Here comes another Transport Act

On the way to Liverpool, Virgin Trains works like clockwork – yes I know its supposed to be a nightmare of delays and overcrowding, but at least this time it wasn’t. There’s always the return journey to survive though…

The Queens Speech offers us a new Road Traffic Act, but not enough detail yet. Hopefully we will get the details of the Bill before Christmas, I expect moves towards bus reregulation to keep the PTEs sweet, as well as more attention on road pricing – cue the Daily Mail readers poll!

Today the Concessionary Fares legislation is spelt out, after a Tony Blair press launch and its the usual mix of compromise and confusion – can be run locally, with add-ons if your council is feeling generous, but central government powers (surprise, surprise) to intervene – how come the Welsh and Scottish models couldn’t be copied?