With over 4.4 billion local bus journeys made in England in 2017, it is clear that buses are an essential part of many people’s journeys. However, it is important to be aware that this number has decreased by 70 million from 2016, with 90% of bus operators losing passengers and only 10% gaining them. This decrease poses the question: ‘How can we make journeys easier for our customers to get more people choosing the bus?’.
The first step is for bus companies to come together and realise that the real competitors are companies such as Uber and Addison Lee, with real-time, customised and easy to use apps, meeting the expectations of passengers today.
To compete with the new wave of competitors, we believe in a tripartite approach between the suppliers, operators and the authorities. We each have our own part to play in achieving more seamless travel, which will in turn, contribute to the return of bus customers.
The use of Oyster cards and contactless payments on London’s transport networks has proved that the easier public transport is, the more people will use it. To achieve this, suppliers must be dedicated to providing operators with the technology and products that make efficient travel possible for passengers. That’s exactly what we strive to do every day.
Bus companies across the UK need to work together. Having multiple tickets from different companies leads to confusion, frustration and an increased likelihood of misplaced tickets for passengers. Consistency, simplification and unification is key across all bus companies.
Congestion is an on-going headache for authorities, and the simplest way to combat this is through public transport. Therefore, it’s in the best interests of authorities to encourage, not discourage, people to take buses.
Easy and Personalised Travel
Easy travel can only be achieved if operators have the right tools, which is where we come in. Contactless technology, account based ticketing, mobile ticketing, cash tickets and smart concessions on buses are paving the way for a frictionless future. Not only this, but by using the knowledge we have about our customers and combining this with smart technology, we can create smarter, data-driven travel experiences.
There are 5 main ways that we believe can improve our customers’ journey:
1) Bus location – With GPS and live tracking, we can provide our customers with the location of the bus at any point in time.
2) Improved services – Seat availability and capacity information are provided on trains, and there’s no reason we can’t do the same for buses.
3) Tailored offering – Using the information we gather about customer journeys, we can offer personalised incentives and rewards; for example, issuing passengers with a discount voucher for a café at their final stop.
4) DRT (Demand Responsive Travel) –Rural areas often have irregular bus times and patterns. However, if we could include DRT technology, we can ensure our services are being efficiently used and that our customers can rely on us to provide a service they need.
5) One app integration – In the busy lives of our customers, the time for decision making is minimal, therefore simplicity is key. If collectively, we can provide one app with all the information our customers could need for any bus timetable and company, the decision process is simplified, reconfirming to our customers that the bus is the easy, low price option.
The idea of totally digitising the bus sector may seem like the viable and modern path forward. However, just as we want to provide the best technology and options for our customers, we also have to be aware of our customers who are not yet ready for the digital wave. 1.5 million adults in Britain remain unbanked, with 48% of the country opting to use cash payment methods over card transactions. This is why we firmly believe that ‘one size does not fit all,’ and instead ensure we are serving all of our customers’ needs by keeping standardised timetables, cash payments and paper ticket options too.
Looking to the future, if we can integrate the same technology that our competitors use into our bus services, in a co-operative approach, there is no reason why we, as the bus sector, can’t regain our true market share together.
 DfT Annual Bus statistics