I was recently invited by a client to attend the private launch of the latest in their line of ‘new product’ regional developments. Unlike many other new ‘products’, this wasn’t about to become the must have gadget in the shops this Christmas, and neither would it improve my golf swing. No, this product has a much greater benefit, having the capability to stretch far beyond that.
The client I refer to is Stagecoach West, and their latest service upgrade to ‘Stagecoach Gold’ on their Cheltenham-Gloucester Route 10.
As a long distance commuter based in the Midlands, this doesn’t affect me directly but with Stagecoach operating ‘Gold’ services in other parts of the country, some of which we have worked on, it did make me wonder if this was a positive step towards improving public transport in this country. Perhaps, one day it might do much to alleviate the stress of travelling around parts of Britain.
From what I’ve read, Stagecoach Gold was first introduced by Sir Brian Souter, the company’s Chief Executive in 2007 as a means of introducing bus transport to those people who had failed to see bus travel as a viable alternative to the motor car; and by all accounts it is making a difference to some groups of people. However, I suspect there are many local commuters who will continue to rely on their cars for short journeys to work.
Stagecoach Gold services include: buses fitted with Italian high-backed leather seating, improved service frequency (even on weekends), a greater use of fabric rather than plastic panelling giving increased noise reduction performance, improved environmentally performing vehicles, dedicated drivers who have undergone specific training in customer service, a customer charter and now even free Wi-Fi that should attract the most ardent short distance commuter.
Stagecoach West has invested heavily with the commitment to 19 brand new vehicles on this route alone. Clearly the ‘will’ is now there, but perhaps a greater emphasis on the ‘way’ is still required to take this message to local commuters.
Research into the Gold service suggests that the upgraded service tends to attract approx. 10% of the population for whom bus travel is not considered appropriate. Good news indeed, and so it comes as no surprise that local politicians were willing to support this huge investment from Stagecoach. But with Gloucestershire’s population standing at a shade under 600,000 in March 2011 Source: http://www.gloucestershire.gov.uk/article/110148/Countys-population-rising-and-getting-older (reported in Jul2012), there is more to do to communicate the benefits to local commuters.
Looking at the economic benefits, right now, the country and pretty much most of the industrial nations on the planet are in the midst of recession. Those pressures translate to businesses, which impacts upon the workforce.
A worker travelling by car between Gloucester and Cheltenham on his/her own daily, will have a round trip of approx. 25 miles. In a petrol vehicle that burns fuel at the rate of 30mpg, that’s over 16 gallons per month or £5.95/day in fuel alone; the equivalent to £119.00/month excluding additional maintenance and depreciation on the car. Compare this to a Cheltenham & Gloucester megarider plus ticket at £62.00/month and this represents a minimum saving of £684/pa.
Okay, so the journey may take a little longer to reach its destination than by car, but with added Wi-Fi there is now the chance to work on the go, much the same way as long distance commuters do on the train. Now when you arrive at work you’re on top of the game, you’ve finished off that urgent report for the Finance Director and ready to face the day’s fresh challenges, and when I say fresh I mean exactly that, no motorists to annoy you, no road works, no need to consider traffic conditions, no de-icing the car, just a calm stress free way into the office or workplace.
All we need do now is communicate the benefits to those people who have the most to gain. Leaflets at the offices in the area, introductions and presentations from Stagecoach, limited incentives to trial the service, or targeted social media and direct mail campaigns to employees at home.
I’ve read some of the key messages in the Conservative government’s consultation paper on creating a Low Carbon economy and it is clear that with the exception ofLondon, much more needs to be done to integrate public transport. The paper discusses increasing the use of high speed train transport across greater distances and working together with organisations like Shell to develop second generation bio-fuels and developing more electric vehicles. Until these schemes are fully operational we do need to plant seeds in each of us as to how we can use public transport more effectively. I remember how as a young child I travelled by bus, train, or walked everywhere. Cars were only for the rich, so perhaps its that fear or concern which we need to dispel first?