Well I was expecting it to be good but quite frankly it exceeded my high expectations, the first summit last year was really good but this one took the bar to a newer higher place that will be hard to match next year but I would not be surprised if they managed it.
This had everything from the most respected industry leaders and suppliers to the Buses Minister himself giving for the first time some real flesh on the bones of just what the new buses bill will look like. Interestingly enough it was actually not as bad as I thought it might be and I was pleased to note that a lot of the suggestions made on behalf of the Institute as well as others had been incorporated into the Bill.
The simple truth is that like it or not it is going to happen so it is a question of learning to live with it and make the most of it, what I did find encouraging was the Minister`s statement that the purpose of the Bill was to make the bus attractive to the user and that he firmly believes in the bus. This is indeed music to the ears of those of us who saw the whole franchising debate as a means of destabilizing the industry. This concern could only lead to a lack of investment and an erosion of the quality of the service for those most dependent.
The opening act was good enough but what followed just got better and better. I had heard a lot about George Ferguson CBE ,the Mayor of Bristol but I had never heard him speak before. He was quite simply inspirational, he spoke with humor, passion, and true integrity. What has actually been achieved in Bristol between his strong and on occasions lonely but true leadership and the efforts of First Bus under Giles Fearnley and James Freeman has been legendary.
I actually wrote 16 pages of notes from all the presentations such was the quality of what each of those invited had to say. What was also really good and unique in my experience was the fact that those attending had the option to ask questions via social media as the conference progressed. This meant that comments, questions, challenges and observations appeared on a large screen as the presenters spoke.
There were 2 members of the audience who stood out as contributors and they were worthy commentators, my friends Martjin Gilbert and Alex Hornby manfully lead the charge. This whole new process of inter action gave the conference a whole new feel.
What was also exceptionally good was the chairman’s skill at hosting the debates that flowed after each segment David Begg was just outstanding witty, very well read he steered the day with ease and a sense of mischievous fun but was also able to be challenging and controversial.
So, dear reader take it from me, this event stands out from all the others it is a beacon and attendance should be compulsory as it was for the 300 people who benefited from an excellent event. Make sure that you do not miss out on the next event.