I was fortunate enough recently to be invited to an excellent conference held in the historic beauty and smouldering history of Brasenose College right in the heart of Oxford, arguably the most revered and respected University in the world, as the old Carlsberg beer adverts used to say. The conference was organized by Martin Sutton MD Stagecoach Oxford and Phil Southall MD Go Ahead Oxford.

It was an excellent conference with top notch speakers representing the two I have to say excellent bus Companies as well as the CEO of the local LEP and a very engaging lady from an organization called Destination Management Organization or as they are called DMO`s. She spoke about the challenges Oxford faces against a declining tourist market and the impact of wide spread disruption to the city centre due to a huge new shopping center being built in the East of the City.

To be fair operating punctual bus services against such a backdrop is exceptionally challenging but due to the very close partnership between all concerned they have managed remarkably well given everything that they have had to put up with. Oxford is  one of those good examples where close cooperation has really made the most of huge challenges.

Indeed even though average speeds have recently dipped to under 10 miles an hour in the City centre for the first time ever, due to the massive City centre disruption.They have still between managed to operate over 56 million passenger journeys over the last 5 years achieving an incredible 98% Passenger satisfaction as recorded by the highly respected Transport Focus.

So, without doubt when the giant West-gate shopping centre opens its doors in October the bus operators are predicting a healthy 5% increase in patronage as local and not local people are drawn to the high profile shops, brands and labels. It is also interesting to see the rise in foreign visitors as a rejuvenated visitor partnership  has encouraged new people from across the world to visit the splendor of the world`s intellectual place of learning, although I suspect the good folk of Cambridge may not agree!

So, great job Martin and Phil a great conference held in an amazing venue, I shall watch with interest how things develop post October when the good times will be back in town and gown  as they say in Oxford.