There was a really good debate earlier this week when I had the honour of chairing another excellent Busmark workshop held in Reading care of my dear chum Martjin Gilbert who has now officially left as the CEO of Reading Buses after what I have to say has been an excellent innings while at the crease. I like many have watched Reading Bus lead the way from a range of great initiatives. Be that gender imbalance strategies that have really had great results, to excellent staff engagement sessions like sausages and schedules. And who can forget the fastest gas bus in the world powered by cow poo.
No doubt about it in my view, Reading has been spoilt by having two of the very best leaders around with Martjin and the ever affable James Freeman. Indeed I wish nothing but the best of British To a chap who comes highly recommended by chums at Stagecoach namely Robert Williams. A local lad who started his career as a conductor for Reading Mainline which was then part of Reading Transport in 1999. Robert has gone full circle having gone from Conductor to CEO.
It is interesting when you consider the skills that really good bus Companies have that make them stand alone. They really do stand out, I have shamlessly banged on in these blogs about who why and what is good. However, for every Ying there is a Yang, and sadly the trade press week in, week after reveals the grizzly details of operators who have fallen foul of the policing powers of the traffic commissioners and ended up in deep trouble. This can be a lenient rebuke right through being struck off and on rare occasions a prison sentence.
One of the several excellent presentations that we enjoyed at the workshop was from a chap who was actually a practising lawyer, who having worked with Transport Companies both Bus and freight had partnered up with a chap who was an engineer. They had devised a clever system of technology that digitised some basic managerial requirements like drivers walk around checks. The presentation was articulated, detailed nd quite powerful in the way that it highlighted numerous bad examples wher Bus Company owners, partners and directors had got the basics utterly wrong.
Indeed the point was hammered home repeatedly that basics like drivers hours, simple maintenance checks, tachographs, walk round checks had not been completed or even fabricated when being investigated by VOSA, or DVLA. Lazy, sloppy and careless working practises sadly in certain cases clear.y become the order of the day. And that is simply not good enough. In today’s world if a person has their name on the Operators license then it actually means something. You are accountable by law, and you can and will go to prison if it all goes Pete Tong.
The point was well made and it clearly proved the fact that robust and regular systems need to be in play to show compliance at all levels. What I also found out is that the traffic commissioners will hold mock Inquiries for those who might be in that grey area. After all under the law operators must be of good repute and have some sound financial standing before they can go and run a bus service. This is not a Mickey Mouse Industry, get it wrong and you can kill people as recent high profile cases have proved. Sadly, the great irony is that the jokers and clowns who let the industry down are the very last people who would join Busmark or attend a workshop. They are too busy making a fast buck to care for their industry. Luckily I take great heart from knowing just how many professional and decent people serve this industry. And for that reason I for one would not hesitate to grass up the cowboys and bad people who have no right to be operating services that carry passengers.