The year is for me divided up into two segments. The UK Coach awards held in May at the rather glitzy Viva nightclub in down town Blackpool, where the best of the best are quite rightly singled out and rewarded for inspiring, recognising, and rewarding the best amongst their peers. The second highlight of the year is the UK Bus awards that take place at the fashionable Troxy in the heart of London Town in November each year. Again a time to celebrate the best of the best, in a lively and convivial environment with the leading lights from the Coach and Bus Industry.
It is telling that in the very week that bus passengers in the UK’s biggest passenger survey said that 9 out of 10 of those interviewed were satisfied with their last journey. I have to say that although I admit to be being biased, these statistics are truly impressive compared to many other Industries and sectors. This tells me that along with the excellent feedback that Transport Focus shared at the recent really good event at Heathrow airport where the coach user satisfaction and feedback levels from actual coach users was really very positive. And consistently reported as not only really good value for money, but also a very positive experience all round. From these impartial and evidence based conclusions it strikes me that the performance of the Bus and Coach sectors is actually thriving, against a backdrop of declining rural passengers, greater congestion than ever before, and the implementation of hidden bus taxes through the backdoor of Clean Air Zones.
So, these very worthwhile awards are without doubt of great value, as well as highlighting best practise across the board. What is now required is a proper, orchestrated PR campaign to celebrate and educate the wider public that actually the Bus and Coach sector are doing super things. The day to day passengers quite clearly get that, but the legions of non bus users have no idea and are actually very negative in their perceptions about catching buses and coaches.
In my honest view we have a duty of care to work together as an industry to map out our story and get it heard by the great British public. If the truth be told we have been really bad at this for decades. The emphasis has been on delivery and in the past competition, instead of educating non users as the real and significant benefits of using the bus. The Coach and Bus awards are excellent showcases to spread the word, but do we use the opportunity on a national level. No, we do not as it is not seen as a priority. Time that we changed that around completely, we have great stories to tell, and examples to share, so lets get cracking.