By far and away one of the most enjoyable, and without doubt most engaging and educational events in the Bus and Coach year is the ALBUM conference which this year takes place in the rather swanky Marriott hotel in the heart of Glasgow City Centre. As ever over 180 of the great and the good from the UK’ s bus operators and their nearest and dearest. The ALBUM conference is quite unique in that while there is always a really serious and topical selection of presentations and debates, there is also an equally high quality emphasis laid on networking, and simply having a good time.
The theme this year is titled ‘Driving Stability out of Uncertainty” with speakers focusing on the following very hot topics; The Buses Bill, Franchising, Implications for Insurance, Ticketing Technology, and Low Emission Zones. Without doubt all of these worthy topics are of very real importance to the industry at both local national level, and there are some real worries behind some elements of the proposed legislation that is emerging. As you might expect the line up of speakers is also impressive as you would expect.
Leading the charge is Ralph Roberts, the CEO of MgIll’s Scotland’s largest independent operator which today employs almost 1,000 employees. I met with Ralph recently at a conference in Glasgow and was impressed at his fresh, honest and direct approach towards running a modern day bus Company. He has done a great job with MgGills who have really emerged on the national scene. Also presenting is Colin Robertson, CEO of Alexander Dennis Britain’s biggest Bus and Coach Builder. With sales revenue’s consistently in excess of £600 million and with a client base that is these days truly global Colin himself has been recognised for his significant achievements from the Institute of Directors, amongst others.
Last years conference in Blackpool was a most enjoyable and beneficial event and it just goes to show that the bus and coach industry, is as ever a friendly and caring community of like minded professional people. This is after all a people business, always was and always will be. The ALBUM organisation I always considered was like an extended family where everyone shares good practise and experiences with the ultimate aim of giving customers and even better service. The bus and coach industry is facing many challenges at the moment from Clean Air Zones, to franchising, and Community Transport under real threat through impending legislation. That is why it is vital that operators communicate with each other to ensure that there is consistency in preparing industry wide responses to future threats and challenges.
ALBUM, do an excellent job in my view of ensuring that people communicate as a community, because although the law has decreed that competition is the name of the game, and in fairness the Industry has long since accepted and adhered to the legal requirements. Markets have been built and although history has seen many bus wars (I had 7 years of it myself when I was the depot Manager at Hereford. This historic City was the trial area for competition even before 1986, so I had my fair own share of tough battles with the likes of Buchanan’s Coaches and Johnny South). So, fast forward to 2018 history has spun nearly full circle with Mr Corbyn talking about re-nationalising the bus Industry, which of course was the industry that joined in 1983, History, as ever my friends has gone full circle, or almost. One thing is for sure, the industry is a better place for having ALBUM play its core part in its future as it has its past.