Bob Dylan famously sand back in the nineteen sixties that the times are indeed a changing, and indeed they most certainly were, indeed the song was captured by the anti Vietnam war movement,as a protest song across the Collages and campuses across the USA before the state troops were brought in to shut them up. However, in real terms the times are by default always changing, although sometimes they appear to change quicker than at other times. Modern times I suspect will be judged harshly by the history books as the future post Brexit, Putin, and Trump, who will no doubt make their mark on history.
So, what does the future look like for the good old British Bus and Coach industry, how will the Mystic Megs judge us in the years to come. Well, lets look at the changing face of the Industry, it is without doubt a time of change, sadly two giants of the Industry are coping with grave challenges at the moment. Stagecoach are still reeling by the decision of Mr Grayling the Secretary of State to remove the East Coast rail franchise a real body blow that has resulted in a loss of 20% of it’s market value.In addition they have recently announced a new management restructure which sees a new senior level of Directors who will sit above the local Managing Directors. The Business Change team will lead and support the future direction of the business. Which begs the question where are these businesses going?
Stagecoach have recently given up running buses in large rural parts of Norfolk, First have closed another depot (Clacton) and rebellion continues among their shareholders, who demand yet again that parts, if not all of the businesses should be sold off and a long overdue dividend should be paid, by those who have expressed their displeasure that the share value is 70% lower than when Tim O Toole took over from Sir Moir Lockhead some 7 years ago now. No, there is little doubt that the bus Industry is struggling, a combination of congestion, air quality, franchising, Community Transport legislation, and ever rising costs and passenger decline being recorded year on year is not a healthy combination. And as the enigmatic Claire Haigh from Greener Journeys has just recently publicly pointed out when she slammed the Government for failing to understand the impact of the Bus, she described the bus industry as neglected. To be fair she did not hold back, but she is right. The bus carries more passengers than all other public transport modes combined. And ironically the bus still remains the only transport strategy that has absolutely no long term strategy, unlike walk, ride, rail, roads, who are all well sorted.
Interestingly, her comments were inspired by a report from KPMG that basically said that the transition from car to bus use is crucial to combating carbon reduction and tackling congestion, that are clearly getting worse. In addition KPMG also concluded that planning and investment in local bus networks is the key to unlocking the value of housing investment. So, there we have it, down the one road a slow burn to death of the industry, as the dinosaurs slowly perished by not being able to adjust, from carnivore to herbivore, so it is possible that the bus industry needs to be flexible which it clearly already is. However what it really needs as Claire rightly said, it needs a strategy that needs to work, or as she calls it a process of transition. And the transition is simple from car to bus, sounds easy but without a strategy and longer term plan what real chance does the Industry have. As ever answers on a postcard please dear readers.