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Delivering Organic Passenger Growth by Robert Andrew, Regional Director, Stagecoach Scotland - Edinburgh meeting of Tuesday 7 October 2008

Robert Andrew, the Regional Director of Stagecoach Scotland addressed the Scottish Region meeting in Edinburgh on "Delivering Organic Passenger Growth" on Tuesday 7 October 2008

Robert Andrew, Regional Director, Stagecoach Scotland, at the Aberdeen meeting when he spoke on Delivering Organic Passenger Growthd

Robert Andrew, Regional Director, Stagecoach Scotland, at the Aberdeen meeting when he spoke on "Delivering Organic Passenger Growth".

© John G. Fender 2011

Mr. Andrew began his presentation by outlining the structure of Stagecoach Scotland. The company a three main divisions each trading in different areas of Scotland. Stagecoach Bluebird operates in Aberdeen City Aberdeenshire, Moray, and the Highland Council areas. In the Inverness area the company trades as Stagecoach.

The company's boundaries match those of Nestrans and Hitrans, the two statutory partnership for transport areas. Stagecoach east Scotland operates in the SEStran and Tactran areas and trades as Stagecoach in Fife, Stagecoach in Perth and Stagecoach Strathtay.

The company has operations throughout Fife and in Perth and Kinross and Dundee City, as well as cross boundary services. In the west of Scotland Stagecoach trades as "Stagecoach West Scotland" and has operations in Ayrshire, Dumfries and Galloway and part of Glasgow. The boundaries of Stagecoach West Scotland match those of SPT and Swestrans. In addition The company has an interest in the Citylink joint venture.

Turning to the company's performance, Robert Andrew looked at some recent figures and in the their financial year 2008-2009 the company had a projected turnover of £165 million and will carry some 92 million passengers. There is a peak vehicle requirement of 1360 and the company is scheduled to operate 82 million miles. To achieve this the company employs 3600 staff. Investment in the business plays an important part with 125 new vehicles being delivered in 2007-2008 at a cost of approximately £17.5 million and a further 108 new vehicles are being delivered in 2008 - 2009 with a value of £15 million. This means that 15.2% of the fleet has been replaced in two years.

Although the last three years the company has seen passenger numbers grow by 7.4% as opposed to 1.3% for Scotland as a whole. This has been achieved by introducing a number of initiatives in the Stagecoach East Scotland area, examples being the "Coastrider" between Aberdeen, Stonehaven and Montrose; the Royal Deeside, the Buchan Link, Invergo. In Moray, all bus working from Elgin Depot are now scheduled for DDA operation. In the Inverness, investment in new vehicles means that, prior to the acquisition of the Rapson companies, there were only 3 non DDA vehicles in use.

In the Fort William area, the Fort Link initiative introduced a simplified network, and area rebrand and modern vehicles. Publicity is a key part of this initiative and new, easy to read timetables have been introduced as part of the package. Moving on to other initiatives, in the Stagecoach East Scotland area, the Taylink 99 Service operating between St Andrews and Dundee has seen a year on year growth of 42%, and now operated on a 15 minute frequency with new vehicles. Passenger usage of this service is still growing. In the Dundee area, the Tayway network is also seeing passenger growth. In Perth, the Goldline Service continues to be very successful, with high quality vehicles, in gold livery, it has seen a 5% growth rate over the last year.

An undoubted success is the Ferrytoll Park and Ride that has seen a year on year growth rate of 44%. Since it opened it has doubles in size and there is now a 5 minute frequency in the peaks. The facility has also developed into an important interchange point. The Airdirect 747 service to Edinburgh via the Airport has seen a year on year growth of 87% and these impressive growth rates are due in part to innovative marketing. Another new service is the Experience City Connect and the new 15 metre long vehicles used on this service have leather seats, WiFi, and the service is carbon neutral.

One of Stagecoach's new Neoplan Double Deck coaches used on the X77 service leaving Glasgow's Buchanan Bus Station.d

One of Stagecoach's new Neoplan Double Deck coaches used on the X77 service leaving Glasgow's Buchanan Bus Station.

© John G. Fender 2007

Meanwhile, Stagecoach West Scotland has re-branded a number of key services including the X77 express between Ayr and Glasgow. This service is now operated by double Deck tri-axle Neoplan coaches. The X76 service is now operated by coaches with of wheelchair lifts and at the new X16 express service between Ayr and East Kilbride has been introduced in partnership with SPT and has proved to be exceedingly successful.

New fully DDA compliant buses with wheelchair accommodation built by Wrights have been introduced on service 500 operating between Stranraer and Dumfries. The Three Towns service 18 operating in the Saltcoats and Stevenston areas has benefited from the Introduction of new vehicles operating an increased frequency providing a 10 minute service. Another service in Ayrshire that has been improved is service at 49 between Cumnock and Logan. The farther south, the Dumfries town network was revamped and a fleet of new Optare Solo buses introduced. Finally in the west of Scotland, the X25 Express service between Glasgow and Cumbernauld has seen an increase in frequency to every 20 minutes to cope with the increasing demand.

Mr. Andrew looked at that passengers want from a service. The key requirements are reliable services, smart, warm and clean vehicles with friendly drivers and simple ticketing. Simple timetables are also desirable. However, to make such initiatives work requires a partnership approach with local authorities and Regional Transport Authorities, Central Government. Employer Partnerships can also be important in encouraging the use of public transport.

Mr. Andrew also looked at where the company is going next and initiatives being looked at include Bus Passenger Priorities, Car Parking regimes, on line sales and Tax Free bus travel. Environmental developments are also very important and examples of these are the development of environmentally friendly bus deports. The new Inch Depot in Aberdeenshire has a geothermal heating system and recycles rainwater for use.

In Ayrshire the company's innovative Biobus scheme has been very successful. Residents take their unwanted cooking oil for recycling and get free bus travel in return. The unwanted oil is then converted into biodiesel and used to power buses in the initiative. The company has also launched it's first Carbon Neutral Travel initiative. This will see 140,000 trees being planted in Scotland to save some 21,500 tones in CO2 emissions on the Fife-Edinburgh routes. This means that means that all Stagecoach services between Fife and Edinburgh crossing the Forth Road Bridge will be carbon neutral until 2013.

Stagecoach has developed a sustainability strategy aimed at using sustainable fuels and cleaner engines. Facilities will be energy efficient and water and waste recycling initiatives are being introduced. An example is the rainwater recycling at the new Inch Depot mentioned earlier. The strategy includes carbon neutral travel schemes and green travel incentives. A second phase of the strategy will introduce a new carbon management programme and this will include a more accurate assessment of the company's carbon footprint. It will set new key performance indicators and targets and share best practice across all divisions in the Stagecoach Group. "Green Economy" partnerships will be introduces along with a greener, smart travel campaign.

There is a new pro-public transport political consensus, brought about by higher fuel prices and increasingly worse traffic congestion. Higher parking charges also help to encourage people to look at alternatives and with improved public transport, including significant investment in new buses and trains, public transport becomes more attractive, especially with more reliable and punctual operations.

Mr. Andrew pointed out that travelling by bus is 80% cheaper than commuting by car. Research by the company has indicated that consumers could save up to £3,500 per annum simply by switching from car to public transport. Such a saving could pay for up to 100% of a household's main bills. A survey commissioned by Stagecoach of over 4,000 people around the UK outside London found that environmental concerns are growing and that 64% of those surveyed agreed that the environment was a high priority for them. The survey also showed that 63% disagreed that the effects of climate change were too far into the future to worry about.

Changes in attitudes are now being seen having an effect on consumer behaviour and this is leading to greater use of public transport. The survey found that 47% of people are now using the car less and 36% are travelling more on buses. Train travel is also increasing with 19% of those surveyed travelling more by train. The survey also found that whilst 10% of people had changed their mode of transport in the last 3 years, 39% said they would find it difficult to switch to public transport.

Scotland now has the best environment in decades to achieve more sustainable ways of living and one way of meeting the challenges is to have "green partnerships" with public transport playing a key role in improving "greener" lifestyles for all.

The Scottish Region would like to thank Mr. Andrew for addressing the meeting and Edinburgh City Council for hosting the event.

Report by John Fender.


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