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April 10 2019
By Jessica Barton

Jessica writes for routeone, Group Tourism & Travel, and is the Editor of Coach Drivers Club News

The bus industry’s leaders of the future

From sharing experiences and gaining advice to mixing with peers, the Young Bus Managers’ Network conference is the place to be for those starting their careers in buses

Starting out in a career in any sector can be a daunting time as well as an exciting one. Therefore, having the support and a guiding hand from more experienced professionals in your field is invaluable.

This is what the Young Bus Managers’ Network (YBMN) aims to do by running two conferences a year in the spring and autumn in different locations.

Young bus managers from across the UK attended

It was Manchester’s turn this time, with around 100 young bus managers from independents, municipals and the big groups gathering at the Renaissance Manchester City Centre Hotel last week (2-3 April) to share their views, learn about matters affecting the industry and hear from the bus sector’s leading figures.

Dealing with press

The two-day event comprised a varied programme, including a visit on the first day to Stagecoach Manchester's Hyde Road depot to see how it operates. Delegates were also invited to visit the nearby office of Omnibus Passenger Transport Solutions to find out all about the software and training it offers.

Following a three-course evening meal, speaker Dave Guest – a journalist and chief reporter for BBC North West Tonight – who is no stranger to the industry having worked at a number of coach and bus events, including Euro Bus Expo and Coach & Bus UK, discussed the importance of great PR and operators working with journalists.

It was a theme that was carried through to the second day’s workshop segment, with managers split into teams and given three probable scenarios, including a bridge strike involving a fatality; a bus driver verbally abusing a disabled passenger when wheelchair space was taken up by push chairs; and a made-up positive event.

Each team had to come up with their own press releases that they thought would best deal with the incidents. It was a great exercise to understand the importance of not burying your head in the sand if the worst-case scenario arises and that good news should be shouted about.

The speakers

Delegates also heard about the past and present bus situation in Manchester from Gary Nolan, CEO of OneBus. This included the influence of politics in running buses in the city, with operators awaiting Mayor Andy Burnham’s decision on franchising or partnership.

A tour of Stagecoach Manchester's Hyde Road depot was included

Mr Nolan also discussed his career in the industry and the lessons he has learned along the way, including the importance of change.

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got,” he says.

Carrying on the theme of changing with the times and adapting to new innovations, Kieran Proctor, Business Development Manager from Omnibus, highlighted the importance of efficient scheduling and how Omnibus can help.

This was echoed by Joe Wood, Commercial and Integration Director at CitySwifter, who discussed the problem with static timetables and how big data can be used to build better bus networks.

Success stories

YBMN members Alex Chutter, General Manager for Swindon's Bus Company, Salisbury Reds and Tourist Coaches, and Dan Bassett, Head of Operations at Reading Buses, each presented their career paths and what they have learned so far.

Mr Chutter talked about Go-Ahead Group’s acquisition of Thamesdown Transport (now Swindon's Bus Company) in 2017 and the challenges and successes it has since seen.

He also outlined the changes that were brought in, including a new brand, routes and vehicles.

“Within weeks we also went from exact fares to offering contactless,” he says. 

Mr Bassett focused on the growth methods in place at Reading Buses, which included reasons for the growth, achieving sustainable growth and what it did in order to grow.

“Identifying competition and understanding what makes that competition attractive to other people is a fantastic way of growing any business. Real gains come from drawing customers from other forms of transport,” he advises.

Meera Rambissoon from The TAS Partnership spoke about the importance of mental health in the workplace and specifically about what she's doing to promote good mental health in the bus industry.

Finally, Chris Cheek from Passenger Transport Monitor discussed the latest bus numbers and trends in passenger numbers and fares, as well as his latest book Understanding Buses, which offers “a clear, non-technical explanation of how the bus industry works.”

Next time

The next YBMN conference will be held in London at the Jurys Inn London Croydon on Tuesday 8 and Wednesday 9 October.

Confirmed speakers include Rebecca Reeve-Burnett, Sales and Operations Manager for Vamooz; Ray Stenning from Best Impressions; John Traynor, MD at Go-Ahead London; and Transport for London Commissioner Mike Brown MVO will be the after-dinner speaker.


The conference provided the perfect balance of networking for young managers to get to know their peers along with the opportunity to find out about topics affecting the industry.

With each speaker detailing how their career began and how they have since developed, attendees were also able to get an insight into how their own career could progress, while seeing best practice in operation.

What really shined through was the confidence of these young bus managers in terms of not being afraid to asked questions and presenting their ideas, as well as their undeniable passion and commitment for the bus industry.

These are invaluable events for those coming into the industry, so if you are a young manager who isn’t already a member of the YBMN, you would do well to join.

To book your place, or on behalf of your own young bus managers, at the next conference in October, go to

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