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May 22 2019
By Jessamy Chapman

Westminster Watch: The new bee is buzzing...

As the CPT’s new CEO gets his feet under the table, our man in Westminster is happy to eat his words

Graham Vidler: Already out and about meeting the industry

I’ve recently been quite quizzical about the management changes taking place at the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT).

But I’m already hearing good things about the new CEO, Graham Vidler, and indeed the new Policy and Public Affairs Manager, Alison Edwards. It’s early days, but the initial feedback has been really positive, so if my doubts about the reforms and the appointments made have been cautiously negative it looks as if I may have to eat my words – and I will be very happy to do so. 

Industry presence

What’s so interesting about the feedback I’ve been picking up is that it has not been on Graham’s or Alison’s policy contribution, if I can put it that way – and after all they are barely in post so that would be strange if they were already shaking the tree on policy.

No, it’s simply that, at least when it comes to Graham, he is already engaging with the industry with some enthusiasm. In only his second day in the job Graham Vidler attended a Coach Commission event and in his second week Graham travelled to Scotland to meet CPT interests there. He’s certainly not letting the grass grow under his feet!

So it’s already looking like the CPT’s new CEO is going pretty dynamic, and will engage enthusiastically with all his members and really get to know their issues and anxieties, as every CEO should.

A buzz

In getting out and about like this Graham will rapidly discover that the CPT has a very diverse membership, and that the issues that motivate the “big five” bus operators are rather different to the interests of smaller operators – and that the coach sector is altogether different again from the bus sector.

It will be interesting to see what he will make of it all.

And already Graham’s profile is developing with the media, with some useful coverage on the BBC in responding to the latest report from Transport Focus, Making Bus a Better Choice for Young People. It feels as if there’s something of a “buzz” about him.

So, on reflection, perhaps my anxieties about the changes at the CPT were misplaced, at least in so far as they relate to the CEO. I’m very happy to eat my words on this point.

Old faces return

I was concerned about the loss of institutional knowledge with the likes of Steven Salmon departing, but pleased to hear that he is actually being taken back on board in some new role, as indeed are one or two others.

I never understand why organisations make people redundant only to re-employ them in a fresh consultancy role. But at least Steven Salmon’s considerable knowledge, expertise and overall brain power is not being lost altogether, and that is a very good thing.

The new external relations manager, Tom Brackenbury, has apparently decided not to take up his post but that’s a bit if a by-the-by. But for now the new CEO looks like he’s going to be the right man for the job.

Early days, of course, and I will watch closely, as ever. But I’m now much more comfortable about the future of the CPT.

Further afield

As I write, news is breaking that Theresa May has finally agreed to set out a timetable for her departure after the fourth vote on her Withdrawal Agreement in early June. 

And on 23 May we have the absurdity of taking part in the EU parliamentary elections.

But for a political watcher like me this is all really rather exciting, so more on this next week.



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