‘Engaging is what the coach and bus industry does best’

Engagement is what the coach and bus industry does best, says Jane Cole

It has been a pleasure to see how safely and carefully networking events have restarted throughout the coach and bus industry. In October I went to CPT’s London and South East regional dinner held in Eastbourne, and I was delighted to find how spirited and enthusiastic everyone present was to come together again.

Recently, Blackpool hosted an Association of Local Bus Managers (ALBUM) networking event. It was an opportunity to restore some of Blackpool Transport’s ‘muscle memory’ and get ready for Blackpool’s ALBUM conference in April 2022.

This gathering signalled to the coach and bus industry’s suppliers that we as operators understand the context in which the sector operates and intend to be part of the solution to climate change. We had chosen that theme partly to align with the COP26 climate change conference, and to anticipate the industry’s progress towards net zero.

ALBUM Chair Bill Hiron joined me as we took delegates through the aims of the event and expressed our appreciation that suppliers are continuing to support the coach and bus industry with their products and services.

The three speakers complemented each other in terms of their backgrounds and their expertise. We had Cathy Olphin, a postgraduate student from Lancaster University, who gave the meeting her viewpoint as a young person as to what urgent action is needed by world leaders to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Scott Butterfield, an officer with Blackpool Council, explained what resources a local authority could use to formulate climate action plans aiming to achieve net zero by 2030, while Keith Watson, recently appointed to lead EO Charging’s bus division, described the technical solutions that could be deployed by the bus industry on the road to net zero.

It was heartening to hear how many of the suppliers have ideas and plans to work with the sector on that journey. We are being watched by stakeholders and government, but realistically not every operator can respond at the same pace.

We will all have to rise to the challenge eventually, but it will take money and expertise to deliver the ambitious targets that have been set. In January 2022, CPT will hold its UK Bus and Coach Conference. It will be a chance for operators to tackle current issues head on and be challenged to think about how they can do things differently to ensure that they are playing their part to deliver better services for customers and on the UK’s ambitious climate change targets.

The Conference will inform members and invited stakeholders about the government’s vision for coach and bus, Bus Service Improvement Plans, the role of coaches and buses in levelling up, growing domestic tourism and matters around the recruitment and retention of staff. There will also be a range of speakers who talk about improving bus services, changing behaviours and delivering for ‘left behind’ communities.