Friday, May 14, 2010

Stagecoach service won't carry the cowboys any more

One of the great disadvantages of catching buses is that passengers put themselves at the mercy of the driver. Every now and again (in my experience very rarely in Christchurch) one strikes a driver who seems determined to drive as roughly as possible - accelerating violently, braking suddenly, taking sharp corners at such speed that passengers are almost toppled to the floor. One idiot cowboy like this does enormous damage - thousands of people who tried buses or tried using them for a short period - have gone back to using cars or other alternatives after enduring a really unpleasant trip. Apart from the straight physical discomfort or the worry the driver might hit some innocent pedestrian or cylists, there is something that really grieves the soul to put oneself totally at the mercy of another person and be abused and humiliated in this manner. This is particularly so for young, insecure or very macho males, who find the whole business of being dependent upon another driver very grueling in the first place ("real men" prefer rail !). This said nobody likes a cowboy driver - public transport is first and foremost a service industry and those who take no pride or interest in providing a good service are in the wrong industry. Of course, sometimes a bus can be faulty, gears snagging, brakes locking etc and should be changed over, sometimes a driver may be too inexperienced to realise how much impact their lurch factor has on passengers.

UK based operator Stagecoach has come up with a device that will rid their ranks forever of cowboys and allow drivers to develop best practice public service by monitoring the effect of their driving. For Stagecoach it is also expected to save significant fuel and reduce carbon dioxide generated by tens of thousands of tons. The scheme is expected to recoup its costs within two years.

An article in "The Times Online" (16 April 2010) says
Bus drivers are being told to ease off the gas, change gear less often and brake less violently. And a flashing light system in the cab will tell them how they are doing: green for safe and efficient; amber for less efficient; and red for poor driving. It is all the idea of Stagecoach, which says that it wants to save fuel - and help the environment.The bus and train operator said yesterday that it would introduce eco-driving techniques for all its 14,500 drivers through a recognised training course.

and after describing several green initatives by Stagecoach on its rail services continues .......

Stagecoach's rivals, including First Group and Go-Ahead, have also been training bus drivers to use less fuel. Public transport companies faced huge fuel bills last year after hedging their consumption while oil was trading close to its peak price of $150 a barrel. Although the oil price fell heavily in 2009 because of the global recession, public transport groups had to pay the rates they had struck in 2008. Fuel prices have doubled since January 2007 and more than quadrupled since 2002. Industry experts have suggested that introducing electronic diagnostic devices that measure driver performance can reduce fuel consumption by as much as 12 per cent, but bus companies say that there are other factors, including the age of the bus and the type of environment it is run in. A Stagecoach spokesman said: "The cost of fuel is just 15 per cent of the overhead, so there are lots of other factors, which mean it is difficult to simply say that this training or this device will reduce the cost of running a bus by so much. This is genuinely about reducing our carbon footprint and improving the passenger experience."

FOOTNOTE: In another Times Online article, a couple of days after the above item, there is a good summary of where Stagecoach is today . About six years ago after Stagecoach nearly went down the gurgler, losing hugely on international operations, notably it bus companies in the USA, it withdrew from many peripheral markets to consolidate its operations in the UK. This included selling its Auckland and Wellington bus operations to Infratil, a New Zealand owned infrastructure company in 2005. These services are now operated by Infratil owned NZ Bus under various localised flagships ("Go West" for western Auckland service etc). What is curious is that after the larger Stagecoach operation was sold, in 2007 Stagecoach co-founder [with his sister] Brian Souter brought controlling interest in the relatively modest (120 buses) Mana Coachlines in Wellington and Souter Holdings continues to operate this small outpost of the Empire. This was some years ago but still adds a touch of irony given the title of the very recent Times online article, "I'm not about to buy small businesses - but big ones, that's a diffrent matter"

1 comment:

  1. I commend you David for this post. Cowboy drivers can ruin a day or entire bus-riding experience.