From surviving to thriving: our ticket to recovery 04/11/2020

Giles Fearnley, Managing Director of First Bus, reflects on 48 years in the bus industry ahead of his retirement this month.

Through 48 years in this industry, I have never known a time when the contribution of the Bus to society has been better understood by politicians, nationally and locally, and opinion formers. And I was saying this even before the pandemic struck! Our colleagues are now recognised as key workers providing essential services and our customers agree!

Yes, the next few months, indeed years, will be tough as we work through the recovery and for certain, some local communities are bound to recover slower than others, and that will create even greater challenges in those areas.

But we must not ever lose sight of our trump cards

  • The industry is embracing digital platforms with a vengeance and transforming both the information available to our customers and the way they can transact with us. The industry has truly caught up with the times.
  • The Clean Air agenda is our friend and we must not allow the hurdle of consequential capital expenditure demands to let us think otherwise. Clearly the industry will need financial support to deliver on electric and hydrogen fleets but the opportunity these will bring in positively transforming the perception of Bus and giving politicians the opportunity to deliver on ambitious bus priorities and other investments is huge. No City will achieve its ambitions without tackling congestion…..and that’s where we come in!
  • Our agility to respond to changing circumstances and changing demand extraordinarily rapidly, and particularly compared to other modes, has always been well known to those of us inside the industry. But now, politicians have seen us demonstrating this in spades through the pandemic and they therefore understand we can continue to, and will, do so into the future.

We must keep reminding politicians, and indeed our customers, that we know our markets, understand the changing landscape, particularly travel patterns and align our networks accordingly. That way we will be delivering a product that exceeds expectations. We can then go to Governments with confidence when we ask for appropriate levels of support that will enable us to deliver all, and more, that is asked of us and, by doing this we will positively contribute to the economies and communities we serve.