Bus Workers, the forgotten front line 02/07/2020

Ralph Roberts, Chair of CPT Scotland and Managing Director of McGill’s Bus Services, writes this week’s blog post for CPT. Ralph recaps the impact the past few months have had on the bus industry, and praises bus workers for all their hard work throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

The past few months have been tumultuous for the whole of the bus & coach industry. I remember attending disaster planning courses and thinking that we would never use those skills. How wrong we turned out to be – and we learned the hard way.

However, I sit today immensely proud of my colleagues, both at McGill’s and across the industry. We have all come together in a spirit of cooperation in an unprecedented way. The bus industry is highly competitive and many of the day to day hum drum activities have been treated as highly confidential and guarded tightly. During the last 12 weeks, we have discovered that it is possible to closely coordinate on a whole host of matters, to the benefit of the travelling public, without compromising our operational integrity. Long may this continue.

Internally, staff have amazed and delighted me in the way that they have approached this pandemic. In circumstances that must have made many nervous of their health and their livelihoods, they have consistently proven why they are worthy of the ‘essential front line’ title. Demarcation was voluntarily out of the window along with the reticence to speak up about good ideas. Indeed, many stars were born – there are plenty of bright careers ahead!

Talking of the future, some commentators are doom laden about what the future holds. I don’t share this outlook – I think that Bus, as the most popular form of public transport, has a very bright future indeed. There may be some short-term bumps in the road, but that is all they will be. Those that rely on the bus to get around have realised that buses have been there for them during this pandemic. Those that have never thought about bus as a way to travel or who have turned their back on it, will be tempted on board. I believe that the cleaner air and quieter environment that we have enjoyed, will continue to be attractive to people. For those that were car bound, either too busy or unwilling to walk any distance, have been taking regular walks as part of their lockdown and I know from discussions that many have come to enjoy it and are more likely to incorporate it into their daily lives in a way they never did before.

 What we need to do as an industry, is hold on to that potential and believe in it. That is the first step – believe it. The next step is to evangelise the message to external stakeholders to introduce the policy initiatives that will support the vision. Our buses are clean, they are safe and we have proven beyond all doubt, that they are a true public service. Let’s all be disciples to that mission!