This blog is the retirement activity for Roger French OBE DL MA.
I retired from the bus industry in 2013 and since then have been enjoying travelling all over the UK mainly by bus and train, but also the occasional tram, ferry and aeroplane, savouring the delightful scenery and places of interest our country offers as well as experiencing the best and worst and sometimes mediocre of public transport as a passenger.
I hope by writing up my experiences it will inspire others to get out and about on public transport to enjoy travelling around the country as well as give praise to those transport companies doing a fantastic job and also those who need to learn a thing or two and do things better. If only some of them would make it their business to try using their own services from time to time.
I like to try out any new developments to see if they live up to the hype surrounding their introduction and from time to time comment on matters impacting the industry as well as reviewing any new books when published that take my fancy.
I do this with a lifetime experience working in the bus industry from an early job as a student working for London Transport at their famous 55 Broadway offices in 1970 as well as two stints as a bus conductor at their Palmers Green garage in 1972 and 1973 before joining the National Bus Company (NBC) senior management training scheme in 1975, where I was posted for two years to the West Riding bus company based in Wakefield allied with its jointly managed sister company Yorkshire Woollen based in Dewsbury and where I gained my PSV licence and spent Saturdays driving buses in service.
In 1977 I was appointed District Traffic Superintendent at East Kent’s Ashford bus garage followed by becoming Area Manager (East) with South Wales Transport in 1979 based in Swansea but also looking after Neath and Port Talbot.
In 1982 I moved to Brighton to work as Assistant Traffic Manager with Southdown and in 1985 that company was reorganised in prepartion for privatisation and deregulation when I became the Manager of the newly created Brighton & Hove Division which the following year was separated out from Southdown in a re-enlivened Brighton, Hove & District company which changed its name to Brighton & Hove Bus and Coach Company in 1986.
In 1987 I was fortunate to be part of the management buy-out of the company from NBC by which time I was General Manager and in 1993 became Managing Director when the company was sold to Go-Ahead Northern, a former NBC bus company based in Gateshead which had also been a management buy-out and subsequently floated on the stock market becoming the Go-Ahead Group plc we know today.
I continued as Managing Director overseeing a takeover and merger with the neighbouring Brighton Buses in 1997 and the purchase of Stagecoach’s (the former Southdown business) interests in Lewes, Uckfield and Seaford in 2005.
It was a great time to be working in Brighton and Hove with a forward looking Unitary local authority formed when it split from East Sussex County Council in 1997, gaining city status in 2000 and was proud of its pro public transport strategy. This involved a highly successful informal partnership working arrangement with the bus company and saw passenger numbers more than double in the twenty years from the early 1990s, achieved on an already high use of buses resulting in Brighton & Hove proudly boasting the greatest use of buses per head of population of any area outside London.
In 2010 I wrote and published a book about my time at Brighton & Hove entitled Pride & Joy. You can still find copies for sale from online outlets and probably the occasional charity shop.
I was privileged to be awarded an OBE for services to public transport in 2005, an Honorary MA by the University of Brighton in 2007, appointed a Deputy Lord Lieutenant for East Sussex in 2007 and awarded the ‘Freedom of the City of Brighton & Hove’ in 2013.
I’m a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport and a Patron of the Young Bus Managers’ Network. I’m a Trustee of the Foundation for Integrated Transport.
I hope you enjoy reading my blog as much as I get from writing it and travelling around. For 2022 I’m posting new blogs at 06:00 on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays with extras thrown in from time to time on Saturdays and you’re very welcome to become a subscriber to receive these direct to your email address.