Switched on Harrogate

Friday 23rd November

Hats off to Transdev Blazefield owned Harrogate Bus Company for getting their brand new fleet of electric buses for the town’s network of local bus routes on to the road and into service.

Unlike London’s all electric Waterloo garage where buses only charge up back at base, this scheme introduces ‘opportunity charging’ while buses layover in the bus station in between trips to keep the batteries topped up.

Stagecoach have electric buses which charge up in Inverness bus station (but it takes forever) while Arriva introduced ‘charging plates’ in the road at the termini for a route in Buckinghamshire, with TfL introducing a similar scheme in north east London for a handful of buses, but this is the first time opportunity charging has been introduced in such a big way and via overhead prongs.

As well as Harrogate bus station infrastructure has also been installed for the buses at the nearby Starbeck bus garage for overnight charging in a more conventional way.

Ambitious innovative schemes such as this one in Harrogate are never straightforward to introduce so full credit to Alex Hornby and his team for their commitment and hard work to make sure the inevitable frustrations are overcome.

I remember the trials and tribulations with the power company in Brighton to get even one roadside real time information sign connected up to a power supply so I can imagine the challenges involved in wiring up three large charging points in Harrogate bus station.

Indeed, there are still delays in commissioning the electric substation at the bus station so the bus manufacturer Volvo has loaned the large diesel generator which was previously used on the one bus trial earlier this year at Greenhithe in Kent.

This hums away as it does it’s stuff and is not as efficient as a proper mains substation, taking longer to recharge each time, nor obviously is it as environmentally friendly. But at least it’s enabled the scheme to get going rather than returning buses to the Starbeck garage for recharging during the day.

Operators with gas buses have faced similar infrastructure delays and frustrations but once sorted (I’m told the substation will soon be operational) it really will be the business and the whole project is very impressive.

The Volvo buses themselves have a real wow factor. You can’t fail to notice their quietness, impressive acceleration and smooth ride. It’s obvious much thought has gone into the interior design and layout to create a pleasant travelling environment to match the environmental credentials of the propulsion.

Nice touches include ample legroom, comfortable seats with a very attractive moquette, benches with contactless charge points over the rear wheels, bus stop push buttons on the insides of seats, a nice front view window in the seat behind the driver and two well proportioned rubbish bins including one for recycling as well as the usual usb points, Wi-fi and next stop announcements and some 2+1 seating.

All this is topped off by a very smart and attractive external livery promoting the Harrogate electrics brand. Ray Stenning and his team at Best Impressions have come up trumps once again with another desire creating package.

As well as the inevitable teething problems from a new bus fleet not least one with a new power and charging arrangement (as explained above) with incumbent driver and engineer unfamiliarity, my visit this afternoon coincided with the usual Friday traffic congestion that besets towns like Harrogate. So instead of a fifteen minute frequency on route 3 to Jennyfield, and half hourly on each of the 2A, 2B (Bilton) and 6 (Pannal Ash) – the four local routes involved – there were some delays and gaps in service but interestingly I picked up an empathic and positive approach from passengers who rightly seem pleased their bus company are investing significant sums in an impressive fleet of buses which will make a contribution to better air quality in their town.

Congratulations to Transdev for backing this extremely bold innovative initiative in Harrogate and to Alex for overcoming the many hurdles to deliver an impressive result.

I’m sure the remaining teething problems will soon be overcome and Harrogate electrics will be the obvious choice for Gold in the UK Bus Awards ‘Environment Award 2019’ this time next year.

Roger French

Top 10 Show offs

Tuesday 30th October 2018

img_3601The Euro Bus Expo show opened at Birmingham’s NEC today for its biennial showcase of what’s hot in the bus and coach industry. I popped along for a stroll round the stands; here are ten exhibits that took my fancy.

1 Navaho Technologies Ltd’s displays

90C7BA04-C91A-46C8-89B2-36985B40D9C5These guys were demonstrating attractive bright new displays with built in gizmos which can provide useful information like how long until the next bus comes on a Bus Full destination sign and a live map showing where the bus is travelling when on a diversion.

C385B85B-AB4B-4870-B825-BCE60C79C6D6.jpeg

Some of their work is already being trialled by TfL on a range of vehicles and routes. They’ve also updated their ‘seats available’ gizmo which detects people as they pass a sensor to go upstairs. I’ve no idea how much all this techy stuff costs but it’s impressive.

E30634F2-F5B0-4045-B3C9-BBB19DB4D898FB413998-83EF-4C32-BE3B-9807E951FB49

2 Mellor’s Strata

2B710F98-AAC2-48BF-9E4B-146538FB47DBi really like what Mellor have done with the Mercedes Sprinter – creating a practical and comfortable small bus for both urban and rural services.

9AD6802C-AC04-49D1-95DB-D19C2B5F9128This larger Strata Ultra takes minibuses to the next level. Very smart and swish. A million miles from that ‘riding in a welfare vehicle’ feeling.

3 Ticketer

CDFC1228-8631-4154-AF4C-DD6227531B9DIt seems to me like it was only a few years ago if you wanted to buy a ticket machine you had the choice of Almex or Wayfarer. Then Ticketer hit the industry by storm and now they’re everywhere.

They had by far the most imaginative stand in Hall 5 including an astronaut in full spaceman costume (seen here with Passenger Transport magazine’s Andrew Garnett).

As a passenger I like the simplicity and quickness of using contactless on Ticketer or reading a QR code on an m-Ticket or paper day ticket.

ADBA5F08-12BA-4B6E-8064-2064BDEE31B9

4 McKenna Brothers electronic timetable

44EE84DD-B77F-4B8E-9465-03227D214544

We hear about the Internet of Things coming our way with new 5G signals enabling our fridge to automatically order a pint of milk and other exciting developments so surely it can’t be long before the humble bus stop paper timetable is replaced by an electronic version?

B0DC173A-81FB-4A9C-BDE3-28CD4F807A5ASo it was good to see McKenna Brothers leading the way with this innovation – be good if they can make it as bright as their super destination blinds too.

B7A52609-84F2-498A-871F-C73E9A764E2D

5 Comfy seats

2255586D-D097-417C-827D-877EC81F0D42As well as on board the gleaming new buses on show there were some impressive displays of comfortable seats from a number of manufacturers.

F16E7A4F-F198-40BB-ADE6-185DEBD55C9F

9E147CAD-CF50-40BC-B799-6C3518632645It’s encouraging to see such a step change in seat quality – passenger ergonomics are definitely taking centre stage as well as requirements for battery recharging and coat hanging. What a shame some train companies (or perhaps more accurately, their civil servant masters) don’t share the same thinking.

DC47FF56-08AB-410F-9B6D-302FF3EBDBE5

6 Hanover Displays – now in colour

E3FDEE1B-7690-4BE5-9CC4-1475F43A3821Something else that’s come on leaps and bounds is the quality of electronic destination displays including the use of colour. Lewes based Hanover have had a long association with Brighton & Hove Bus Company and it’s good to see they’ve now got decent coloured displays available.

C08E596B-1194-40F6-AC0B-9CA2743CB7F2The latest bright LED destination displays really do make a bold statement as a bus approaches as well as standing out to non users on busy streets in town centres (TfL please note).

7 Electric; Gas; Hydrogen

2F158A89-0401-4B05-A458-4A72B37AC3A8

It wouldn’t be a bus and coach show in 2018 without some impressive alternative fuel powered buses on display. Optare were showing off their new Metrocity and Metrodecker EV vehicles bound for London – and now with an impressive 150 mile range (enough for a whole day’s operation) …..

666EAD0B-413C-4994-B5F5-B6F324CAED64

….while Scania had the 100th Enviro400 City biogas double deck bus bound for Nottingham …

53DC3AB9-995D-498B-BD46-B900EAC6F1FD

… as Wright’s had the very first Hydrogen powered double deck on their stand (including a very mini version of their ‘w’ logo on the front lower panel.

8 Schedules

One of my first jobs when joining West Riding in Wakefield 43 years ago as a management trainee was to spend a few weeks in the company’s schedules department. Four people spent all day, pencil in hand, pouring over huge graph paper (it seemed like at least A1 size) trying to get the best vehicle and crew utilisation.

It wasn’t long before clever people invented computer software to make the task so much easier. Now, companies such as Omnibus with its Omnitimes link schedules into many other systems and have now even launched cloud based software with interesting new functionality, but my eye was caught by these impressive screens showing ‘what ifs’ devised by Optibus and which impressively give you a resource and cost update as you make any changes. Made me quite nostalgic for doing a bit of scheduling again!

A38BCB9C-CB9F-4E9A-86A0-3C0BA6B10009E1FD6A6F-55B3-440C-A693-A483B18F4D1B

9 Nostalgia corner

B48B9998-CFF1-46AF-B2E5-02049179032D

3FA62D0C-DD77-4F37-9F81-1A067871A37F

Talking of nostalgia it was nice to be taken back in time on a couple of the stands and be reminded of launch vehicles of bygone times. They also remind us of just how far we’ve come.

6660DEC0-9A04-4C22-8444-F745C2026248

1349E82A-E363-47F0-9371-D0ACF760CE03

10 Best Impressions

654CBCDD-DC19-4A52-85DE-9AC35EC433C9
Ray with colleague Ed Cameron

I’ve saved the Best until last. You just can’t beat Ray Stenning and his team for creating desire and promoting the bus. It’s no coincidence that most, if not all, of the award winning renowned successful companies, brands and routes have the hand of Best Inpressions behind them. Long may that continue.

A5BB2029-88BC-48B1-B7C8-BCB9C94DF619

One final thought. As I hopped on and off all the gleaming new buses on display with all their latest gizmos and comfort attributes and which will soon be out on Britain’s roads attracting and impressing passengers, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed that the most prominent message on entry on a few of them is a stark Exact Fare farebox. In this contactless, m-Ticket, smartcard world perhaps it’s time for a change and give change?

0C2C8FDE-A0C3-410F-A6DB-595B79BAD931DED30A03-1967-4E17-912A-5CFDBE2C789EED15585E-35F0-4034-8A86-891F85E10F36

Euro Bus Expo is on until Thursday 1st November at the NEC in Birmingham if you’re reading this when published. Wonder what they’ll call the next one in 2020!

Roger French     30th October 2018

10 years from now

Wednesday 24th October 2018

Bristol 3

Last week’s conference for Young Bus Managers in Bristol was another great success. A hundred people attended from across all five of the UK’s big bus Groups as well as ten smaller companies and even some transport students from Aston and Huddersfield Universities.

Bristol 1

The afternoon workshop session asked attendees what the bus industry will look like in ten years time. Everyone was randomly allocated to one of eight groups and given 45 minutes to come up with some pertinent highlights which were presented back with a time limit of no more than 3 minutes. Here are my notes of what these young, enthusiastic and energised bus managers foresaw……

Bristol 4

The first group reckoned there’d be a north/south split on payment for fares with no cash in the south but cash continuing in the north. They expected to see MaaS (Mobility as a Service) subscription type accounts for transport use becoming common. There’ll be new safety features on vehicles which will mainly be powered by electric and gas. Wi-Fi will have been and gone as a fad, and they thought more similar fads would come and go. Recruitment of driving staff will still be a challenge but they foresaw more part time and flexible rostering. There’ll be more flexible operation in timetables (like DRT). Congestion will continue to present a grim picture. Overall they saw the next ten years as evolution not revolution.

Bristol 5

Group two foresaw more car free zones as issues surrounding traffic and the environment increased. There’d be many more Park & Ride operations with buses having priority over cars. On ticketing there’ll be more integration across modes through the use of apps. Smartcard use would continue to supplement smartphone ticketing. They also foresaw more electric vehicles provided the challenge of smart charging can be sorted.

Bristol 6

Group three thought the regulatory structure for bus operation would be adapted in different places to suit political will (e.g. franchising). They felt DRT would not succeed as the market was too small but they saw the growth of feeder services connecting into frequent trunk routes. They had concerns about the future of the High Street.

Bristol 7

The fourth group didn’t foresee shock changes – more evolution. BSOG and Concessionary Fares will still be issues. Vehicles will emit 100% clean exhausts. There’d be limited use of autonomous vehicles for specific applications (e.g. airports). There’ll be more electric vehicles. They foresaw continued frustration with politicians who fail to tackle unfettered car use.  Cash would still be commonly accepted for fares payment. Access to information will be better, there’ll be more multimodal tickets and better real time information. Electronically imaged timetables will be displayed at bus stops making it easier to update when services change. There’ll be more useful apps as a consequence of new Bus Open Data arrangements. There’ll be no change to passenger demographics but there will be a national fares scheme for young people and there’ll be work to simplify fares.

Bristol 8

The fifth group thought the threat and opportunities presented by low emission zones will become more political – LEZs becoming the next revolution (previous one being low-floor buses). There’ll be greater partnership working with local authorities. Diesel will disappear as a fuel with cheaper alternatives but they thought grid supply challenges will make electric buses unlikely with gas becoming more common. Autonomous vehicles would be limited to garage shunting movements (freeing up depot space) and emergency braking on the move. Business will become less operational minded and more customer focused.

Bristol 2

Group six highlighted electric vehicles with ULEZ schemes becoming commonplace. Vehicle interiors will continue to improve with wireless charging as standard (aimed at young people). There’ll be more new business models such as Snap and Vamooz. Tackling congestion will continue to be a dominate theme. Franchising as a model might be in place in some areas but it was thought partnership working will remain the favoured option with politicians. Regulatory arrangements will be modified to allow for more on demand type services. Contactless will be the main form of payment in urban areas. Google services (e.g. journey planning) will be dominant. Bus companies will increasingly target growth hubs such as universities, hospitals and airports. Another group who foresaw evolution not revolution.

Britsol 11

Group seven went for some blue sky thinking. They thought bus companies would move beyond the farebox and look for alternative income streams like some airlines have done. Maybe mining and selling the vast range of data. There’d be much better utilisation of assets – Ryanair/easyJet style. They thought there’d be a Brexit effect on driver availability which may lead to bus companies concentrating on core corridors due to a shortage of staff. They wondered if bus companies will diversify more into other modes including ride sharing, cycle hire etc.

Brsitol 9

And finally group eight saw electric vehicles along with changes to regulatory arrangements to allow buses a greater level of accessibility in new greener zones with environmental concerns increasing. Urban areas will have cashless buses while rural areas may have DRT type services (or left without buses). Fares will be much simplified; staffing will be more flexible with more part timers. Some thought fares will be halved as a radical step.

Bristol 13

It was a great end to a packed conference which included a frank and candid after dinner speech from Traffic Commissioner for the West of England, Kevin Rooney; a fascinating, and I must add, totally realistic presentation from Professor Graham Pankhurst (from the University of the West of England) on the impact of technology on public transport including smart and autonomous vehicles, propulsion and fuel options, managing congestion and ride sharing; presentations from James Freeman and Shalando Williams of First West of England including a site visit and ride on new metrobus route m2; and presentations from Claire Walters of Bus Users UK and Sarah Huntley of The TAS Partnership.

Bristol 14

The conferences are a great opportunity for young managers in the bus industry to learn, share experiences and network with their contemporaries across all the main companies. It must be a unique set up – I doubt any other industry brings young people together from competing companies in a commercial environment to share knowledge and network in this way. Long may this continue.

Bristol 10

More information about the Young Bus Managers Network can be found here. Conferences are administered by Transport Events Group and financially supported by the Chris Moyes Scholarship Trust set up in memory of the Go-Ahead Group’s Chief Executive Chris Moyes OBE DL, who left us far too early aged 57 in 2006.

Roger French     24th October 2018

Is Oxford’s Pick Me Up picking up?

Friday 5th October 2018

Oxford’s Pick-Me-Up is now over three months old so I thought it was time to see how it’s settling down after the introductory honeymoon.

My four criteria to judge these new ride share taxi-come-bus services are: waiting time for bus to arrive; direct or meandering route; solo ride or share with other pick ups/set downs; cost.

As I’ve observed previously, for the passenger the perfect experience would be: short wait; direct route; solo ride; cheap fare, while for the operator compromises on this perfection are essential for business success. The big question is how much compromise is necessary to make it viable without it becoming unattractive for the passenger?

Today’s experiences are just a snapshot and can hardly be regarded as considered research, but this is what happened….

Ride 1. I arrived Oxford station at 1120 and immediately booked a ride to John Radcliffe Hospital. Back came the offer of a pick up in 13 minutes from Frideswide Square just round the corner from the station. I was a bit surprised the major picking up point immediately outside the station wasn’t offered but it can be a congested area with terminating buses and a plethora of taxis so I wandered over to the nearby pick up point away from all that public transport hullabaloo ready for the pick up.

At 1136 (just slightly later than predicted) my Pick-Me-Up bus appeared but worryingly drove by and turned right into the station forecourt. I spotted a couple of passengers on board so guessed they were being dropped off and hotfooted it over to see.

It turned out the driver needed a pee-break so had parked up and a co-driver who was standing alongside welcomed me on board joining a mum and her two young children.

It also turned out a passenger had been dropped off at the station making my algorithm specified pick up location at Frideswide Square even more puzzling.

Our driver duly relieved reappeared after a few minutes and at 1140 we headed off towards the JRH. It turned out mum and offspring were also heading my way so top marks to Via’s algorithm for matching us up and taking advantage of this travel coincidence. I’d guess this added just 4-5 minutes to my journey to drop them off on London Road with a quick turnaround on a petrol station forecourt.

Just like my first ride with Pick-Me-Up in June there seems to be an aversion to enter the grounds of John Radcliffe Hospital where there’s a useful bus station area conveniently adjacent to the entrance to the hospital’s main building. Instead Via’s algorithm decided it was best to drop me off in a nearby street where there’s a short cut through a private road to the bus station area (assuming you know that – feigning ignorance, I was reassured by the on board co-driver it was a public right of way).

My short walks to both the pick up and set down points this morning were no problem for me but could have been extremely frustrating for someone with accessibility issues.

No grumbles about the cost of my journey which at £2.50 was only 20p more than if I’d got the standard bus, and would have got me to the hospital in the same journey time.

Ride 2. After some nourishment I booked another ride at 1234 from the JRH bus station to some way south along the Cowley Road.

A pick up in 7 minutes beat the Company target of ‘within ten minutes’ and what’s more was going to actually come and pick me up at the bus station in the hospital grounds. Yay!

Tracking progress of the bus coming towards me, it looked suspiciously like it was either dropping someone off or doing a pick up.

No matter, as the bus arrived pretty much as predicted at 1242 and sure enough a couple travelling together were already on board hopefully enjoying the detour through the hospital grounds and presumably they were also heading my way. Quite an extraordinary coincidence as I’d chosen Cowley Road as a destination completely at random!

We made good progress albeit along a traffic-calmed residential road with the usual humps and narrowed chicanes on part of the route ….

…. and I was dropped off at 1252 as predicted and another £2.50 charge. I’m not sure if my fellow riders were wanting to head south into Cowley but that’s the direction the bus continued in after it had dropped me off.

I nipped back to Oxford Station on a conventional bus and thought I’d try something a bit more adventurous – a ride to the Oxford Science Park in the south of the catchment area.

The algorithm wasn’t so keen on this idea though and stood me up.

Never mind, I thought. How about my favourite ride – another trip back to JRH?

Turned out that was just right for a minibus that was heading that way in only a minute; but strangely I’d need to sprint over to Frideswide Square again for the pick up!

I decided I’d turn that opportunity down, and tried again for a ride south – right to the extreme southern tip of the catchment area but no the algorithm wasn’t having any of that. It was towards JRH or no go.

So; once again I learnt these new fangled ride share schemes are inevitably a compromise between the passenger’s needs and the business model’s requirements. If a bus is going your way within a reasonable timeframe – you’re in luck. If not, it’s tough luck.

It’s good to see Pick Me Up carrying passengers but I’m yet to be convinced there’s a viable future; certainly at £2.50 a trip I reckon it’ll be impossible, but charge too much more and I’d think twice about paying that.

Roger French 5th October 2018

Gliding on Glider

Ever wondered what around £100 million will buy in the way of Bus Rapid Transit? I popped over to Belfast today to find out.

The idea of creating a metro style cross city transit route has been discussed in the City for some years and as always with projects of this kind, (like in Bristol), it’s way behind the original hoped for introduction. But on Monday last week it finally glided into action.

It’s very impressive to see; there’s no doubt about that. It looks exactly like the vision those pioneers at First Bus envisaged when introducing ftr back in 2006 – a tram-like-driver-isolated-in-the-cab vehicle with bespoke tram-like stops and lashings of bus priority measures.

The downfall for ftr was the onboard self-service ticket machine which was never going to work, as well as introducing those first vehicles on a completely unsuitable route in York. Further trials in Leeds and Swansea never worked either because of the unacceptably high cost of employing conductors.

Translink operated Glider has overcome that problem by using some of the £100 million to install easy to use ticket machines (including contactless cards accepted) at all 110 or so bus stops along the 15 mile Glider corridor and implementing a strictly buy before you board policy policed by two-person ticket checkers who were out in force when I visited today (costly in itself but a good deterrent).

There’s also a smartcard system and good value day tickets. I found it quick and easy to buy my ticket.

The high profile bus stops along the route are all impressively fitted out with seats/perches and information including real time.

There’s an abundance of bus lanes all along the route (operational 7am to 7pm), sometimes only in a city bound direction, but even in the off peak when I travelled we gained time by passing other traffic queuing at traffic lights.

The 46 seat (yes, only 46 but lots of standing!) Van Hool hybrid articulated buses look slick and are painted in a smart purple (similar to ftr). They give a very smooth quiet ride. The Glider brand and livery as well as the interior decor are however very much understated but in some ways that gives it a bit of class.

As befits a publicly owned undertaking there’s no promotion or marketing to be seen; you wouldn’t know the key points served by the route (quite a few), frequency (high), price (good value) or added benefits (Wi-fi + usb) from seeing the buses.

I picked up three different leaflets about the service. Only one had a timetable and also had a route diagram, one of the other two also showed the route and details of the smartcard while the third had general information. All a bit confusing. The timetable leaflet was available at the city centre Visit Belfast shop and Metro kiosk but not the main city Europa bus and coach station.

The two other leaflets (but not the timetable) were on display at the very impressive waiting area building at the eastern terminus of route G1 – the Dundonald Park & Ride – now called Park & Glide.

No leaflets were available on board the buses or at bus stops.

Buses had four screens showing next stop and the two following with clear audio announcements except both times I ventured over to West Belfast the system gave up a few stops past the city centre. Presumably some technical teething problems.

Other teething problems were impacting the cross city G1’s timekeeping big time. Buses are timetabled to run every 7-8 minutes with an end to end journey time of an hour. It was taking longer than that leading to inevitable gaps in service, bus bunching and some over crowding.

A service controller was kept busy at the central Wellington Place bus stop moving passengers from one delayed bus to another and there looked to be quite a bit of light running going on. It didn’t seem the service was being controlled remotely using GPS positioning and radio contact with drivers which surprised me.

I’m sure these initial timekeeping problems can be overcome with a quick fix timetable review but it’s unfortunate that in the meantime goodwill during the honeymoon period is being lost as adverse comments build up on social media (#gliderbelfast refers).

The much shorter route G2 shuttle service running ever 10 minutes between the City Centre and the Titanic Quarter was keeping time much better and proving very busy with a steady flow of visitors to this popular tourist attraction.

The scheme promotors have spent quite a bit of the marketing budget on high profile Glider branding around the city centre and you can’t fail to notice the name.

One interesting feature onboard are the three doors being push button operated by passengers once released by drivers which will keep warmth in the vehicle in the winter.

The G1 cross city route is very significant in linking the communities of East and West Belfast (Secretary of State Karen Bradley please note!). I was intrigued to see if other passengers would join me in making the cross city journey on my travels and interestingly on one trip a couple did travel from the heart of East Belfast right into the Falls Road area in the west.

Previously both sides of the city had separate routes – the 4 to the east and the 10 to the west. It’ll be fascinating to see if more cross city, cross culture and cross community travel develops as Glider becomes established.

The desire is to introduce more Glider routes if this initial foray is a success and more significantly if future funds allow especially as a sizeable chunk of the money for this first route came from the EU as part of the Regional Development Fund.

Another interesting and unique aspect is the competition buses and now Glider face from the well established Black Cab scheme in West Belfast and especially along the Falls Road where ride sharing has been in place for many years and was much in evidence today.

It’s a fascinating project which, aside from the initial timekeeping teething problems, has been well executed and just shows what you can do with around £100 million. I wish it well.

Roger French 11th September 2018

Seven steps to simpler rail fares. Sorted.

9F528440-78DE-4965-8CC6-B68B0A46202C

Tomorrow is the last day to give feedback for the Rail Delivery Group’s review of rail fares with the aim of making them much easier to understand. They’ve produced a simple clickable online survey which, if you don’t make any additional comments or suggestions, only takes around five minutes to complete, so is well worth a whirl.

There are questions on things like the merits of basing fares on distance, time of day/day of week, level of service, time of booking, method of booking, flexibility of travel, split ticketing, rewarding loyalty, discounts for railcards as well as methods of payment.

The RDG review pledges any changes will be financially neutral so for every attractive outcome offering lower ticket prices there’ll be others paying more for their journey. I can’t see the latter going down well with the rail industry’s political masters nor the commentators and media who like to find fault. Which group of passengers will willingly pay more for the sake of achieving a more logical, easier to understand fares system?

And in that context here are my seven suggestions for simplification:

1. Do away with cheaper return tickets and just have single journey tickets.

In some cases cheap off peak returns are only 10p more than the single which is particularly anomalous. Instead maintain the ability to buy a return (for convenience) but it’ll simply cost double the single. In averaging this all out, most people already make return journeys so this won’t have a huge impact on what people pay; it will mean cheaper single journey prices and modestly more expensive return prices but still achieving the same overall revenue take. While we’re at it, the summation of single leg journey prices mustn’t be less than the price charged from end to end to avoid split ticket anomalies.

2. Do away with Advanced Purchase discounted tickets.

In many cases, for Standard Class travel, they don’t offer the savings they first appear to once the cost of a return journey is taken into account. An off peak return is very often just as cheap as two Adanced Purchase tickets for the separate journey legs. Furthmore, off peak returns offer complete flexibility on journey travel times.

3. Do away with peak/off peak price differentials; charge the same ticket price irrespective of travel time.

Bit radical, I know, but season ticket holders travelling five days a week already pay something close to five times the off peak fare anyway. They always reckon they’re hard done by, but actually the perceived high cost of travel is because they pay in bulk and make more journeys. An occasional traveller pays much more per journey as they pay full whack in the morning peak with an Anytime Ticket. This change will obviously mean off peak ticket prices rising relative to peak prices but see my suggestion number 7.

4. Do away with cheaper tickets restricted to one particular train company.

All tickets should be available on any train running between the origin and destination and used by ‘any permitted’ route between those points. Which brings me to…

5. Make it much more clear what the ‘Any Permitted’ route options are for tickets.

I’m pretty sure only the renowned ticketing expert Barry Doe knows what can be done and what can’t; the rules are so complex and almost impregnable. It can’t be beyond the wit of the fares experts at the RDG to produce a nice interactive online map of the rail network where you can click on your origin and destination stations and up comes all the route options possible on the map. I think people would be amazed what flexibility is available and when combined with the ability to break your journey at any station on route (something many passengers are also unaware is possible) opens up many flexible travel options.

6. Do away with seat reservations.

Increasingly I see passengers ignoring their allocated seat and instead opting for a preferred better placed unreserved seat especially when unreserved (or less busy) coaches are marked up on platform indicator boards. Passengers like the ability to choose a preferred seat once they actually arrive on the train, but this leads to chaotic scenes where reserved seats are foregone as passengers rush to bag unreserved seats. I’m also increasingly finding electronic seat reservations systems are unreliable leading to more confusion as passengers board along the route expecting to find their reserved seat.

7. My final suggestion, having swept away cheaper returns, cheaper advanced purchases, cheaper peak tickets and reservations in favour of a simple easy-to-understand one price system…….is to add a bit of complexity back, but using a promotional marketing approach by significantly expanding the range of Railcards.

7a Make Railcards available for any adult without the need to be of a certain age, have a partner or children, or work for the armed forces. Yes, let anyone buy a Railcard. A sort of Nationwide Network Card. The range will include paying something like £100 up front for a year which would offer say, a 50% discount off peak on the new standard single fare. Or another could be £40 offering a third discount. I’m not privy to know the revenue streams from different tickets now, so it’s difficult to know what the price band/discounts need to be, but I hope you get the idea behind the principle of establishing say three or four Railcards of this kind to appeal to different market segments. You’d design Railcards to appeal to regular users as well as occasional users and the discount would encourage travel by offering a good value price. Offers could also be made on the upfront price of the initial Railcard purchase to encourage take-up and discounts given for longer duration Railcards, as now, say for a three year validity.

7b Existing Railcards would continue and with some extensions of validity. For example Senior Railcard discounts should be available at any time, including during the morning peak in the London and South East area (ok, I need to declare a slight vested interest here; ok, a big-time vested interest here – I live in London and the South East and I use a Senior Railcard; a lot). Journeys wholly within London and the South East (as per the Network Railcard area – which itself is nonsensical to have one Railcard’s restrictions based on another’s area) are not discounted until after 9am presumably on the logic of not giving a discount at a busy time of day with packed out trains. But that doesn’t stand much scrutiny as Londoners with a Freedom Ticket (available to over 60s) giving completely free travel can use the overcrowded Underground at any time as can Senior Railcard holders travel at a discount on packed out morning peak trains in other conurbations around the country and finally as justification, Senior Railcard holders can already travel across the L&SE area border at morning peak times – e.g. there’s no time restriction on discounts for a pre 9am journey from Brighton to Ipswich (Ipswich is outside the L&SE area) but discounted travel is not possible pre 9am for Brighton to Colchester (Colchester is within the L&SE area). Again this is something many passengers don’t know about, indeed my recent experience has been even some ticket office staff don’t know about it either and wrongly assume a Senior Railcard means no discounts before 9am. Not true.

So that’s it, a much simplified ticket system with some attractive incentives through a new range of Railcards. Sorted.

If you’ve got ideas or comments about rail fares be sure to click here by close of play tomorrow.

Roger French           9th September 2018

Bristol’s latest metrobus m2 begins

The second of the three new metrobus routes began operating in Bristol yesterday. The m2 links the Long Ashton Park & Ride site (south west of the city) via some impressive newly constructed exclusive busway road to the city centre where the bus does a large anti-clockwise circuit.

It’s been controversial and way behind schedule. This route’s £50 million budget is part of an overall £200 million scheme being overseen by Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucester Councils.

I’m not complaining about the high cost though; compared to rail schemes or roads it’s virtually petty cash and it’s good to see buses receiving impressive infrastructure investment.

First West of England has bravely taken the route on as a commercial proposition and I reckon they’re going to have their work cut out to achieve the elusive double digit margins City analysts demand of PLCs.

Unlike route m3 which began in May serving the busy University of West of England campus at the route’s southern end (north of the Uni is a bit barren) the m2’s main objective is bringing Long Ashton Park and Riders into the city centre. There’s not really much else to it.

Helped by well over a mile of new exclusive busway buses bypass any traffic congestion until they’re close to the city centre. That’s good for journey time and timekeeping (28 mins to Broadmead/22 mins back again) but not so good for picking up other revenue potential.

The circular city centre route has proved controversial as many commuters have complained the new circuit means a much longer walk to their workplace than the previous 903 service, but I’m sure such criticism will die down once the new arrangements become familiar. There are always winners and losers and a circular routing does make sense for Bristol’s central road layout.

The £4 First Bus day ticket is good value and can be used across their network with longer period tickets also available as are First’s M-ticket range. Despite this it’s surprising there’s only one ‘iPoint’ ticket machine at the Park & Ride terminus. As metrobus drivers don’t handle fares that’s surely a recipe for frustration with queues building up at busy times with a bus about to leave. Considering the investment in these ‘iPoint’ totems along the routes, even at quiet stops (on both sides of the road) this seems very shortsighted and penny pinching.

I also see the frequency is only every 20 minutes before 10am on Saturdays and would have thought that’ll be unpopular in the busy weekends leading up to Christmas. Otherwise it runs every 10 minutes at peak times. 12 minutes off peak and 20 minutes in the evenings.

Astonishingly the Park & Ride is closed on Sundays and route m2 doesn’t run! That is a bizarre omission.

The busway has sections of guided track which, just like in Leigh in Greater Manchester, are completely unnecessary. I suspect it may be to do with getting grant funding from the DfT that required a certain percentage of route to be ‘guided’, if so it’s bureaucracy gone bonkers as it slows the bus down, costs more to build and operate when there’s no issue with available road width.

The route serves Ashton Gate stadium but buses won’t stop on Bristol City home game days as capacity is a problem.

It’s also advertised as serving Temple Meads Station but not via the bus stops right outside nor on Temple Gate at the bottom of the access road but to the side in Temple Way accessed through the station’s side entrance/exit. In the event the connection to the station is a bit tenuous as, other than people like myself, few arriving by train would want a bus to a Park & Ride site on the city’s fringe and there are plenty of other buses to the city centre from right outside the station or on Temple Gate. It’s a shame the m2 bus stop in Temple Way hadn’t yet been updated from the former 903.

Despite these shortcomings Ashton Gate stadium and Temple Meads are highlighted in the route’s inflation leaflet.

There were copious supplies of the leaflet available at the impressive Park and Ride kiosk along with other facilities.

The buses are functional and comfortable rather than luxurious and are clean and well presented. The livery is a bit drab and doesn’t really excite.

The bus stop facilities along the route are excellent, if anything, a little over the top but better to over provide than under.

If I didn’t fancy using First West of England’s smart newly branded Excel excellent bus routes but instead was an ardent motorist living in North Somerset with commitments in central Bristol I’d definitely use Long Ashton’s Park and Ride car park and hop on an m2 bus into the city centre. It beats sitting in Bristol’s notorious congestion.

It remains to be seen whether sufficient people will do likewise to make it viable. Certainly every effort’s been made to make it an attractive option and well done to all concerned.

If you’re down Bristol way soon give it a try – it’s free on the last two Saturdays this month.

Roger French 4th September 2018

I Didn’t Get Gett

Having been plagued for some weeks by marketing emails from the London black cab App organisation called Gett, I finally relented yesterday and headed up to London to use up the £10 credit (with an expiry of 31st August) they’d recently added to my account in a last ditch attempt to entice my return custom. It wasn’t as if I’d been much of a customer, having made one solitary journey back in October 2017 to try out the new peak hours only ride-sharing Black Bus 1 route between Highbury & Islington and Waterloo they’d just introduced amid much fanfare with partners Citymapper who’d worked out there was latent demand on that corridor from the enquiries they’d been monitoring on their Journey Planner App.

I thought I’d replicate my Black Bus 1 journey and see if once again I’d be sharing the intimacy of a black cab with other riders for the bargain fare of £3. I’d not been able to do my usual trip research beforehand as all the Gett App would tell me was I’m in an unsupported area down in Sussex where I live. I’d had a look at the Gett website, but that hadn’t mentioned anything about Black Bus 1 either. So it wasn’t until I came out of Highbury & Islington station at 0842 I could sus out the travel options.

I trotted along to nearby Compton Terrace on the main road just south of the station where I’d waited before and sure enough having entered Waterloo as “where I want to go” at 0844 the Citymapper App listed a taxi icon among the options (as it had done before) showing an arrival in 5 minutes and with a journey time of 45 minutes (taking 50% longer than the tube options).

I clicked it, got an encouraging ‘Book & Go’ clickable icon over a map with reassuring reference to my Smart Ride not costing the expected £3 but would be a freebie at £0.

I clicked that only to be stumped by payment options of Apple Pay or “Add Credit Card”.

I decided to add my credit card details despite that £3 fare being reassuringly struck through and then received confirmation at 0845 it was “Using £3 from your credit” and the “Driver arrives in 16 min”.

As a bit of a novice at this game I had wrongly assumed with those messages I’d done all I needed to do. It turns out I hadn’t; and despite not wanting to use Apple Pay, I needed to find another icon to “pay’; even though I had a fare of £0.

But there was I thinking I was all good to go, especially when I rechecked at 0847, as within only those two minutes the screen had updated to “Driver arrives in 2 min” and what looked like a fellow passenger appeared alongside me also staring intently at her phone.

She confirmed she’d also booked a ride and within a minute an anonymously branded black Mercedes people carrier appeared.

The driver was a bit perplexed to find two of us, and establishing we weren’t a couple he confirmed I wasn’t booked with him and needed to wait for another driver.

Clicking back on the Citymapper App showed a wait for another driver of another 15 minutes so I decided to interrogate the Gett App instead; after all they were the people who’d gifted £10 credit to me and were so keen for my return custom. In fact it puzzled me how Citymapper knew I had credit as I’d had no communication from them.

The trouble was the Gett App, like the website made no mention of Black Bus 1, and I appeared to be booking a standard black cab to take me to Waterloo.

Even more consternation as there was no mention of my credit and instead wanted me to pay with my credit card; although it did make reference to me getting “£10 off this ride” with my “coupon”.

Not being a black cab user I feared for my bank balance for such a long journey if I went through with the transaction, but decided to give it a go, only to be told the expected arrival time of a driver was another 15 minute wait and with an expected arrival time in Waterloo not until 0953 which was 57 minutes away.

As by then it was 0856, this seemed a very long time away, so after a three minute cogitation, at 0859 I decided to abandon this smart ride-share gig altogether and instead plump for a traditional ride-share gig, the humble TfL red bus to take me to Waterloo.

Despite battling with some of London’s usual peak hour congestion, we arrived in Waterloo at 0941 comfortably ahead of Gett’s prediction had I used them, and it only cost me £1.50.

I still have no idea what the relationship is between Gett and Citymapper  and how my £10 credit appeared on Citymapper. It would seem Gett no longer run a BlackBus 1 for £3  and just run traditional black cabs but Citymapper contract an anonymous ride share company to do so instead but not marketed under that Black Bus 1 brand. The whole experience was confusing and I was reassured traditional bus, tube and train are still the modes of choice for me and I won’t be disrupted.

Roger French                           1st September 2018

Are App-A-Rides viable?

Followers of this blog, my twitter timeline and various magazine articles I’ve written will know I’m a bit of a sceptic about the current fashion for App-A-Ride, the modern day Dial-A-Ride and so called demand responsive services.

I just can’t see how the business model will ever deliver a profit. I must be missing something as hot on the heels of Oxford Bus launching Pick-Me-Up and Arriva announcing an expansion of their Click brand into Liverpool came National Express’s announcement last week of plans for something similar in the West Midlands.

Readers will know I’ve yet to actually share a ride with a fellow passenger other than on the Gett Black Bus 1 route (actually a Black Cab rather than a bus) in London one morning. My various Clicks, Slides, Chariots, My First Mile rides have all been Ride Solo rather than Ride Share …. until today.

In my continuing research to find the positive bottom-line secret of making App-A-Rides profitable I wandered back to Sittingbourne to have another try on Arriva’s Click; the first and original. My train was due into Sittingbourne station at 1114 and previous experience taught me to book a Click ride in advance to avoid a lengthy wait on arrival.

So I logged into the Click app to book my journey at 1015 soon after leaving Victoria. You’re given half hour time slots every 15 minutes as options so I booked 1115-1145 and hoped when the confirmation came it would be closer to 1115 than 1145 to minimise waiting.

93B3C321-B993-47DC-88E2-3CF84B92AC1E.jpeg

Not having received an update by 1108 I checked the App and was a little alarmed to find my booked slot had slipped to 1145-1215. If I’d not been a BusAndTrainUser I think I’d have cancelled and opted for a taxi waiting on the rank instead.

21A4AEC9-9E20-47A2-9533-C4D4DB5DC6DC.png

But; almost as if the software knew, just as my train was pulling into Sittingbourne station I received a confirmation text that I’d be picked up … in 28 minutes at 1141. So much for minimising the wait.

5307E48C-4E6D-49E4-8A8C-A6E942427634

Just to add to the fun, as you can see from the rather operational explanatory wording (not sure what AC means!) it would be a spare minibus (maybe number 006 or maybe number 9?) and would pick me up a short walk away from the station in Park Road rather than outside – which, when I arrived, was obviously due to extensive roadworks immediately outside the station. But no mention in the text.

45164D9F-DF3E-4A8D-865C-51F466E6CFA2

5190BC6A-DDBF-4617-9A3E-A4B3EE1613E6

Frustratingly my minibus passed by where I was waiting in Park Road at 1135 but going in the opposite direction which I later realised was to pick another passenger up heading in the same direction as me as by 1139 it had turned round and was heading back towards me!

3DC53928-B369-4A56-AF96-ADEC47C1AEA4

C90BA2F2-19B9-4AC0-A031-666EDC621A0D

As I’d made my way from the station to the designated pick up point in Park Road I saw another minibus heading into the temporary bus stand obviously scheduled for a break but it did add further to the frustration of waiting to see this.

43C5CF34-4728-4858-A146-B3467051E343

A77512A0-9772-45A9-A37E-3EEE9210644E

Eventually driver Andy arrived with the other passenger on board at 1147 (33 minutes after I’d arrived by train despite pre-booking). He managed to park by a busy junction not helped by white-van parking at the designated spot, and kindly got out to open the manually operated door in this wheelchair accessible spare vehicle on hire.

D241A680-604D-4E3A-BE90-1ACA0132C8DB

22D38D1C-FECE-4CC2-8023-14E873FD5D8A

313B4648-376A-4AEF-8C49-637D3957ED8A

Fortunately my fellow passenger was alighting on the route to my destination (clever bit of algorithm) so we dropped her off without needing to make a detour. Interestingly she’s in the social/healthcare profession using Click to make home visits.

2316B8CC-827F-461D-B75C-EEE3D1F30D48

My destination in Tunstall was out of bounds due to a road closure so Andy kindly dropped me as close as he could and then he was off.

48F92AAF-5D30-4128-AF43-B4394B460E95

0DAB46EE-6975-4016-8193-E79F97A1294A

The App software isn’t able to indicate road closures so I didn’t risk booking my return from there so instead took a walk further into Sittingbourne’s suburbs to find another location.

Park Drive/Sterling Road looked a likely spot to book from with the usual unhelpful bus stop information. And a great shame too, as I found out after returning home, a bus on Chalkwell’s route 9 would have picked me up just 15 minutes later from this stop on one of its 5-7 journeys per day and taken me direct to the town centre.

6348F59A-AF90-4BB1-975A-A8FA6F3753C2

In the event I had better luck with my return booking. At 1202 a minibus was just 11 minutes away.

8712DC9D-3F0A-486E-861A-1C99C43490A4

And it turned out to be so. Driver Daniel was very friendly; been driving with Click for around a month and enjoying the change from running a newsagent.

45DEF35D-60D4-49A7-8A7A-5C56710C3793

As we chatted away I detected we were actually heading south along Borden Lane towards Borden rather than north towards Sittingbourne’s town centre. ‘We’ve got another pick up’ Daniel explained. I’m thinking it’s just as well I’d not planned a tight connection for a train at the station.

We made the pick up in Borden and headed towards Tesco where the passenger wanted dropping off, not before he’d affirmed with Daniel the air conditioning wasn’t working as he bid us farewell.

2E26315B-CFA3-43A8-9BFF-0E0C82B1A8A8.jpeg

It wasn’t long before we arrived at my chosen town centre destination (a Pizza Hut car park!) probably about five minutes later due to the Borden deviation so not a huge inconvenience on what would have been a direct seven minute journey at most. But on the other hand more than a 50% increase in journey time was a bit of a downer.

071CABAD-E22B-4DF1-985B-41D1BAB2D81D.jpeg

So for the first time I’ve shared a ride share, and twice, in one day, and to be honest it wasn’t painful. But notwithstanding this, I can’t see how Arriva made any money from either trip I made today. The outward journey cost me £3.75 for the 2.8 mile ride. It took around ten minutes. A bit pricey at £7.50 return (if I’d gone both ways); although you currently get £10 worth of Click credit for handing over £8.50 in advance. (Oxford’s Pick-Me-Up doesn’t require a deposit and just deducts what is currently a flat £2.50 fare from a pre-registered bank/credit card as each trip is made.)

My return trip today cost £2.50 being slightly shorter (as booked) at 1.7 miles although in the event the distance was greater due to the pick up.

There are of course no reduced prices for children or teenagers and no concessions are taken. It will be interesting to see if these issues are addressed in Liverpool’s much more price sensitive bus market when Click begins there in three weeks. It looks as though the requirement for credit will be waived: ‘click, pay and go’ as the tweet promotes.

04C934F5-E202-47F1-BC39-A6A2E83C86E1

My experience today has not given me any further clues as to how this business model will succeed. It looks a sure fire money loser to me. Great to grab the headlines. Great to be seen to innovate. Great to be giving something different a go. But make a profit? No more likely than running rural buses which are being steadily withdrawn ironically as App-A-Rides are being introduced. Maybe, just maybe, they could have an application in rural areas as a halfway mode between a taxi and a bus, but someone is going to have to fund such a service and with local authorities strapped for cash and seniors expecting free travel, it’s not looking hopeful.

Roger French      7th August 2018

A Pick Me Up for Oxford

IMG_2080

Well done Oxford Bus. I’m all for innovation and trying new things. And it’s time someone had a real go at beating UBER at their own loss making game of undermining the taxi trade. So I’m pleased to see Phil Southall and his Oxford Bus team joining in the fun and games with a brand new demand responsive minibus service across a large eastern arc of the city. It launched on Monday 25th June 2018.

I wrote in the May 2018 Buses magazine about the financial futility of these new ride-sharing app-based demand-responsive small-bus-come-big-taxi operations, but that doesn’t mean I’m against companies trying out the idea. I just hope they’re doing so with their bank accounts wide open. And my big plea is for honest assessments of the results so we can all learn. Cut the PR hype and those unbelievable ridership figures banded about at conferences and in the trade press. They simply don’t add up.

I can only base my judgement on my own travel experiences. I’ve tried them all: Arriva’s Click in Sittingbourne, RATP Dev’s Slide in Bristol, McGills Connect&Go in Wemyss Bay, Ford Motor Company’s Chariot in London, and just the other week First Bus with CityFox taxis launched MyFirstMile in Bristol and now with Oxford Bus and their new PickMeUp we have Arriva announcing a soon to launch second Click for Liverpool.

Pointedly on every ride I’ve been the only passenger picked up. It’s been a delightful personal taxi ride but in a much-more-costly-to-operate small bus. On some trips I’ve had to wait far longer than convenient for the bus to arrive; rarely has it come in an impressively quick time (read on for yesterday’s wow factor in Oxford). I’ve paid introductory promotional fares which are amazingly cheap. I’ve paid eye watering post promotional prices which seem no cheaper than standard taxi rates and far more than standard bus fares.

The problem with these operations in a nutshell is this. If they become popular with lots of passengers, as they must for commercial success, it means necessarily a longer wait for me and my journey becoming unattractively protracted with route deviations for pick ups/drop offs. If I’m paying taxi style fares, I’ll soon get cheesed off and opt for the bespoke personal service a taxi provides. On the other hand if, as all my experiences to date have been, I’m the only passenger, then it’s just not viable to be running 17 seater minibuses and certainly not if the fares are closer to bus type rates.

The wait for a taxi or bus can be critical especially for those personal journeys that can’t be planned well in advance. Most towns (where these DRT schemes are trialling) have lots of taxis zipping around but only a handful of minibuses. Bus companies can’t afford to have expensive to operate vehicles waiting on street corners just in case I launch the app. Yet, I don’t want to have to wait too long before I’m picked up. It’s a difficult balance to achieve. It may be early days, but I see no evidence from Clicking, Sliding and Charioting that the business model is working. Whatever that model is.

IMG_1908

Pleasingly yesterday’s first day experiences in Oxford were the best yet. After a false start where the usual block message from software company, Via, appeared – I’ve had the same trouble three times on Click in Sittingbourne – alleging all the seats have been taken as it’s so busy – complete tosh of course – once again, as Phil admitted, teething problems meant a driver’s iPad had been inadvertently logged off, but a message of this kind, knowing to be false does nothing for the credibility of the system. Via need to be a touch more honest and just say: “we can’t get a vehicle to you at the moment”.

IMG_1909.JPG

Having sorted this teething problem out, a PickMeUp bus arrived twenty minutes later. Had it not been for the introductory promotional fare of £2.50; had I not been trialling the new service, I’d have taken one of the many taxis queuing outside the station for my journey. However, Ryan the driver was superb. Smartly attired and very friendly. It was a lovely ride.

IMG_1921

A 17 seat brand new minibus all to myself – just as well as the Mercedes Sprinters are notorious for their cramped legroom and awkward wheel arches. They really are of questionable suitability for carrying passengers.

IMG_1977

Full marks to PickMeUp for my second journey. I’d made it to John Radcliffe Hospital and summoned up a ride across to Blackbird Leys – a journey for which there’s no convenient direct bus. Impressively within four minutes I was boarding Marion’s bus. It was a good job I was alert to spot the Satnav on the app wasn’t bringing the bus into the Hospital’s bus station where I was waiting and luckily I was agile enough to make the quick two-three minute dash to the adjacent residential road for the pick up (I spotted a cut through rather than track the circuitous dotted line recommended on the map). Had I been less physically able, or not so alert that would have been a problem. But four minutes was my most impressively short wait yet for a DRT style bus as was the precise expected and confirmed twenty minutes for the journey across to Blackbird Leys. And all for £2.50. A true bargain and totally in the spirit of these loss making ride-sharing innovative ventures!

IMG_2099

Good luck Phil with this project. I reckon of all the trials this one has the best chance of success. How about a touch of integration with Oxford’s high profile big buses? Maybe some joined up ticketing and fare offers so that it truly is an integrated transport option for those wanting to give up driving cars around the city? I reckon that really would be a compelling offer. Enough to send UBER packing perhaps.

Roger French      26th June 2018