In the rear-view mirror - a decade on the buses

In another ten years’ time

Who can say what we'll find

What lies waiting down the line?

“Happy New Year” - ABBA

National Express has been looking back at the end of a successful decade of running buses across the West Midlands.

Chris Gibbens, Commercial Director at National Express West Midlands, said:

“The last ten years have seen some absolute step-changes in bus travel - especially with all the digital technology that’s now become an everyday thing.

“You can now pay for your journey on every single one of our 1,600 buses using contactless - a card, a phone, even a watch. And we know our customers appreciate how technology makes bus  travel easier. 56% of all journeys made on National Express buses use our smart-ticket app - you can buy a ticket on it and it shows you when your bus is going to get to your stop.

“Then, when you’re on the bus, there are next-stop announcements so you know when to get off if you don’t know the route very well. Our 350 top-spec Platinum double deckers have free wifi, USB chargers in the backs of the seats and extra legroom for a nicer journey.”

All this innovation has led to better and better passenger satisfaction - from a score of 79% in Transport Focus’ national Bus Passenger Survey when we first took part in 2012, to a brilliant 88% last year.

Despite a UK picture of falling passenger figures, the West Midlands has also been growing the number of bus journeys in the region, which is now at its highest level since 2016.

The other big strides in bus travel have been in reducing harmful emissions. Compared with National Express’ newest bus in 2010, the newest bus bought this year is 80% cleaner. The company has the biggest low-carbon bus fleet outside London.

And there’s more to celebrate - since signing up in 2016, National Express is still the largest Living Wage Foundation-accredited private employer in the West Midlands.

As for the next ten years, the Head of Customer Experience for National Express Bus Adam Rideout has been looking ahead:

“We are thinking about how technology can make information even more useful to our customers. 

“For example, in the future, our customers might be able to hop on a bus and go to all the places they need to go without needing to even tap a card on a reader. The bus would know where they’d got on and off and would charge them at the end of the day, or week, for the miles they’d travelled. All the customer would do is - obviously - #thankthebusdriver.

“And how about a bus that knows which customers are waiting at the next stop - and what their requirements are? So if Mrs X has a visual impairment, the driver knows to stop, open the doors and check whether this is the service she wants to get on. And if not, let her know when her bus is coming.

“Here at National Express, we’re not waiting for the invention flying buses to start work on making moving around the West Midlands as stress-free and seamless as possible.”

Published 20th December 2019