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Barbara's Buswatch Blog



Barbara Panvel's update on the Buswatch group - an independent collection of Stirrer-reading public transport users. They recently met with the Passenger Focus watchdog, which will shortly encompass responsibility for buses as well as trains.

Passenger Focus is the official, independent consumer organisation created by the Railways Act 2005, to represent the interests of rail users. It is a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Transport. Though most of its work has been related to the railway network, it will now also aim to build and deliver effective passenger representation for bus and coach passengers. One of its 7 mission statements is:

Our vision is to ensure that operators, funders, and regulators of transport systems put passengers first. This will be achieved by our mission of getting the best deal for passengers.

Though it will be officially launched in April 2010, Passenger Focus has already been meeting individuals and organisations across the industry in order to identify what drives bus passenger satisfaction and dissatisfaction and the areas that passengers want to see improved.

On October 26th Buswatchers were invited to meet Paul Fullwood, Passenger Manager for the West Midlands section of Passenger Focus [PF]. He wrote:

Many thanks for making contact – I found your comments very interesting and reflective of the journey experiences that many passengers have told us about.

You will have seen from our website that we are currently acting in a shadow form prior to the taking up of our formal responsibilities next March. We are using the time between then and now to conduct research into what passengers want from their bus and coach journeys and to find out what are the elements of the journey experience that makes passengers either satisfied or dissatisfied with their trip.

The key objective then, of course, will be to take this information to the operators and specifiers of local services to ask them to take action to address what concerns this has identified.

Your group has a valuable role in feeding in anecdotal evidence of the day to day passenger experience, and I look forward to further bulletins. As someone who has cooperated with Adrian in the past I am well aware of the Stirrer!

Perhaps we should meet up face to face? Let me know.

One problem highlighted was that many members of the general public do not report causes for dissatisfaction and to help them to do this there will be a notice on every bus explaining the complaints procedure and giving contact details.

The need for more buses at peak hour and more bus shelters at some bus stops was put to Paul. Though the first problem will be addressed by Passenger Focus, the second is the responsibility of Centro and the police authority. There is unequal provision with some stops having shelters equipped with solar lighting and CCTV, whilst other passengers are not even protected from the weather.

We were interested to learn that the region has a Safer Travel team - a partnership between West Midlands Police, Safer Birmingham Partnership, National Express West Midlands, Centro and the British Transport Police.

Passengers can report any instances of bad behaviour anonymously by using the See Something Say Something initiative. Launched in September, this service provides bus passengers with an interactive website and text messaging service through which they can anonymously report anti-social behaviour like smoking, graffiti, playing loud music, feet on seats etc. Contact , text information to 07624 818332 or phone West Midlands Police on 0845 113 5000. Passengers should still call 999 in an emergency.

We heard of a 12 year old practice by Nottingham’s Trent bus service where complaints are first made on the spot to drivers. If s/he admits its validity a free ticket is given to be used on future journeys.

It was stressed that before contacting Passenger Focus, passengers who want to make a report about punctuality or a driver’s attitude, should contact the bus company concerned and then contact PF if not satisfied. Though the rail system has a policy of replying within 21 days, no standard has yet been set for bus companies.

We left feeling far better informed; when Passenger Focus for buses and coaches is launched in April, we hope that the interests of the 85% of the West Midlands public transport users who travel by bus will be better served by this change to the political culture which – as Simon Baddeley writes - has for so long treated the bus as a mediocre form of transport.

Another reader commented that, as oil prices continue to rise and Government advocates more use of public transport, it could expand the scrappage scheme to offer long-term travel passes to those willing to give up their cars and travel by bus. More buses and fewer cars could reduce pollution and congestion in our cities and the interests of passengers would be taken more seriously.



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