West of England

Winter 2012/13
Welcome to our stakeholder newsletter for the West of
England. It tells you how First is working to improve bus
promise … to deliver
services in the region as part of our promise…..to
Better Journeys for Life for all of our customers.
In response to a recent stakeholder survey we are working to improve how we
communicate with partners, customers and other interested parties. This is intended
to be the first in a series of regular newsletters which will form part of an on-going
programme of communication with you all.
Bus services play a vital role in supporting the economy in the West of England. More
people in the UK travel to work by bus than any other form of public transport combined
and many people depend on the bus for access to jobs and further education.
The transfer of trips from car
to bus is one of the quickest
and most cost effective ways
communities can reduce carbon
emissions from transport.
More people travel to work
by bus than all other forms
of public transport combined.
Improving transport links in the West of England is therefore
important to improving the economic outlook of the region and is
one of our main objectives. Partnerships are essential to achieving
this and I am proud of our involvement in a number of important
projects which are starting to make real improvements to bus travel.
In March 2012 Norman Baker officially launched the Greater Bristol Bus Network.
This network was developed in partnership with the West of England Partnership
to ease congestion and improve standards and reliability for bus users in the West of
England. More recently we launched eight new, diesel-electric hybrid buses as part
of a major upgrade to Bath Park and Ride services another example of a successful
partnership with Bath and North East Somerset Council. With our partners in the West
of England Bus Operators Association (WEBOA) we have rolled out the AvonRider card
which allows bus travellers to use one ticket to travel on different operators’ buses
throughout the region making travel both cheaper and easier.
We continue to take action to improve service delivery. This includes the upgrade of our
Service X1 (Bristol – Weston-super-Mare) and Service 8/9 (Temple Meads – Clifton /
Redland) which includes adding leather seating and free WiFi. We have also employed
customer hosts at Temple Meads Station to help rail passengers complete their
onward journeys by bus.
These initiatives are described in more detail in this newsletter and are I believe starting
to make a real difference to our customers and encourage more people to take the bus.
I look forward to working with our partners to build on this success as there is still
much more that could and should be done, in particular to ensure the right partnerships
are in place to attract further funding to the region. We will continue to face challenges
as funding is reduced and cost pressures squeeze everyone, but I firmly believe that
by working together we can continue to deliver high quality services for the people
in this area.
We look forward to working with Bristol’s new mayor to improve bus travel in the city.
We also look forward to the development of the Bath Transportation Package, the
Weston Package and the Bus Rapid Transit Scheme in Bristol. These exciting projects
have the scope to redefine transport in the area. We are also planning further investment
in 2013, bringing more new buses to the region, details of which I will share with you in
due course.
Justin Davies, Regional Managing Director, First South West and Wales
Serving our customers
Working independently and with our partners we are improving bus
travel in the West of England. This includes investment in new buses,
improvements to ticketing and working with partners to deliver infrastructure
improvements that help reduce congestion and encourage more people to
use the bus.
Partnership Working
Making it easier to travel by bus
Through the West of England Bus Operators Association
(WEBOA) we have developed the “AvonRider” ticket which
allows customers to use the same ticket on most operators
services. The travelcard offers bus users unlimited travel on most
daytime services operating throughout Bath and North East
Somerset. At £7.20 for a day ticket on an introductory offer (and
£7.50 thereafter) the new ticket will save customers time and
money and make bus travel easier for everyone. WEBOA is now
looking to develop further multi operator travelcard products.
Improving bus travel between
Weston-super-Mare and Bristol
Helping to
protect cyclists
Upgraded buses with extra leg room, leather seats
and free WiFi have been introduced on our service X1
buses connecting Weston-super-Mare and Bristol.
Bus service frequency has increased from one an
hour to every 20 minutes during the daytime. This was
achieved with support from North Somerset Council who
accessed “Kick Start” funding through the Local Sustainable
Transport Fund. A joint marketing campaign for the service
aimed at commuters and day trippers has been widely
promoted to households along the route with the aim of
attracting new travellers to use the bus.
To further improve driving
standards we have been
working in partnership
with Bikeability to deliver
training to increase our
drivers’ understanding and
awareness of cyclists and the
way they ride. The training
adopts similar principles to
that used in our driver safety
training and has been well
received by drivers.
Supporting economic
growth in Bath
Transforming Greater
Bristol’s bus network
In October 2012, eight new diesel-electric hybrid
buses were introduced to Bath Park and Ride as
part of a significant upgrade. Funded by First, with
support from the Green Bus Fund, the buses have free
WiFi, leather seats, and climate control and produce
around 30% less carbon emissions than conventional
buses. The Park and Ride now has 50% additional
spaces available and a seven day a week service.
Extra services are provided for special events, such as
the Bath Christmas Markets and local sporting fixtures.
With nearly 50,000 cars entering Bath each day, and
this figure set to rise, the scheme is part of a programme
to provide the necessary infrastructure to generate
economic growth and new jobs while at the same time
tackling heavy traffic congestion and improving air quality.
March 2012 saw the completion of the Greater Bristol
Bus Network. The scheme, designed to help ease
congestion and improve standards has helped increase
passenger numbers on all routes in some cases by
as much as 46% since 2008/09. The average punctuality
and reliability of bus services in and around Bristol has also
improved. We have seen a 10% improvement in start time
punctuality between 2008 and 2011 and further improvements
are being made. The project cost £79 million with a £22.5 million
contribution from First. Improvements have been made to bus
priority and infrastructure. 1,000 bus stops have been upgraded
and real time information is provided both at stops, and online
through Travelplus.org.uk. The scheme was shortlisted for this
years National Transport Awards and the UK Bus Awards and
was highly commended in the latter.
Putting customers at the heart
Our customers are at the heart of our business. We need to provide
them with the right services and understand their needs.
Listening to those with special needs
Through consultation with local interest groups
we are improving the accessibility of our services
for disabled people. This has included focus groups
with the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB)
in Bristol and attendance at BPAC (Bristol Physical
Access Chain) forums. Our disabled customers can
use a mystery shopper form to feed back on their travel
experience which has been well received. This feedback
demonstrates that many customers with disabilities have
positive experiences using public transport in the region.
Where issues are identified they are resolved. We are
also consulting on a new Better Journey Card, to provide
customers with additional needs a way to ask the driver
for help, such as assistance with finding a seat.
When we don’t get it right we have a customer service
team on hand to help. We have recognised the need
to improve this service and have been working hard
to enhance the quality and efficiency of response.
Our customer service team has been expanded and
brought in-house and we have invested in a new
complaints handling system. These measures will soon
deliver demonstrable improvements to our customers.
Overall Satisfaction in the South West Region
Mean Score
In addition to regular customer surveys we operate
a number of customer panels where members of
the customer community meet with us on a regular
basis to provide feedback and suggest how we can
improve our services. We also run Meet the Manager
sessions where our senior managers attend, listening
to feedback and suggestions about how services can
be improved. Our regular customer surveys show an
increase in overall customer satisfaction.
A new Customer Promise and
Charter in Bristol, Somerset and Avon
In a move that reflects increasing confidence in our ability
to operate more punctually and reliably we introduced
a Customer Promise and Charter for our West of England
passengers in April 2012. Bus users can now claim refunds
(in travel vouchers) if their bus is more than one minute early
(at a timing point) or more than 20 minutes late anywhere on
the route and we are found to be at fault.
Reducing air emissions
All our new buses have EURO V engine technology
which will further reduce emissions of particulates
and nitric oxides supporting reduction of emissions
in Air Quality Management Areas. We also have DriveGreen
technology on our buses. This dashboard mounted traffic light
LED display tells drivers how fuel efficiently they are driving.
This cuts fuel consumption, reduces carbon emissions from
our buses and makes them safer and more comfortable to
ride on.
The importance of buses to the economy
In the West of England we play an important role in supporting the
local economy by employing around 1,300 people and providing
important transport links. A recent independent report illustrates
the importance of buses to economic growth.
Key findings include:
•Bus commuters help generate £64bn of economic output every year;
•Of the five billion bus journeys made in the UK each year, one billion
are made by people commuting to work;
•People use the bus to make shopping and leisure trips with an annual
value of £27.2bn, of which £21.5bn is spent in towns or cities centres;
•One in 10 bus commuters would be forced to look for another job if
they could no longer commute by bus,
•More than 50% of students are frequent bus users and depend on
the bus to get to education or training.
To access the full report go to www.greenerjourneys.com. This is an
alliance of bus and coach companies and wider stakeholders from across
the UK.
Providing value for money
Despite increasing pressures on the industry from cuts in both central and
local government spending, not least through changes to the Bus Services
Operators Grant (BSOG) and pressure on concessionary fares reimbursement,
we have done everything we can to keep fares as low as possible.
We will continue in our efforts to ensure we deliver the
best value for money. This effort has been recognised
by our customers and is reflected in the fact that the
value for money score in our customer research has
continued to improve since December 2010.
Value for Money in Bristol, Somerset and Avon
Mean Score
In the past year we have again cut the price of family
travel across the region during the summer holidays.
In August 2011 we introduced a number of new
exceptional value products such as the FirstDay
Bristol Plus and the FirstWeek South West tickets.
We have also held for the past 2 years the price of
the popular FirstDay Bristol ticket. It remains at £4
offering unlimited travel in Bristol zones 1 and 2.
New value ticket encourages
passenger growth
Summer holiday
family price deals
O2 customers offered
half price travel in Bristol
The introduction of a FirstNight Bristol
ticket in April 2012, priced at £2.90,
has proved popular with customers
and with additional late night journeys
recently added to Service 73 in the city,
demand is expected to grow further. To
date it’s contributed to a 3% increase in
passengers travelling after 1900 hours.
To support families get out and
about during the holidays we cut
the price of family bus travel on
our services in the South West.
The FirstDay SouthWest Family ticket
was again reduced from £17.30 to just
£10 for up to five people (maximum 2
adults), the equivalent of just £2 per
person per day for travel through the
entire South West Region.
In partnership with mobile
network operator O2 as part of
their Priority Moments Loyalty
Rewards programme we are
trialling a promotion where bus
users with O2 mobile phones
are able to access reduced price
FirstDay tickets in Bristol. As well
as rewarding existing passengers the
initiative was designed to encourage
new passengers to try the bus and is
currently attracting an additional 400
customers a week.
New People at First
Investing in our people
We recognise the need to invest in our people
to improve our levels of customer service.
All our drivers are trained to the highest safety standards and
receive continual professional development training in areas
such as customer service and helping people with disabilities.
All employees have access to development programmes and we
actively encourage them to work towards recognised qualifications
such as NVQs. A range of e-learning courses are available which
can be accessed remotely as well as life long-learning programmes.
We take part in the FirstGroup apprenticeship and graduate schemes.
Sarah Wallbridge has joined
as Regional Marketing
Manager. She previously
worked for Eastleigh
Borough Council where
she was the sustainable
transport manager.
Jenny MacLeod, our
General Manager for
First in Bristol, remains
in post but her remit
has been changed to
allow her to focus just
on the Bristol business.
Carol Groves has joined as General Manager
for our business in Somerset and Avon.
Supporting our communities
As a major local employer and significant transport operator we
play an important role in the local community. As well as working
to improve transport links we work with our partners to address
broader community issues and support local causes through our
Charity and Sponsorship committee.
We support the Safe Haven Scheme for people with learning disabilities. Staff in
our travel shops have been trained to provide safe havens for people with learning
difficulties in times of distress and to provide them with comfort and support.
£2,000 of advertising space on our buses was
donated to Brisfest the Bristol music festival.
Extracts from song lyrics of five local artists performing at
the festival were displayed and commuters were invited
to take part in a poll for the most popular lyrics. £14,000
worth of bus advertising space has also been donated
to Macmillan Cancer Support, the FirstGroup charity
partner selected through an employee vote.
Supporting Bristol’s newest youth facility
To support “The Station” – Bristol’s newest youth
facility – First has donated free transport for three ‘Play
Your Part’ days, helping to ensure that young people
around the city are able to see all that The Station has
to offer them. In addition, First has agreed to work
with The Station to make heavily discounted FirstDay
Bristol tickets available to Station Members to cut
travel costs for young people attending the centre.
Charity and sponsorship
We regularly provide free
tickets and travel passes as
part of fundraising activities
and charitable donations.
Through the FirstGroup Charity
and Sponsorship Committee
local community groups and
employees can apply for funding
to support local initiatives.
£1,178 donated to the Brandon Trust
which helps train people with learning
disabilities to use local bus services.
This will be used to help fund the
Travel Training Buddy system that
the charity runs in the area.
£2,000 donated to ‘A Noble Cause
for Jude’: A fundraising appeal set up
to raise £31,000 for the son of Paul
Noble, a Financial Planning Manager
for First in South West and Wales,
who was born with cerebral palsy
and needs a life changing operation
(not currently available on the NHS)
to be able to walk unaided. To boost
fundraising staff have also run the
Bristol Half Marathon and organised
various bake sales to move them
closer to the fundraising target.
Promoting Action
for Hearing Loss
Action for Hearing Loss used Bristol
Bus Station to raise awareness of its
“isolation” campaign to highlight the
things that people miss out on when
they suffer from age related hearing
loss. The Quarte Tones barbershop
quartet sprang a singing surprise on
Bristol bus passengers to illustrate
this. Local employees volunteered
to have their hearing checked
as part of the awareness raising
activity. We continue to sponsor
the Bristol Post’s Gold Star Awards,
for the ninth successive year.
£750 donated to ‘Raise a Smile for
Harry’, a cause to generate funds
for Children’s Hospice South West
which supports children with life
limiting conditions and their families.
Claire Bayliss a driver from Westonsuper-Mare has been helping to
raise funds and awareness of the
cause and successfully applied to
the First Charity and Sponsorship
Committee for some additional help.
£100 donated to a team of 10
running the Bristol 10Km to raise
money for St Peter’s Hospice. The
team, pulled together by bus worker
Jim Stevens, wanted to raise money
for the hospice as it had supported
Jim’s wife when she was diagnosed
with cancer.
We welcome feedback on this publication.
Contact details: Karen Baxter, PR Manager (South West & Wales),
First UK Bus, Enterprise House, Easton Road, Bristol BS5 0DZ [email protected]