Survey shows that Stagecoach and Go-Ahead continue to set the pace in terms of bus user satisfaction, with FirstGroup still struggling to keep up

 

A full report appeared in the latest edition of Passenger Transport

 

Passenger watchdog Transport Focus chose to emphasise the importance of bus drivers when launching its eighth annual Bus Passenger Survey this week.

“Despite all the great technical innovation out there, passengers are telling us that it’s still the bus driver that can make or break their journey experience,” commented Transport Focus director David Sidebottom.

The survey identifies the factors that help deliver that ‘good’ and much sought-after ‘great’ passenger journey. The helpfulness, positive attitude and driving standards of the bus driver had a significant impact on both the ‘good’ and ‘great’ journeys.

Speaking to almost 48,000 bus passengers across Great Britain, the watchdog also found that:

  • overall passenger satisfaction was 88% in England (outside London), 89% in Scotland and 90% in Wales; as in 2016, 65% of passengers were satisfied that their trip provided value for money;
  • 73% of passengers were satisfied with the punctuality of their service.

The top performers

Of the 78 companies covered by the survey, in England, Scotland and Wales, over two-fifths (33) achieved an overall satisfaction rating of 90% or above. A third (11) of the companies in this elite group are subsidiaries of Stagecoach. The remainder include eight from Go-Ahead Group, four from Arriva, four from the ALBUM group of ‘non aligned’ companies, three from FirstGroup and three others.

The highest level of satisfaction (96%) was this year achieved by Go-Ahead’s Isle of Wight-based Southern Vectis.

The biggest improvements were achieved by Stagecoach’s subsidiaries in the South East (up 11 percentage points), Greater Manchester (up nine) and Merseyside & Halton (up six).

The poor performers

The Autumn 2017 survey shows that FirstGroup continues to be most strongly represented at the bottom end of the satisfaction league table. Of the 19 companies that achieved overall satisfaction ratings of 85% or less, almost half (nine) are subsidiaries of the Aberdeen-based group.

The poorest performing individual operator was Rotala’s Diamond Bus in Worcestershire, which achieved a satisfaction rating of just 72%. It was followed by two operators in Swindon – the local Stagecoach subsidiary (79%) and Go-Ahead’s newly-acquired Thamesdown business (78%). Traffic conditions may be to blame in Swindon, where the survey found that only 69% of passengers are satisfied with the punctuality of the bus.

The largest decline was at local authority-owned Reading Buses, which saw its satisfaction rating drop five percentage points, from 93% to 88%. Again this is probably explained by traffic conditions – satisfaction with the punctuality of Reading’s services fell from 79% to 73%.

Value for money

In terms of satisfaction with value for money in England (among fare paying passengers), Stagecoach users were the most satisfied among the ‘Big Five’ groups (68%), followed by Arriva and Go-Ahead (65%) and then National Express and First (63%).

For individual operations, Stagecoach in Merseyside & Halton was rated most highly for satisfaction with value for money, on 78%. Two other companies got the thumbs up on value from three quarters of their fare paying customers –  Oxford Bus Park and Ride services (75%) and Stagecoach in Greater Manchester (75%).

There were three companies where less than half of the customers were satisfied with value for money. They were Stagecoach East for its services on the Cambridgeshire Busway (42%), followed by three FirstGroup operations – First in Essex (46%), First Aberdeen (48%) and First Cymru in
South West Wales (48%).

City regions

Comparing England’s city regions also offers some interesting insights. Top of the table was Tyne & Wear with a satisfaction score of 93%, the highest ever achieved by a city region. Close behind were Merseyside & Halton (92%) and Tyne & Wear (91%).

Of the eight English city regions in the survey, six experienced improved satisfaction and two were unchanged – and none saw a decline in satisfaction. The biggest improvement was in the West of England, which recovered last year’s four percentage point decline in satisfaction.

Despite an improvement in satisfaction, West Yorkshire continues to have the dubious honour of having the lowest rating
of any English city region (83%)
– 10 percentage points behind table-topping Tyne & Wear – followed by the West Midlands (85%)
.

 

A full report appears in the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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