Select Committee on Transport Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 194-199)


28 JUNE 2006

  Chairman: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. We have one or two little bits of housekeeping before we start. Could members having an interest to declare please do so.

  Clive Efford: I am a member of the Transport and General Workers' Union.

  Mr Martlew: I am a member of the Transport and General Workers' Union and the General Municipal Workers' Union.

  Graham Stringer: I am a member of Amicus.

  Chairman: I am a member of ASLEF.

  Mrs Ellman: I am a member of the Transport and General Workers' Union.

  Q194  Chairman: Good afternoon to you all. You are most warmly welcome. May I ask you for the purposes of the record to identify yourselves, beginning with my left and your right?

  Mr Waugh: I am John Waugh, Transport Services Manager of the University of Southampton responsible for Uni-Link.

  Mr Huntley: I am Peter Huntley, Managing Director of Go North East, part of the Go-Ahead Group.

  Mr Cooper: I am Mike Cooper, Managing Director of Arriva Regions.

  Mr Warneford: I am Les Warneford, Managing Director of Stagecoach UK Bus.

  Mr Wormwell: Good afternoon. I am Denis Wormwell, Chief Executive of National Express Bus Division.

  Ms Shaw: Nicola Shaw, Managing Director of First Group UK Bus.

  Q195  Chairman: Thank you very much. Does anyone have anything they specifically want to say before we start? If not, you will know that we are very concerned about the decline in bus patronage. Why do you think that is happening?

  Mr Waugh: Can I quote from a report from the British Psychological Society, quoted in Local Transport Today? They said, "Our participants [in the survey] did not feel `valued' or listened to by transport operators and so felt unable to bring about improvements in services". That lay behind all our efforts at the university to introduce a service over which we had better control and which we felt would offer much better service to our people. Having done so, we have achieved amazing results. This is not simply a question of the University of Southampton. There are seven other universities of which I know which are achieving amazing growth through their approach to bus provision.

  Q196  Chairman: Can you give us the names?

  Mr Waugh: Yes, I can—10% increase at Bournemouth unilynx; 16% at Oxford Brookes, Brookesbus; 11% at the University of Derby Uni-Bus; UEA, Norwich, University of East Anglia, is achieving improvements in annual pass sales from 300 to 5,000 in a year, and 5% extra staff travelling by bus; double-digit growth in every one of the past four years by Hertfordshire's Uno Bus; never less than 24% from Uni-Link, Southampton; and 60% revenue growth in Staffordshire University's Bakerbus X1 service run in conjunction with Central Trains. Where organisations are getting a grip on this and providing a service people will respond.

  Q197  Chairman: Just as a matter of interest, did you have difficulty setting it up in the first place because you were not getting the co-operation of the companies?

  Mr Waugh: Yes, we had huge difficulties. We failed on two occasions. Our first effort was to sign up to a three-year deal with First Southampton, and in that period of time this lack of involvement and lack of responsiveness that our students had experienced was treated on to us at the same time. We received little interest in our requirements and the services continued to decline although we were providing large amounts of business for the company. At the end of the three-year contract we moved on to provide a service with a smaller operator, Minerva Accord, not a main-line bus operator by any means but an operation with which we could do business, and in the first two years the attitudes from the original bus company were transported into our own sub-contracted operation. It was not until we forced them to appoint George Fair, who sits behind me, to manage the operation, who shared our ideals, that we continued on our upward path. It was a very difficult five years until we got what we wanted.

  Q198  Chairman: That is very interesting, Mr Waugh. I wanted to ask you one other question about financing. You got a Kickstart grant from Government monies, did you not?

  Mr Waugh: We did indeed, and that was for one of our routes.

  Q199  Chairman: I was a bit concerned about how long that was going to go on.

  Mr Waugh: It will go on and on because as far as we are concerned our service is improving all the time and we are getting benefits, some improved revenues and improved patronage.

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