22 June 2008

Bike buses very likely

You read it here first: expect bus operator Stagecoach to focus heavily on provision for pedal cycles aboard its bus services in the south of England over the next few years. Ironically this comes as an aside from a survey commissioned and undertaken by the firm in which Brian Souter, the group's chief executive, described the results as "unbelievable"!

Around 1,000 bus and rail passengers surveyed by Stagecoach and revealed the following statistics:
  • 64% disagreed with the statement "The environment is a low priority for me"
  • 62% said they would be more likely to travel with a company whose ethics supported the environment
  • 47% agreed with the statement "I use my car less"
  • 36% agreed with the statement "I use buses more"
  • 32% said they would be prepared to pay more for public transport that is environmentally friendly
  • 19% agreed with the statement "I use trains more"
  • 10% who switched to public transport had done so once they were in receipt of some form of free travel pass
  • 12% who switched to public transport had done so in consideration of the environment
  • 20% who switched to public transport had done so due to health problems
The details were made known to an audience of young bus managers in Birmingham last week, in which Brian Souter elaborated on many of the above findings. With the increase in the cost of motoring, primarily due to the cost of fuel and also the government's plans to amend vehicle excise duty, Mr Souter felt that the bus industry was now "pushing at an open door". He used Cambridge as an example of exceptional 9% year-on-year growth, presumably as a result of private motoring being more difficult and costly than in other less bus-orientated localities.

The main title of this blog entry was based on a fascinating observation the Scottish millionaire made while addressing his young audience. He couldn't help noticing the number of pedal bikes chained up outside rail stations in the south of England - an indication that many commuters were both health and environmentally conscious - and that if provision could be made aboard buses as well as trains, a whole new demand could be discovered. He believes that he and the wider bus industry are missing this opportunity and warned that they both do so "at our peril".