Eye of toad, leg of newt? What is the recipe for good buses?

10 May 2012

Thamesdown, the main local bus operator in Swindon won the Bus Operator of the Year award in 2011 and did well in the first round of our Bus Passenger Survey in 2010. So, I thought I had better go and take a look and try to understand what makes them good.

Swindon is a good shape for bus services – relatively concentrated town centre with outlying suburbs, all quite compact. There is a history of bus use which seems to have survived. The local council (which still owns the bus company) is supportive – they take out a dividend, but allow the company to get on with it and invest. Lots of changes in the town centre which might cause some issues, but the new bus station will give the bus a new image. Real focus on information – both direct information for passengers, but also very good tracking of the buses and their performance. Nice travel centre right next to the main bus drag which also sells National Express (but not Stagecoach coaches – their choice) coach tickets as well. Lots of use of multi-operator smartcards. New-ish, clean and spacious depot on the edge of town and new-ish looking buses with more on the way. Just enough competition to keep things focused as Stagecoach run about 20% of the services in town.

Mixing it all up? A focused and enthusiastic managing director. So, there you have it – the recipe for good bus services that should serve 180,000 people.

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