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From Paisley to Riyadh and beyond!

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From Paisley to Riyadh and beyond!

On the 50th anniversary of his joining the bus industry as a conductor, CitySwift board member and former Managing Director of Stagecoach UK Bus, Robert Montgomery reflects on his career and considers the future of buses.

It is 50 years ago, almost to the day, that I first entered a bus depot in a professional capacity – Western SMT’s Paisley Depot in West Scotland as a seasonal bus conductor – and I have been earning a living through buses ever since.

Many would say that it was the ‘wrong 50 years’ to be in an industry which had lost its crown as the market leader in urban travel to the private car in the 1960’s. But that created the greatest challenge of all – how to create a bus product which car owners would choose to use instead of their car? I’ve been involved in many growth projects in that time, which have created a modal shift back to the bus, albeit at the margin, in Derbyshire, Devon, Manchester, Sheffield, Dublin, Bishkek, Glasgow and across the whole of the UK and Western Europe. I’m now bringing a modern citywide bus network to the car dominated city of Riyadh.

As the bus industry worldwide recovers from the shock of Covid-19, I can see, for the first time in those 50 years, the industry finding a way to regain its leading role in urban transport – if it embraces three things:

Firstly, a clear focus on customer service.

Secondly, the concept of partnership with others engaged in the field of urban mobility, whether in the public or private sectors, since the bus, alone, will never truly replace the private car unless it can cater, on its own or with partners, for all of an individual’s travel needs.

Thirdly, technology in all its forms but, especially, digital technology and the world of the internet, apps, big data, artificial intelligence and machine learning. It can transform the act of me selling a bus ticket for cash on a bus in Paisley in 1970 into a business retailed through an app, providing a total mobility package for city dwellers for a monthly fee. No different to the monthly leasing payment on a private car but offering greater convenience and a cleaner environmental conscience.

It is the challenge of delivering on those three things which is motivating me to carry on innovating in the bus industry for a good few years yet. There is much more to be done and a lot of bright, innovative people in the worldwide bus industry to do it with!

Let’s make the bus the beating heart of a new, clean, integrated urban mobility industry across the world in partnership with others using ‘state of the art’ technology and customer service. 

 Let’s make the bus the beating heart of a new, clean, integrated urban mobility industry across the world in partnership with others using ‘state of the art’ technology and customer service. 

This guest blog post is by Robert Montgomery, CitySwift board member, founder of busreinvented.com and former Managing Director of Stagecoach UK Bus. Robert has 50 years’ experience of the bus industry in the UK, Ireland and Saudi Arabia, including more than 30 years in senior management positions. He has played a leading role in a wide range of reinvention projects from the 1980's through to the present day.

The Road to Recovery