CitySwift

Let’s seize the moment

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Opinion
Let’s seize the moment

Bus companies: I feel your pain.

My own family's bus firm of 30+ years has had to temporarily shut down, with the suspension of 50 jobs. We couldn't manage the sharp drop in revenue that all bus operators have faced over recent weeks.

For those bus companies still operating, the focus has to be on how to manage the reaction to that drop. How to continue to support our communities during this difficult time – and how to plan for recovery. Because things will eventually recover.

It might take a long time for bus patronage to get back to pre-coronavirus levels – and there's a possibility it may never reach those levels again. There's every chance that businesses and employees will want to continue their home-working arrangements. Shoppers that have got used to online ordering could venture to the high street even less than before. There’s even a slim chance that people will prefer to socialise remotely via Zoom, instead of going to the pub (actually, that’s probably a step too far).

The post-coronavirus world could look very different. But our industry should treat this as an opportunity, rather than a threat.

The post-coronavirus world could look very different. But our industry should treat this as an opportunity, rather than a threat.

Who would have thought General Motors would today be producing over nine million vehicles per year, after going bust in 1918 and again in 2009? Who would have believed Apple would become one of the world’s most valuable companies, when the computer-maker was on the verge of bankruptcy in the late 90’s?

When Steve Jobs masterminded what was arguably the most impressive business comeback in modern history, he had a simple catchphrase: ‘Think different’. GM thought differently when it introduced concepts such as industrial engineering, brand architecture and the annual model change.

As an industry, we need to think differently as we emerge from the socially distant world we are all currently living in. This might be the most vital time in the history of our industry, and we need to predict and manage the speed of recovery to protect bus networks for the short, medium and long term. Bus operators must make the right decisions at the right times, in the face of uncertainty and volatility.

This might be the most vital time in the history of our industry, and we need to predict and manage the speed of recovery to protect bus networks for the short, medium and long term.

Now, more than ever, operators need real-time access to all of their data and a means to quickly and accurately interpret it. As COO of a Big Data company, I know data has the potential to transform this industry for the better. Stagecoach Group founder Sir Brian Souter once said the passenger transport sector must embrace technology or risk being sidelined. He believes the industry needs to work together to create its own 'tech stock'. Never has this viewpoint been truer.

2020 presents a unique opportunity to rethink how we operate. To listen to our communities. To replan our routes and schedules for the future. To ensure that ‘Bus 2.0’ meets the needs of our cities, our environment, our passengers and our shareholders.

Let’s seize the moment. There are exciting times ahead.

Alan Farrelly is COO of CitySwift. He was born into the bus industry, his family having operated a large fleet in Ireland since the 1980's. He has worked in every role within the industry – from driving and customer service to scheduling and operations.

Mary & Liam Farrelly (Mam & Dad) and the Farrelly's bus depot



The Road to Recovery