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30 Jul 2020
Blog post from Stagecoach Regional Director North, Catherine Acton-Brazier
With the government making it clear to people in England they may use public transport again, Stagecoach, the country’s biggest bus and coach operator, has been going above and beyond and setting out wide-ranging innovations to restore onboard confidence and bring people back to buses, coaches and trams.
According to a study conducted by the Mental Health Foundation of UK adults, one in four reported feelings of loneliness during lockdown. Stagecoach believes that bringing people together, and public transportation, can play a huge role in human interaction.
And that’s certainly the belief from top to bottom at Stagecoach, taking people out of the virtual social bubbles they have been in and bringing them back together in person.
Speaking about everything Stagecoach is doing to restore confidence in customers, Regional Director North Catherine Acton-Brazier, pointed out: “We’re fully focused on protecting our customers and employees; our drivers are behind a screen, we’re encouraging the wearing of face coverings, in some parts of the business we've reduced the amount of cash that we're handling and we're encouraging contactless payments, and that’s on top of all the extra cleaning taking place every day.”
Catherine also pointed out that restoring confidence and creating a safe onboard environment has been a true team effort, adding that: “I've seen all kinds of people here at Stagecoach clean our buses, I’ve also seen our people advise passengers and offer words of reassurance and go out of their way to help.”
“I've got managers, inspectors, engineers and drivers all offering to clean their own buses,” said Ms Acton-Brazier. “I've got my management team reaching out to the NHS to offer a tailored service for them to offer a bespoke service if that’s what they’d like to do. And I've just been so impressed with the motivation that people have shown.
“Our teams - they've been heroes. Our strap line is ‘proud to serve’ and I genuinely feel so proud of them. I don't think everybody always realizes what superstars they are.”
Utilising the latest technology to restore onboard confidence
It’s not just the Stagecoach people who are going out of their way to give onboard reassurance, developments on the Stagecoach Bus app are also ensuring people have renewed confidence in taking the bus.
Speaking about this, Catherine Acton-Brazier added: “From a technology perspective, we now have our innovative Busy Bus tracker. If you're going to travel on a bus and you have some flexibility about what time you can go on that bus, you can go onto the app and see if it's very busy, if it's a moderately busy service or if it's a service that's quieter and has plenty of capacity. So, if you prefer to get on a bus with fewer people, you could tie your journey around that.”
But Catherine was keen to point out that technological advances are one thing, but it’s the small important things, such as face coverings and onboard markings, that are making a big difference to customers.
“Legally, you now need to wear a face covering on all buses,” she said. “We're encouraging people to do that whilst being completely supportive of people who might have an exemption for a justifiable reason.
“A safe onboard environment means safe for the customer, safe for the driver and the inspector. And that for me is knowing that it is a clean environment where those who should be wearing face coverings are wearing them, where people can be distanced from one another safely and without confusion thanks to our clear on-board markings.”
The focus is now on bringing people together
Stagecoach’s focus is very much now on the future and restoring confidence and getting people to where they need to be. Stagecoach believes in bringing people together, and public transportation plays a huge role in human interaction. Catherine Acton-Brazier adds that: “I think what COVID has taught us to really value is human contact, and that's what people have missed.”
“If you're face-to-face, you’re really feeling the warmth of those relationships that you have. Because it's not the same virtually. And buses, coaches and trams can play a massive part in helping with that. When you think of the important things that we're appreciative of now, that we perhaps weren’t before, it’s the importance of being together and being with your family and friends, how important that is to mental health and how you play into that.”
But what actually is the anti-virtual experience? And how does the work Stagecoach does play into that?
“It's real, it's actual, it's face to face, it's physical and people have missed things such as physical shopping and getting together, being together and enjoying that.” added Catherine.
“We’ve all really missed being together. COVID, if anything, has, I think, increased our appreciation of some things that perhaps we took for granted.
“Whilst the circumstances of COVID have been so tragic, and our hearts go out to the people who have lost loved ones and friends, it’s also given us an opportunity to look at a better world, one where we care more about the environment, we care about the local traders who have kept us going during lockdown and we care about being with the people we love. Public transport is crucial to supporting all of that.
“Everyone at Stagecoach is doing their best to make it safe to get the bus and we’ve produced a short film that sets out everything we’re doing to make people feel more comfortable when they travel with us which can be viewed here.“