New research from Passenger Focus claims bus passengers are calling for better information during delays and a more customer-focused approach from bus drivers. Passengers taking part in the research said they understood buses would inevitably be affected by traffic congestion, road works and accidents, but described being ‘powerless’ when buses are delayed, feeling there is no way to find out what is going on. Passengers had a clear preference for real-time information to be displayed at bus stops, with smartphone and tablet apps playing an important supporting role.
Anthony Smith, Passenger Focus Chief Executive, said: “There are some important messages here for bus companies, local authorities and government. Real-time departure information helps passengers make an informed choice about what to do if buses are delayed. It’s clear passengers want this at the bus stop, so the challenge is how to achieve it in an affordable way.”
The research said there was a strong indication that passengers want a more customer-focused attitude from bus drivers, particularly when services are delayed and disrupted. It claimed there is a big gap between how passengers want bus drivers to behave towards them and the reality.
Anthony added: “We know many bus companies are trying to improve the customer-service side of how their drivers work. This research, echoing findings in our Bus Passenger Survey, suggests tackling this long-standing cultural issue should be a high priority for the industry.”
Passenger Focus also recommended operators of real-time information systems should strive for a very high level of accuracy. Passengers who have encountered systems which count down to zero and a bus never appears, or where the predicted arrival time ‘jumps around’, are reluctant to trust the information in future. It warned instances of buses which run, but are ‘blind’ (i.e. the system not fitted or being defective) to the real-time system, will have a similar affect.
Another recommendation was for bus companies to consider the role of social media, in particular Twitter, as one part of passenger communications during service disruption. While some passengers in the research could not envisage ‘following’ a bus company, the idea was enthusiastically received by a minority whose principal concern was to have the ability to personalise it to receive only those tweets directly relevant to their journey.