Tangible pride

News stories are free to read. Click here for full access to all the features, articles and archive from only £8.99.
As the busway service has grown, everything else has grown around it. Passenger growth across the whole network was 9% in 2016 and 2017. JADE SMITH

Linsey Frostick, General Manager at Arriva Luton, talks to Jade Smith about the depot’s success at the UK Bus Awards, including winning the Gold Award for the Bus and the Community Award

Linsey Frostick, General Manager at Arriva Luton, joined Arriva the Shires in 2003 as a customer service manager, remaining in customer services for eight years and gradually taking on customer service for Arriva Southern Counties. She took up the story: “My role then expanded further, covering Midlands, Southern Counties and Shires.

“I worked in customer service and marketing for a while, and then became regional marketing manager for Arriva the Shires and Arriva Southern Counties. We were a joined region with one set of directors for three years. Then through another restructure, Shires and Southern Counties were split up again so I thought a single small marketing area might not be a big enough challenge after covering the entire South East. At the time, general managers were being placed back into depots in the Shires after not having them for a few years. I’d always thought it was a job I could do. My son was older and I was able to be here whenever I needed to be, so I went for it. I only wanted to be general manager of Luton depot, which comes from that sense of ownership – I live here and want to make a difference.

“It’s been a learning curve and a lot of hard work, but we have a lot of fun doing it. Both the Engineering Manager, Cliff Ward, and Operations Manager, Mohammed Hanif, have been in the industry for 35 years, so their experience and willingness to be a good team is strong.

“I very much enjoy my job and one of the biggest reasons for that is the people I work with here in the depot, everyone, at all levels and all job functions. I spent two hours this morning talking to our Green Line coach drivers about how we can improve that service connecting Luton to London in the future. I now have six pages of ideas from them. The willingness from staff for this depot to succeed is so high.”

Bus in the Community

Arriva’s Luton depot is involved in as many community and charitable projects as it can, supporting the town across all communities, ages and cultures.

The Love Luton campaign is supported by Luton’s businesses, voluntary and community groups, as well as the council. Arriva Luton has been involved in the campaign since its conception for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012. Linsey is the chair of the board which aims to develop pride, confidence and a positive image of the town. This is done by organising and promoting events with the community, as well as nationally. [wlm_nonmember][…]

Are you enjoying this feature? Why not subscribe to continue reading?

Subscribe for 4 issues/weeks from only £2.99
Or login if you are already a subscriber

By subscribing you will benefit from:

  • Operator & Supplier Profiles
  • Face-to-Face Interviews
  • Lastest News
  • Test Drives and Reviews
  • Legal Updates
  • Route Focus
  • Industry Insider Opinions
  • Passenger Perspective
  • Vehicle Launches
  • and much more!
[/wlm_nonmember] [wlm_ismember]Providing examples of the work Arriva Luton does, Linsey said: “We have supported Keech Hospice Care by providing transport to all key events for the fundraising and promotional work the hospice does.

“We worked with them on their ‘Light up a Life’ Christmas remembrance service, where we bussed 300 people in who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to get there. With our support they are able to host bigger events, which supports their fundraising efforts.

“In 2017 Keech received a visit from TRH Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. This was a massive event which received international coverage. We transported 500 members of staff, volunteers and families to and from the site, which was an amazing event to be part of.

“Through Love Luton we got involved in the Hatters Cup with Luton Town FC. Schools take part in a world cup where each school represents a different country. Schools who do not have minibuses would not have been able to take part without Arriva Luton offering to transport them. The drivers loved seeing the children celebrating after they’d won a match.”

Linsey Frostick, General Manager at Arriva Luton. JADE SMITH

The annual Love Luton Half Marathon which attracts people from across the country could not go ahead if Arriva was not able to transport people back to the start location. Linsey explained that a team of drivers from the depot also took part in the run, raising over £1,000 for Keech.

“Last year we were interacting with some of the runners who haven’t been on buses for years and we are able to show them just how much buses have improved,” said Linsey. “It is important people see Arriva has embedded itself in the community and wants to make a difference to Luton.”

As another example of charitable work Arriva Luton has been involved in, Linsey said: “Each year London Luton Airport organises concerts at Christmas with local groups to raise money for their charity of the year. For the last two years, Arriva has transported the groups to and from the airport to enable them to perform and support the fundraising.

“This idea was extended in 2017, when the local Dementia Alliance wanted families and patients to perform during Dementia Awareness week. We were able to provide a bus to take them to and from the airport.”

Working with Central Bedfordshire Council Arriva Luton can provide vouchers for the unemployed to attend workshops or schools organising work experience, which was originally started through the Local Sustainable Transport Fund.

“If those people have never been on a bus before, the best way for them to try it is for free,” Linsey explained. “We provide people with vouchers to use the bus to possibly seek employment or attend an interview, they might then become a bus customer. The payback may not occur for a few years, but it may change their mind and their perception about bus travel.

“If we can make a real difference to an organisation by providing a few drivers hours, the return on investment is huge. We’re lucky we’re able to do this: our school bus route means we have buses available off-peak as they aren’t running for schools. Our drivers are able to do the football run between school runs without having any impact on our core service.

“Drivers and staff who get involved are happy to be part of the events and receive nothing but praise for their enthusiasm and commitment to each event. It gives Arriva a face at key events and provides a real positive culture at the depot.

“All of the work we do is truly rewarding. I attend the half marathon: it’s a lovely event and seeing the appreciation for the buses is great. With the children’s football event, knowing that a lot of those schools wouldn’t have been able to participate in the tournament without us demonstrates what a big difference we can make.

“I was very touched that we won Gold in the Bus and the Community Award. We were able to take four drivers with us to the event and put the trophy in Control for around a month after we brought it back. The pride that has been created is excellent.

Linsey: “On the engineering side, we’ve had a 100% pass rate on our MOTs and come in well within our engineering budget, but still maintained low lost mileage. Drivers now visit engineering for a day to see the work from the other side, and vice versa, creating an appreciation of what both sides do.” JADE SMITH

“When I was in marketing with Arriva, I wrote the UK Bus Awards entries, so I was familiar with the process: I know the quality of how it’s written is almost as important as the content. If it’s a project you’ve worked on personally, it’s best if you put the application in yourself as it comes straight from the heart.

“The public tend to take buses for granted, so the UK Bus Awards is an important event for the industry. It’s important that you celebrate the good stuff as there’s enough bad things happening in the world.”

Top National Bus Depot

Arriva Luton applied for Top National Bus Depot as both 2016 and 2017 had been successful years in terms of performance. Linsey became General Manager in 2015 and the Engineering Manager, Cliff Ward, and Operations Manager, Mohammed Hanif, came over from other depots, so a brand new management team was formed.

“We soon realised the Luton depot needed attention and care, so we put in a lot of effort in 2015 with establishing ourselves and starting the community work,” Linsey explained. “The depot was also redecorated with the toilets refitted. Nothing had been touched since they moved here in 2002 – when we moved the noticeboards there were notices from eight years ago!

“A closed Facebook Group was also set up where there’s two-way communication with management and our drivers, and the drivers can talk to each other.

“Then we focused on service delivery and ensuring the basics were right such as run out and staff sickness. For the last three years we’ve been under 3% staff sickness, which is quite impressive for the bus industry.”

Drivers are more involved than in the past, with ‘Route Champions’ appointed for each route. The nominated drivers collect thoughts from all drivers on their route and attend a meeting to discuss the issues with the management team. Linsey said this process is very efficient.

“On the engineering side, we’ve had a 100% pass rate on our MOTs and come in well within our engineering budget, but still maintained low lost mileage,” Linsey said. “We’ve organised training and development for the engineers which was lacking before. There’s been a real concentration on motivation and teamwork. Drivers now visit engineering for a day to see the work from the other side, and vice versa, creating an appreciation of what both sides do.

“The changes in the depot we referred to as a ‘revoLuton’. We have that word on all our staff notices, our newsletter is called revoLuton and the drivers really back it up. Luton employees are extremely proud and genuinely want to be the best depot. The commitment and additional work people are prepared to put in to make it great is the aspect I’m the proudest of. The pride instilled in the depot is tangible.”

Making Buses a Better Choice

The busway opened in 2013 and was a £91m Department for Transport project, running along the disused rail track connecting Dunstable with Luton. Arriva Luton was involved in the project from the start. Linsey said that there was some scepticism that it wouldn’t work but anyone who was sceptical before has long since had those feelings pass.

“The bus journey between Luton and Dunstable on the road takes 40-45 minutes on a good day, while the busway is 12 minutes on a bad day,” said Linsey. “That speed of journey is the biggest aspect that makes people make the move to the bus. When we first started there were four buses an hour, now there’s 13 as our longer distance twice-hourly service to Milton Keynes goes via the busway.

“Dunstable doesn’t have its own train station, so you can get there in 12 minutes with virtually no delays. It’s cheaper than a day’s parking, so why wouldn’t you go on the bus? Our routes serve the airport, which is good for the expansion on the employment there and we’ve been working with them to explore whether the service needs to be 24 hours between the airport and the town.”

The busway is a huge success for the Luton depot, achieving passenger growth of over 30% year-on-year from 2015-2017. As the busway services has grown, everything else has grown around it and it’s still growing. Passenger growth across the whole network was 9% in 2016 and 2017.

Linsey: “I very much enjoy my job and one of the biggest reasons for that is the people I work with here in the depot, everyone, at all levels and all job functions.” JADE SMITH

“The busway has been put on a pedestal as a good example of the importance of operators working together with councils,” Linsey continued. “We’ve had visitors from all over Europe and America to see how it works, as it’s a perfect example of how buses can deliver what people need and how they can encourage people out of cars.

“The growth of the busway hasn’t been at the expense of another route, in fact it’s bolstered the whole network. The 31 service from Dunstable to Luton has continued to grow, so people clearly haven’t switched from one service to another – there’s new passengers on both.

“Our Wrightbus Eclipse 2-bodied Volvo B7RLEs are approaching five years old and you keep the people you’ve attracted by continuing to offer them a quality product. We’ve applied for equivalent Scania B8s for next year. We have 19 PVR and 24 vehicles and would like to replace the whole fleet. It’s a fifth of our fleet and accounts for about half of our profit.

“The busway has made the local authorities focus more on public transport, something which hasn’t always been a priority. They recognise that it can ease congestion and the busway has a shared path alongside it for cyclists and pedestrians, encouraging greener travel.”

Linsey explained that there are busway rotas due to the different style of driving, requiring taking the hands off the wheel. “Over half of our drivers can drive on the busway,” she said. “They tend to either love it or hate it – some enjoy the fact there’s no traffic and others prefer to stay in the town. We have every type of work in this depot, including coach work, so there’s something for everyone.

“A lot of the drivers on the busway rota have been there from the start. We never put a newly qualified driver on the busway: they have to complete six months’ service before moving onto the busway rota as there’s more training, classroom work and practical work. It’s a goal that some people work towards as it’s another challenge that a lot of other operators can’t offer.”

Challenges and the future

“Since 2016 we’ve been operating with a driver shortage,” Linsey explained. “We had a new route moved in that year which took us up to being 50 drivers short. At the moment our driver establishment is 280, including our coach service to London, but we’re 25 short.

“Lost mileage with staff is zero because drivers like overtime, and there is a huge commitment with the duty managers who can distribute the work to cover that mileage and provide that service. Drivers that join us from another depot says they can feel the improved atmosphere and pride from where they were previously.

“It’s very hard to recruit around here. There is a lot of competition in Luton and the surrounding area with huge distribution centres in Dunstable and the airport. Their pay rates are similar to ours but working in a warehouse is far easier than being a bus driver. Luton is an area people to live in to commute and work in London as it’s easily accessible, so we are also competing with London employers with higher rates of pay.”

In terms of this year, Linsey said: “Our focus is on recruitment and reading driver establishment. The council has a £1.5m budget for training and engagement with the unemployed, so we’ll be working with them to promote our vacancies through to other channels that we may not be reaching at the moment.”

“We had a network review two years ago which looked at everything, so this year we’re focusing on punctuality. A lot of it is traffic-related, but what is in our control needs to be improved.

“Contactless was introduced on our busway services at the end of last year and we want to look at rolling that out across the rest of the network. The ticket service on the busway needs to be quick as the route itself is quick, and contactless achieves that.”