Thursday, 1 November 2012

A Tacky Effort To Pacify Complainants

National Express buses operate throughout Scotland.  It's some years since I used one of their buses because the service here is poor and it takes three times longer to Dundee than it does by car.  Quite a few of my friends use their transport though because they live in a city environment.

Now National Express, Dundee has introduced a Safe Travel Card.  This can be shown to the driver on boarding the bus to easily ask for extra time to sit down.

The manager of the local Age Concern centre seemingly thinks this project is - as we say in Scotland - 'braw'.

''Public transport is essential for older people, It allows them to access services and to lead an active life.
This National Express initiative is an encouraging development,'' 

The bus company's health and safety director said: "The Safe Travel Card takes the guesswork out of this issue for drivers.  It means vulnerable passengers can simply show the card and make their needs known without a lot of fuss and explanation."

Firstly I disagree that public transport is for older people.  The buses here are used by a mix of ages.

Secondly, are the National Express drivers unable to see all their passengers? What guesswork is involved?  Surely it's obvious to the driver when a passenger has any difficulty boarding a bus? The infirm and frail users will always sit on the lower deck of the bus and I understand the driver can observe the whole of the lower floor with one glance.

One of the commenters on the Courier article mentions '...Many have nothing but contempt for those who travel free...'  But nobody travels free on any public transport.  Local councils subsidise the older generation's bus passes and I would have thought drivers would welcome passengers with bas passes, because they don't have the additional work of issuing tickets and/or change.

Obviously there have been complaints about drivers pulling away while passengers are not yet seated.  Shouldn't the onus is on the drivers to improve their observation skills and not the passengers?  It is a sad state of affairs when someone who requires a few seconds longer to sit down needs to show the driver an 'official' card to request more time to find a seat. I can't see this working because, if presently drivers can't be bothered to look in their observation mirror prior to moving off, a Safe Travel Card is going to make no difference.

It's a tacky effort by National Express to pacify their complainants when they should be investing money in improving drivers' skills.


JRB said...

What has happened to, at best, simple common courtesy or, at worst, customer service?

Is the level of management so low at National Express Dundee that they have to issue cards in order that their employees can be made aware of to whom they should show some simple common courtesy and customer service?

Does this infer that National Express Dundee find it acceptable for employees to show discourtesy and lack of service to anyone not carrying such a card?

JimS said...

Can't the bus drivers observe AND be reminded by the cards? Belt and braces.

Modern 'training' has weird effects. Locally the supermarket staff always seem to ask if I need help with my packing. So they've just 'observed' me remove the bag of sugar from their wire basket and put it on the belt, why should I now become incapable of rolling it into my canvas bag sitting at the end of the counter? I've got it! A special loyalty card "I do/not require assistance"!

Probably what you really want is 'bring back the banter' and less reliance on training and procedure; let's have more of the "love" and the rich variety of local variants we have on these isles.

Key bored warrior. said...

There are some bus drivers who should not be in charge of a wheel barrow full of dung, never mind a bus full of punters. I honestly believe companies should psychological profile professional drivers especially the passenger carrying ones. As an ex professional truck and bus driver, some of the people I met as drivers scare the living daylights out of me, with their aggressive hate filled mentalities. They utterly despise the people who use their buses, and would cheerfully injure them if they got a chance. There are some very good drivers with excellent people skills but the bad ones can damage the whole industry.
Eddie Stobart has demonstrated over the years it is possible to drive up standards, and he has , which is why he is now one of Europe's top operators. Just remember this next time you are on the motorway at night or early morning. The vast majority of drivers behind the wheel of these large juggernauts are agency drivers, (Manpower id the largest employer in the UK and USA.)on these horrible shifts, and a fair number of them will have other jobs they do in the day. I know many of them and they include firemen, paramedics, self employed of all descriptions, and the anti social psychopaths who hate humanity and only come out at night. I am so glad to be out of it.

JimS said...

On the behaviour of bus drivers:

I recently attended a talk by a technology manager for First Bus Group. He said that they had introduced a monitoring system that gave drivers a real-time indication of driving style and which could be reviewed later by any driver online.

He said the change in behaviour in a Glasgow depot had been remarkable. At first the 'old hands' didn't want to know. Then they realised that the high scorers were the two women drivers in the depot and when they were told that several English depots achieved better scores than theirs... well there was no stopping them.

Smoothness of driving style might not directly relate to customer care but it must improve the experience.

I must say that around here the drivers are invariably polite and mindful of passengers but then the passengers nearly always thank the driver on dismounting. What goes around... etc.

subrosa said...

You know the answer to your questions JRB. :)

subrosa said...

There shouldn't be a necessity for such a card Jim. Drivers should be observant of all passengers and if they don't have the necessary skills either get them or give the job to someone who is able to do it.

There's training and training of course. Tesco styled training is American and leaves little scope for anyone's personality. Unfortunately we adopted this system in the 80s.

Our own training system prior to then was good overall.

subrosa said...

Thanks for your excellent insider comment KBW. Much appreciated and very interesting.

subrosa said...

Another super 'insider' comment Jim.

Let's hope First Bus's system is spread out and National Express's card idea halted.

You're right though. What comes round... Oh, I must make an exception with Tesco on that. For years I always say thanks and bye to the checkout operator and I can count on one hand how often I've had a reply.

Key bored warrior. said...

Having said that I have met my share of utterly horrible passengers whose personal hygiene and habits on public transport would give a pig a red neck.

Tescos drivers, Rosie used to come in for a lot of stick on the A9 for sticking to the 40 limit for trucks on the 2 way sections, whilst most trucks and the police ignore it in the interest of safety! What they did not know is that the drivers were fined for breaking speed limits using the tachograph as evidence by Tesco. Tesco has one of the highest turn over of drivers in the UK, due to their confrontational anti driver management. I believe they have now turned all their driving over to an agency so hard was it for them to recruit. Most supermarket delivery jobs are horrible with horrible shifts, Morrison's is one of the better ones. It 's called multi drop in the trade, and sends shudders down the spines of good experienced drivers.

Brian said...

I'm surprised these cards need to be issued. Wouldn't National Express's lawyers flag up the number one priority of ensuring all passengers were safely seated after receiving the first no-win no-fee personal injury claim for a broken hip? And don't Scottish bus passengers save the easiest to reach seats (or vacate them when necessary)themselves for anyone less able (oldies, guide dogs and mums with prams, for example) as a matter of bus etiquette?

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