Where will the bus industry be in 20 years time?
Posted: 06 Sep 2011
I believe that key to our sector’s future is in the name: public transport. The bus industry at its best provides a comprehensive network for the public to access work and leisure, services and opportunities – the ingredients of full and productive lives. I believe that the strength of our future as an industry is directly, unequivocally linked to the extent that we deliver that access, taking due account of the needs of all our passengers and the needs of society at large.
I think two factors will shape those needs over the next 20 years – and how we respond to them will shape the future of the industry.
In the past, people lived and worked in a much tighter geographical range than today. Our services and relationships, our families and careers were all structured without the need to think too closely about mobility. Yet over the past 30 years or more, our society has been fed on a diet of increased personal mobility, an expectation of being able to travel and a dispersal of our services, relationships and networks of support.
The first generation that expected this mobility as a natural right has just retired. Over the next 20 years, as this generation’s ability to own and drive cars diminishes due to age, it is to us that they will be looking for answers. We must not be found wanting.
Environmental considerations, ethical choices
However marked demographic change may be, its impact on our industry pales in comparison to environmental and ethical considerations. We know that fossil fuel use has reached its peak, that fuel security will be an ongoing concern and that global warming will only be addressed by wholesale change.
In our industry, the next 20 years must be about making these changes, making the bus the mode of choice and making sure our industry is seen as part of the solution and not part of the problem. This is not about our industry responding to environmental regulation. It is about our industry answering the question of how to inspire and engage our next generation of travellers.
This next generation of travellers will ask us ever more searching questions about our ethics. We must recognise that we are an indivisible part of the communities where we operate. When we make changes for good or ill, those changes have a direct impact on people’s lives. Community impact should remain the touchstone of our decision-making – in our service design, in our conversation with government, in our balance between short-term financial gain and long-term sustainability.
So who will shape the future of the industry? The answer is simple – we will – or rather we must. We must build a stronger relationship with government, and we must put our expertise and commitment to the development of solutions that benefit our communities. We must ensure that we continue to be efficient and progressive and we must continue to pursue opportunities to take risks and try new ideas.
The future of our industry is in our hands, how it will look in 20 years is up to us.
This post first appeared in Issue 1000 of Coach and Bus Week