What has been happening in the bus and coach sector?
Local bus services
Legislation in the mid 1980s deregulated the provision of local bus services and led to something of a free-for-all as operators competed with each other to provide services on busy and lucrative routes.
However, in recent years major national bus companies have taken over many of the smaller operators and these large concerns now dominate in the local bus service sector. Because they can obtain very competitive prices for new vehicles, parts and fuel they can offer a high quality service at fares the smaller operator would find hard to match. If you want to provide local bus services you must be confident that you can target a niche market whose transport requirements are not being satisfied yet.
You should be aware that, except in London, the number of passenger journeys on local bus services has been in long term decline, although they have shown a slight upturn since 2000/01. Although the government is committed to reducing car usage and boosting public transport systems, cuts are being made to the funding available. Together with the current economic downturn, this makes it unlikely that demand for local bus services will increase strongly in the near future.
You will have to decide whether conditions in your area are likely to enable you to offer viable local bus services. Bear in mind that competitive pricing in the industry makes it difficult to absorb fuel price rises.
Demand for private hire work and contract work has remained reasonably buoyant over the last few years and the outlook for this type of work appears to be good. For example, services like contract work for schools and day excursions are likely to remain in demand. However, the industry is very competitive so your pricing may come under pressure. This may make it difficult for you to provide the high quality service demanded by customers.
Keeping up to date with developments in the bus and coach industry
Joining a trade association is an excellent way of keeping up with developments in your industry.
The Confederation of Passenger Transport UK (CPT) represents the bus and coach industry and provides a range of useful services to members. Further details from CPT, Drury House, 34-43 Russell Street, London WC2B 5HA.
The Guild of British Coach Operators represents operators wishing to provide a high quality coach service. Contact the Guild at PO Box 5657, Southend-on-Sea, Essex SS1 3WT.
Subscribing to a trade journal is another excellent way of staying up to date. Coach and Bus Week (CBW) is a trade journal for the road passenger transport industry and includes news features, product reviews and road tests. Further information is available on the CBW website.