Locally-owned Yellows now firmly in the driving seat
3 months ago
It is six months since Bournemouth-based Yellow Buses was bought out by its management team – bringing it back into local ownership.
The move has enabled the company to innovate faster, invest more quickly and react instantly to customer demands.
And being free from corporate ownership means it is able to partner with local businesses – helping boost the local economy.
For example, it has recently instructed Bournemouth company Ward Goodman to be its accountants and it is banking with a local HSBC branch.
Its new IT company is Amicus IT based in Totton, it uses Tower Supplies in Poole for its uniforms and it partnered with local companies Alfatronix and TWF for the lighting and graphics on its Christmas-themed open top bus.
Managing Director David Squire said: “Being locally owned means we are much more agile, can make decisions much more quickly and can react faster to situations.
“We are able to try things out to see if they work and this is made easier by working with local businesses who operate in the same geographical area.
“Since the buyout in July it has been a steep learning curve but six months in and we are at a place from where we can push on.”
The company was bought out by David Squire, Simon Newport and Phil Pannell – all highly experienced bus professionals.
‘Innovation’ is a buzz-word at the Yellows’ Yeomans Way HQ, and contactless payment has been hugely successful example of that.
In September its buses notched up one million contactless payments and now nearly half of all on-board transactions are made in this way.
David said: “We want to make it easier for passengers to use the buses and now they can use the app, smart card, cash or contactless.
“A year after introducing contactless payment 44 per cent of transactions were done using this method, and number is going up all the time.
“We also sell the Bournemouth Town Centre gift card and passengers can use them at our travel shop to buy tickets.”
Yellow Buses employs around 400 people and has a monthly You’re A Star award for employees who go that little bit further.
It also works alongside AFC Bournemouth driving safety lessons in to schools and has given away more than £30,000 to local charities through its Carbon Stoppers initiative over a number of years.
But it is on the roads where the company has made most changes since the new management team took over.
David said: “We extended the 1a service to New Milton in April and it proved so successful we doubled the frequency of that service in September.
“In five months that service recorded 35,000 passenger journeys.
“We have also extended the Number 6 to Wimborne and are now carrying students from QE School.
“The 21 service has also been introduced and that links Christchurch with Somerford, Burton and Bransgore. We introduced this service after a previous operator withdrew.
“Our Buster’s Beach bus open-topper from Boscombe to Sandbanks this summer carried 96,000 people.
“And the Christmas open-topper that took passengers through the Christmas Tree Wonderland in Bournemouth proved to be a huge success.
“Our Jet Bus to the airport is now firmly established and the single decker has been replaced with a double decker due to the demand.
“And we also partnered with Brownsea Island Ferries to link our services.
“During the year we have also obtained an ISO certification for environmental management and we became one of the founder operators in the DVSA’s Earned Recognition scheme that assesses vehicle standards and compliance.”
The business has other strings to its bow and these have been given a real push in the last six months.
Yellow Coaches has become a successful operator in its own right, and the company also operates the London service for National Express.
It has extended its business supporting rail companies with buses replacing trains from Bristol in the west to Chichester in the east.
The Yellows’ success has also been recognised with numerous award wins including the ‘innovation’ category at the Dorset Tourism Awards that sees them go through to the South West regional awards.
It won an AM:PM award for supporting the night-time economy and also won a PR award for its campaign for the two night buses that it runs between Christchurch, Bournemouth and Westbourne, and between Bournemouth, Winton and the University.
And Marks Nobrega was named the best driver in the country from a private operator at the prestigious Bus Driver of the Year finals.
Investment has been directed towards the vehicles with eight double-deckers being introduced to the fleet in the last few months.
David said: “Of course we are battling with a number of issues including increased congestion and changing passenger habits.
“We have to tinker with the times because of the congestion – we want the buses to be on time, but roadworks and heavy traffic can make this extremely difficult.
“Also, due to the decline of retail, passengers are not travelling to the town centres in the same numbers.
“We have lots of plans for the future and we are awaiting possible significant investment from the Transforming Cities Fund, which could really assist public transport in the area.
“Our popular themed buses will continue to be introduced to the fleet, new open-toppers are on their way for the summer and there will be more innovations.
“We are also aware of the climate emergency that has been declared and very much see ourselves as part of the solution.
“For every passenger that gets on a bus it is potentially one less car on the road – and this of course helps reduce congestion.
“It has never been easier to travel by bus, and it has never been more important for people to do so.”
On your Marks… Marks Nobrega collects his award at the Bus Driver of the Year finals
Partnering with the Cherries to drive safety lessons into schools
Buster’s Beach Bus was a hit
Yellows linked with Brownsea Island Ferries