Monday, 30 November 2015

Cardiff in the rain

One of the more intriguing outbreaks of competition recently in the UK bus industry has been in Cardiff, where the large and growing independent NAT launched a new cross-city route X1 against incumbent Cardiff Bus in May 2015.

The new route was of particular note because NAT acquired ten brand new Optare MetroCity single deckers for its operation - a huge investment in such a speculative new project.  At the time, the Managing Director of NAT Kevyn Jones stated that the new project was a genuine attempt to grow the bus market in Cardiff by providing among other things quality vehicles, new cross-city links, a high frequency including on Sundays and a new link to the western retail area of Culverhouse Cross.

After Cardiff Bus got into rather a lot of trouble last time they tried to fend off competition, there was a great deal of interest in how they would respond to this challenge.  NAT then added further spice to the mixture with their infamous "ride me all day for £3" campaign promoting their day ticket.  And indeed most of the competitive sparring between them seems to have been around pricing and ticketing, with not much apparent sign of Cardiff Bus having made any network changes in response to the new offer.

Using the excuse of Luton Town's visit to Newport County as justification for a weekend in Wales, I braved gale force winds and torrential rain to sample the service today along with a couple of journeys on Cardiff Bus routes around the city.

Monday, 23 November 2015

At Large In Prague

Tourism is clearly a vital part of Prague's economy and I don't begrudge them a single penny that they earn from the thousands of tourists that flock to the city's many attractions each day.

Indeed, with the benefit of such stimulating and erudite company as Ray Stenning, I thoroughly enjoyed half a day wandering round sights that I would never normally give a second look.

However, my personal interest in a strange city does not come from its tourist hotspots.  Instead, I like to get out into the suburbs and see where and how people live.  Those fearsome matriarchs guarding the entrances to the monuments and cathedrals; the hotel receptionists and restaurant waiters and waitresses - I want to see where they go back to each night.

Maybe it seems a little voyeuristic, or even patronising.  But it's not borne out of anything other than a genuine curiosity to see what makes cities different from each other, and to gain a little more insight into what makes a place tick than can ever be found by trailing round ancient monuments.

And of course, it's a damn good opportunity to try out the public transport.

Friday, 13 November 2015

Prague (part 3): On the tourist trail

If you've spent the last week gripped with suspense and eager anticipation, awaiting insightful analysis from Prague's premier exposition of railway carriage accessories, you'll just have to wait a little longer.

Like a pair of opportunistic tarts hoping to achieve fame and notoriety with a sordid kiss-and-tell exposé, Ray Stenning and I have granted world exclusive rights to the story of our visit to the Railway Interiors Expo to the leading trade journal.  So you'll have to go there for your gratification - I'll tell you how to find it once I know whether they are actually going to publish it, or whether we are doomed to end up as a forgotten afterthought on the cutting room floor.

In the meantime, I'll fill in with some thoughts from a day and a half on the tourist trail and exploring Prague's public transport network.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Estonian Air is dead. Long live Estonian air

I am sad to learn that Estonia's national airline, Estonian Air, has ceased operations as of today.  Evidently the European Commission has ruled that subsidies paid to the airline amount to illegal state aid and must be repaid, and as the airline is in no position to pay back the reported £85 million owed, the Estonian Government has declared that it has no alternative but to close it down.

While I have not followed their recent fortunes closely, it's an airline that has a place in my heart because they provided me with one of my more memorable flights, when I flew from Helsinki to Tallinn in 1993 on an old Aeroflot Tupolev Tu-134 just like this...

Friday, 6 November 2015

Prague (Part 2): Terminal Tedium

I have never been bumped off a flight before.  I'm sure I have been on many that have been overbooked where other people might have been "denied boarding" (that's the polite phrase for it) but it has never happened to me.  And I'm not sure I really ever thought it would.  But it did, and that's how I came to spend seven and a half hours in Terminal 3.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Prague (Part 1): Setting the Scene

Although many bus companies have made great strides in improving the quality of the bus interior, I still believe that there is a lot for the industry to learn in this respect.  Although we are very good at creating interior designs that are pleasing to the eye and highly functional, the vast majority of the industry has no marketing insight into how our customers feel about what we give them.

Monday, 2 November 2015

The Witchway Saves The Day

In the interests of full disclosure, I am an admirer of Alex Hornby, CEO of Transdev Blazefield, and lucky to count him as a good mate so I might be slightly biased.
But today Alex drew my attention to this short film produced by his team and it deserves the widest possible audience. 
So much bus industry marketing and promotion is stale and formulaic and wouldn't know a boundary if it saw one - far less push it. So it is really refreshing to see something that is genuinely creative and original, and well put together.