It’s been done before, of course, and with great success. Harrogate & District’s 36, Wilts & Dorset’s more, Go North East’s Red Arrows and Trent Barton’s Black Cat are just four examples. Examples, that is, of bus services having moved up market.
Now, master of marketing innovation Stagecoach’s in on the act, challenging motorists in Perth, Scotland and Warwick & Leamington Spa to rethink expectations of their the bus service, by relaunching 10-minute services under the Goldline sub-brand.
The Scone-Perth-Hillend service uses £2mil-worth of new Enviro300s with leather, soft interior trim, hand-picked drivers and a ‘customer charter’ not dissimilar to Trent Barton’s. Plus a £100,000 marketing campaign. In Leamington, Stagecoach's using Solos.
Stagecoach has also deviated from its corporate swirls, in favour of an up-beat gold livery and upmarket website, all to woo motorists. Stagecoach is also homing in on reducing so-called carbon footprints.
Expect more Goldline services if these are successful – something that’s probably guaranteed.
But there are issues.
- One is the ‘hand picked drivers’. It’s always laudable when an operator places its best drivers on key routes. The issue comes when passengers on other routes perceive theirs as somehow average. A single tier roster can integrate all drivers, excellent and average, without the fear of peaks and troughs under a two-tier system.
- I know from experience at home that leather is easily scarred. Seats on buses will be subject to considerable wear. Just how practical are leather bus seats? How quickly will leather interiors become snagged?
- Another is the choice of names. It’s interesting that Stagecoach is using the sub-brand “Goldline”, quite an established name these days. Translink’s expresses immediately spring to mind. Then there’s First Devon & Cornwall’s Atlantic Goldline and Reading Buses’ Goldline Travel. Stagecoach also uses established Nottingham City Transport’s “Go2” name on some of its Merthyr Tydfil buses.
- In trumpeting a service designed “completely with the customer in mind” and one that’s “friendlier” and “smarter”, will there be a danger in a reaction that says all bus services should be like that? (Indeed, we’d suggest that deep down, most bus commercial services have the customer in mind – why else do they operate?)