Page 3: Political and economic factors
Transport services are at the heart of the UK economy - moving people to work, home and school, and goods to households and businesses. In the 1980s, the government started to privatise bus services in the UK. It believed that allowing private firms to compete to run bus services would keep prices low and ensure companies would try harder to give customers what they wanted. The result has been more efficient, innovative and sustainable bus services.
Government operates at two levels - national and local. First believes in providing local solutions, therefore it concentrates on working closely with local government. For example, it provides a service to local schools and plans bus routes that are convenient for elderly people.
A key government policy affecting all transport services relates to the reduction of CO2 emissions. The UK government has signed an international treaty the Kyoto Protocol. Countries which sign the agreement intend to reduce the emission of harmful gases. This can succeed only through partnership with business. A good example of this is the government initiative to encourage more children to use bus services rather than travelling to school by car. This will help to reduce carbon emissions. First is actively encouraging people to use the bus instead of their cars.
Climate Change Strategy
First has produced a Climate Change Strategy that shapes every action the company takes. This is part of First's vision - to 'Transform Travel'. It wants to change how people feel about public transport by delivering the highest levels of service and customer satisfaction. This involves recognising its responsibility to reduce CO2 emissions to as low a level as possible.
Tram, bus and rail travel create less pollution than other forms of transport, but there is still room to improve. Key elements of First's Climate Change Strategy include:
- improving the fuel efficiency of its vehicles
- purchasing vehicles with greater fuel efficiency
- using alternative fuels, such as biodiesel
- operational improvements through driver training and new technology to monitor driver performance
First aims to reduce its CO2 emissions by 25% for its bus division and 20% for rail, both by 2020.
Businesses need to make money to continue to exist. They do this by listening to customers to ensure they keep their customers and attract new ones with good services that customers want and need.
Responding to demand
It is extremely important for businesses to respond to changes in demand from customers. For example, First has responded to increased demand in the Neath valley in Wales by working closely with the Neath Port Talbot Council to run improved services.
Another good example of responding to demand is in the provision of high quality Yellow School Bus transport. Market research showed that parents and students wanted safer buses, so First designed special pilot services with the student in mind, based on the lessons learned from its US operations. Drivers are trained to work with students. Each day students step onto the same bus, can take the same seat and are looked after by the same specially trained driver. Vehicle safety features include padded seating, integrated seat belts, additional escape hatches and CCTV. First is working with the government via a specially appointed Yellow School Bus commission to investigate the possibility of rolling out specialised yellow school bus services throughout the UK.
Another economic factor affecting First's business is taxation. High tax on fuel encourages customers to switch from using cars to more economical bus and rail transport. Congestion charges in cities like London also encourage drivers to switch to other forms of transport. Of course, First does not want to replace the use of cars. Cars are an important means of transport and many families now have more than one car. However, many people are not aware of the environmental impact of, for example, a single person travelling to work in a large 'gas-guzzler' car.
First's approach is to complement rather than compete with the car. First seeks to make it easy for people to switch between public transport and private car journeys. For example, in major cities where parking is inconvenient or expensive, First makes public transport easily available through its Park & Ride schemes.