Marketing the British bus industry

Enoch, Marcus and Potter, Stephen (2002). Marketing the British bus industry. Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers - Municipal engineer, 151(1) pp. 49–55.



The development of public transport services is a key element of all local sustainable transport strategies. Achieving modal switch from car users requires marketing systems be changed to identify and target suitable non-users of public transport, rather than just enlarging custom by existing users. However, in the public transport field, marketing is still essentially designed to only address the existing customer base. This is particularly acute among bus operators, who rarely even market effectively to their existing customer base, and have a poor image among car users. This paper draws on the practical experience of some of the relatively few local bus operators and local authorities that have identified and won new markets, including modal shift from car. It looks at the sort of services they have developed, the marketing strategies adopted, and at how the stakeholders worked together. In addition, it provides hard evidence as to the benefits of marketing bus services properly, suggesting that patronage gains of around 5–7% should be possible, even without major investment or legislative change. In conclusion, seven key features of good practice are identified that need to be part of developing bus services to serve sustainable transport policies. These are customisation, co-operation, clear vision, clarity (to the user), core market, culture, and continuity.

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