June 03 2021

Rachel Geliamassi, Managing Director for Stagecoach West, writes about the work Stagecoach are doing with disability groups and passengers, to take the anxiety out of the experience of travelling by bus.

As a customer service led business, we want the experience of using our services to be as easy as possible for everybody. The customer feedback we receive is critical in making sure that we are delivering the best service, and this becomes even more important in ensuring we’re meeting the needs of all of our customers – including those with seen and unseen disabilities.  

As one of the leaders within Stagecoach, the UK’s biggest bus operator, I spend a lot of time speaking to local groups such as the Sightloss Council and Inclusion Gloucestershire, a charity run by disabled people for disabled people, talking to them about how we can make sure our services become even more inclusive.  

We’ve encouraged these groups to be frank and honest and to challenge us on how we do things. We’ve shared our training programmes and taken pointers from them on how training can be improved. This input has become invaluable in helping us to keep our front-line colleagues up-to-date with live tips to give the most inclusive experience, which has become even more important during the Covid pandemic. One example is that as seats have been restricted due to social distancing, there has been a need to remind drivers that our visually impaired customers may need a verbal prompt on which closest seat is available.  

Customer feedback has also been crucial in helping with our new bus roll outs. When our new audio enabled buses came to Cheltenham in December 2019, we invited disability groups and many others to test the experience to make sure that it was right before we went live. I believe offering taster experiences on vehicles goes a long way to helping people feel more confident in travelling on buses. This is something that we've done at Stagecoach West for many years and the feedback shows that it helps to reduce the anxiety in travelling on a new bus for the first time.  

We'll open our doors with our new vehicles too, which are 21 high specification double-deckers coming in June for our Service 10 from Gloucester to Cheltenham. As one of the most popular routes in Gloucestershire offering a high frequency service up to 10 minutes across the day, we’re proud that the inclusive features of the audio next stop announcements on these services will be enjoyed by so many of our loyal and new customers. 

We know that travelling can be a difficult experience for some people and we need to help take the anxiety out of the experience of travelling by bus. We can do this by listening to the feedback from our passengers and disability groups and not presuming we’ve thought of everything. Being the inclusive bus company we want to be is shaped around encouraging this feedback which is crucial to helping to attract more people onto buses.