Catch the Bus Week 2015, which is spearheaded by Greener Journeys, took place this year from 29 June-5 July. Now in its third year, the support from operators, local authorities and passenger transport groups this year was overwhelming. A staggering 215 stakeholders got behind the week by running competitions and events aimed at encouraging people to use the bus. This is more than double the participants from last year. Importantly, up and down the country MPs got behind the campaign, with 22 parliamentarians raising awareness of the benefits of bus travel through a range of activities.
For the launch event, we briefly took over one Westminster Bridge traffic lane and attendees got on board a brand new Irizar i2e, Go Ahead’s new electric buses which have recently begun to operate in the capital. The launch event was attended by Buses Minister Andrew Jones MP; Leon Daniels Managing Director Surface Transport, TfL; Kevin O’Connor, Managing Director UK Bus, Arriva; Giles Fearnley, Managing Director, UK Bus Firstgroup; David Brown, Chief Executive, Go Ahead Group; Martin Dean, Managing Director, Bus, Go Ahead Group; Mark Threapleton, Managing Director, Stagecoach London and Greener Journeys Chief Executive, Claire Haigh.
Much of the campaign promotion was driven through social media, with the hashtags #CTBW and #CTBW2015 reaching 4,222,920 impressions! A number of key influencers tweeted their support of the campaign, including Department for Transport, Transport for Greater Manchester, Age UK, mumsnet, as well as lots of Parliamentarians.
MPs got creative this year to show their support for the week. Former Shadow Secretary of State for Transport Mary Creagh MP penned a blog about Catch the Bus Week which was published on the Huffington Post. She also visited her local bus depot, speaking to staff and apprentices about the ways in which they keep Wakefield moving. Huw Irranca-Davies MP took a bus journey as a blind man in conjunction with the Royal National Institute of the Blind, while Justin Tomlinson MP and Robert Buckland MP visited Thamesdown transport and had a photocall in support. Chi Onwurah MP held a bus surgery where she met with local constituencies to discuss issues while on a bus. Other MPs also supported the campaign in their local media or through social media.
Of course, the week couldn’t have been such a success without the enthusiasm and imagination of our partners all over the country. From Southampton to South Shields and Aberdeen to Aberystwyth, bus companies and local authorities found their own unique ways of celebrating the bus with their local communities.
A number of operators came up with fantastic ideas to get children excited about catching the bus, in partnership with local primary schools. Arriva organised a colouring competition in the Midlands, with the best entries winning family tickets to Drayton Manor Park and Twinlakes, while Go-Ahead staff got involved by handing out free taster tickets at school fetes. Stagecoach put the imagination of children in Lincoln to the test by challenging them to design the perfect bus.
Kids of a different kind were spotted riding the bus between Harrogate and Knaresborough, as TransDev offered to put on a special service for a pair of goats to help out a local charity. Managing Director Alex Hornby said he was sure the animals – who were on their way to carry out some organic lawn maintenance at Henshaws Arts and Crafts Centre – would find the service as “delightful and convenient to use” as human passengers.
PTEs and local authorities led the way too. This year Centro ran a West Midlands-wide marketing and awareness campaign in partnership with bus operators and other stakeholders. Their activity was dominated by two main campaigns; ‘Try the bus for free’ and ‘#busselfie’. With dedicated web pages for both campaigns, they hit the streets, delivering some 8,500 leaflets and over 1,000 free bus tickets worth £8.10 each. The #busselfie social media campaign went down a storm, with even Centro’s Chief Executive Geoff Inskip and National Express’s Managing Director for UK Bus, Peter Coates posing for a photo! The winning selfie won a 4-week, all operators ‘nBus’ ticket on Centro’s ‘Swift’ smartcard.
Other unusual events taking place on buses around Britain included the recording of an ECFM radio show on a Prentice service in Scotland, a ‘Back of the Bus’ magical mystery tour with New Zealand company Java Dance on a TransDev service in Lancashire, and too many “bus selfie” competitions to count. Salisbury Reds launched a competition with local radio station Spire FM, where 100 lucky listeners where given the case to win tickets, while Southern Vectis collaborated with the local Chamber of Commerce and Visit Isle of Wight to get staff on board the bus through ticket giveaways and a twitter photo competition.
There were challenges for passengers to make the switch to the bus on several services over the course of the week – all of them organised by local groups to promote wider use of the bus in their local area. Mumsnet challenged members in Exeter to park the car and ride the bus to a series of days out over the course of the week. Commuters in Bath were encouraged to take the bus to work as part of a month-long ‘big commuting challenge’, and in Nottingham one dedicated passenger won a month’s free travel by using their Easyrider card more than anyone else. Customers in the Arriva Southern Counties region were asked to channel their creative side by writing poems based on what the bus means to them, with the best 10 entries winning a free weekly pass.
These events were just a snapshot of the fantastic activity taking place all over Britain over the course of the week, all of which helped generate local interest and positive press coverage for the bus while showcasing the friendliness and dedication of staff. We are so grateful to all that got involved and already can’t wait for next year’s Catch the Bus Week, which we are delighted to announce will run from 4th-10th July 2016!