“Don’t hate the player, hate the game.”

The management culture of the bus industry has been gradually changing for several years. 31 years that have passed since 1986, and the old guard of NBC managers with the experience of working in the culture of the bus industry before it was purely business led are gradually being replaced by the results of the big group graduate schemes. Although i’m sure there are some exceptions, there is no longer the likelihood that a bright spark will start as a driver and work their way up the ladder to become a senior member of staff. Instead the industry seems to prefer picking from an endless stream of graduates who know nothing about the industry, nor their customers aside from the statistics they generate on spreadsheets.

Whereas the NBC was obsessed with appeasing political will at the expense of passenger demand and commercial sanity, the modern bus industry is all about the bottom line and many managers and spokespeople will make great effort to make sure this remains in the public consciousness, regardless of how unpalatable it may be to the average politicised campaigner. I also have concerns about how modern management in the big groups make their decisions. Is it all one big game, being played with somebody else’s money?

As an aside, playing games with other people’s money isn’t solely the reserve of the big groups. The era of deregulation has been full of public sector vanity projects with no hope of ever becoming sustainable. For every scheme of merit such as Kickstart (which gave operators the opportunity to boost services with potential), we have had a white elephant such as the North Somerset Commuter Coach.

The thing is that i don’t have anybody else’s money to play with, nor hundreds of vehicles or drivers. That takes away the game element of it for me. Citistar has to work financially or i can’t pay my mortgage and feed my family. It isn’t a game to play, but a necessity for it to be sustainable. I don’t expect it to make me a millionaire and have reasonable expectations about the lifestyle it will give me, but nobody can keep running bus services simply for the love of it.

I’ve was recently advised that i shouldn’t take recent attacks against my business as personal attacks against me. But i’m working at the coal face. I have a significant interest and passion invested in my work being successful, and i love the positive response from people when we get it right, as we have done over the past six months in Weston. I don’t have the perspective to view predatory business moves by a multinational corporation as anything other than an attack on me – to try and put the company out of my business, to make it unviable.

So when i’m told by somebody senior locally in First to “hate the game, not the player”, i have to point out that i’m not playing a game. I take a huge level of pride in what i do, and getting it right as often as possible because the bottom line isn’t the only thing that matters to me. Those who are playing games can make a mess of projects they don’t understand and don’t pay proper attention to, like sixteen shambolic months of the 171 perhaps?

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