As part of this year’s Catch the Bus week, our Operations Director Sarah Boyd spoke to The Metro to tell readers what’s involved in keeping Edinburgh moving every day.
Here’s what she had to say…..
Running the operational side of a bus company sounds extremely complicated – is it?
The special element in Lothian is people. I’m fortunate in that it’s a really well run business that’s been helping people move in and around Edinburgh for years. It’s a bit of a family company, in the sense that people who work there regard it as a community and tend to be quite long-serving. That commitment is a huge asset because it means people know their jobs, the city and their customers very well.
I also need to acknowledge that it’s not just about our drivers, although they’re very much the public face for most of our customers. We’ve got our engineering, commercial and back-office functions including comms, HR and finance which play a hugely important role in our whole business.
What are the biggest challenges you face today?
It’s got to be congestion on the road. Edinburgh has been growing for many years now and of course we have a regular huge influx of visitors from around the world. That’s especially the case during the summer and winter festivals. New residents, businesses and tourists are all vitally important for the capital’s well-being of course, but there are inevitable challenges in moving people around. We’re working with the council to make sure that our services are given greater priority.
Was it something you’d always dreamed of doing?
Apparently my very first word as a child was ‘bus’ so, yes, to be Operational Director of an industry leader like Lothian is a fantastic opportunity.
What did you want to do when young?
I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do for a long time, although I always knew that it would have to be something very people focused. As soon as I joined the bus industry I knew it was for me. It’s actually all about people which is the reason I enjoy my job so much.
Is it more challenging with heightened security in the UK? Why?
Sadly, the world is a very different place to when I started in this profession. Of course it’s something we’re mindful of but we need to be realistic about what measures a bus company can put in place. We’re transporting millions of people every year on multiple services with relatively short journey times. That means our options are very limited. However, we do have CCTV on nearly all of our services, our staff are trained to be vigilant for all sorts of issues on board and we’ve got an award winning partnership with Police Scotland in place.
I also think we all, as individuals, have a degree of responsibility to be aware of our surroundings and follow the advice of the police and other authority in tackling terrorism, or indeed any criminal activity.
Do you have any good anecdotes from your time in the job?
Not any that I can put into print!
Do you still take the bus?
It’s really important to me that I’m visible in our business. All of our people do an amazing job day in day out, in sometimes challenging circumstances. I use our services regularly to get out and about and around the city.
What does you average day entail?
We aren’t a 9 – 5 business so there really isn’t an average day for me as no two days are ever the same. We are all very hands on in the business. First thing I catch up with our people in our control room to see what shape the day is starting to take. The weather, traffic problems and major events can all have an impact on our services.
Its then back to my desk and usually into a series of meetings although every day is different. My door is always open as it’s genuinely important to me that people can come and chat to me. Later in the day I try to get out and about and around the garages to see what’s going on.
How do you manage such a big team? How do you inspire people?
I think our staff are inspired by where they work and they job that they do, serving the people of Edinburgh and the city’s visitors day in day out. It’s no exaggeration to say we’re a lifeline service. Without our buses, many people couldn’t get to their work, see their families, attend hospital appointments and so much more. My job is to ensure we comply with current legislation and deliver a consistently reliable service on a daily basis.
What do you like to do when not working? Any interesting passions?
My working week is pretty full on – in any spare time I enjoy going to the cinema and sport.
What is the future of public transport? Will we have flying buses?
I don’t know about flying buses and I suspect if they do ever arrive I’ll be enjoying my retirement long before then! For us, the future is most short-term, making the buses the best option that we can. We’ve done a lot to make the services meet modern expectations, with Wi-Fi, USB charging points on some vehicles, mobile ticketing, real-time journey planning and update and such like. Making the most of green engines to reduce our carbon footprint and adopting the latest technology on board are what we’re mainly focused on.
What advice would you have for your younger self?
Sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. Take every single situation as a learning experience.