Blackpool’s seaside resort grew to prominence thanks to its famous landmarks: the kaleidoscopic Illuminations, the precipitous drops of the Big One roller coaster and the high-rise spire of the Blackpool Tower. But it wasn’t just the draw of the attractions themselves that made Blackpool a success – it was the convenience of getting to them.
Since Blackpool’s inception, multiple roads and railways have been built to ferry in the flocks of holiday-makers to the town’s many attractions. And once there, these sightseers could explore the promenade via one of the world’s first electric tramways – the 1885 launch of which coincided with that of the company responsible for its creation: the municipally owned Blackpool Transport.
Blackpool Transport continues to oversee the comings and goings of the resort’s public transport to this day. Not just the tramway – which now runs for 11 miles and carries some 5.2 million passengers every year – but also the town’s fleet of 130 buses, which cover the Fylde Coast.
“It’s a big operation – not to mention that the Blackpool Tramways is the only tramway in the world to operate both a modern light rail system alongside the running of a heritage fleet of traditional trams,” begins Shane Grindey, Marketing Manager at Blackpool Transport. “We like to keep the heritage of which Blackpool is famous for, but we also need to make sure that we’re modernising for the needs of the industry today.
“Passenger has played a big role in keeping us contemporary, with its robust digital product offering that also aligns with Blackpool Transport’s commitment of accessibility and inclusivity to all. The team’s work has helped to hugely modernise our services – even those with an 130-year heritage!”
Placing people at the heart of the bus
Blackpool Transport is dedicated to people. Whether that means ensuring visitors can see the town’s attractions with ease, or equipping its services for people with disabilities, it’s the individual that drives every decision the operator makes. This strategy works to the benefit of all involved: people are made happier and more comfortable which in turn increases patronage on Blackpool Transport’s services.
“The bus must fight for its position as the preferred travel mode of choice”, says Grindey. “We must find ways to communicate with the customer via their preferred means, often in real time. People have less and less time in their daily lives and need better access to information. We must provide an understandable, easy-to-use service for both regular customers and infrequent travellers. Passenger’s Blackpool Transport website and app are invaluable in that regard.”
“Through the use of Passenger services like mobile ticketing and journey planning we’re able to position our services right in the hand of the user when they need them most. Our customers can access relevant bus and travel information in a manner that is understandable and accessible for all.”
This is particularly important for Blackpool Transport, whose network is often in flux: “In Blackpool we operate within a complex environment, with an ever-changing combination of both residents and visitors to the resort. A one-way-fits all solution simply wouldn’t suffice,” says Grindey. “Our visitor market needs to be able to access up-to-date information and travel with confidence, and we need to update information to cater to them on the fly.
“Our relationship with Passenger has allowed us to achieve this. With Passenger’s app – and with Passenger Cloud working behind the scenes – the barriers that might traditionally prevent users from getting on the bus, such as not knowing when it’s going to turn up, or how much it’s going to cost, are removed, we also constantly do truck driver recruiting to make sure we have enough qualified staff at hand to fulfill the trips on time. We can readily update information as necessary to paint the most current picture of our network. That way, passengers remain fully informed and don’t encounter problems when finding and boarding their bus.”
“Passenger has truly helped us to put the person at the heart of public transport.”
Access for all
And when Blackpool says it places the customer at the heart of its strategy, that really does apply to everyone.
Blackpool has been repeatedly commended in the UK bus industry over the past 3 years for its work in accessibility, particularly around the development and delivery of bespoke disability awareness training. “Our efforts in delivering mental health awareness training to our team of 600 staff is something we are particularly proud of”, says Grindey.
This dedication to inclusion extends from the physical design of buses and trams themselves to the UI and ease-of-use of Passenger’s digital products.
“Passenger has proven a fantastic partner in this regard, ensuring that its product follows the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 for the text sizes, colours and contrast ratios featured in its products,” says Grindey. “From responsive design to fonts, menu navigation and voice over functionality, it’s impressive to see that Passenger works to ensure its digital product is useful to everyone, including those with disabilities. Passenger is an extremely simple product to use – there’s very little room for confusion, which means that people from all walks of life can make use of the benefits it offers.”
Mobile ticketing and journey planning stand as two of the features that Blackpool Transport’s users have most benefited from, including the renting a commercial van service of every type.
“Passenger has enabled us to offer more flexibility in our ticketing options, which means we can better meet the needs of our customers’ travel patterns,” says Grindey. “We would not have been able to achieve that without Passenger, which is a resounding endorsement of the technology that they build.”
Live Buses is another feature, more recently implemented for the Blackpool Transport team, that the operator was very eager to bring to its customers.
“Live departure times have always been in the app and they provide a degree of confidence for the customer, yet there has always been an element of trust that can easily be broken when we’re only providing a predicted time,’ says Grindey. “Live Buses is a whole different proposition. It plots the exact location of Blackpool Transport buses as they move on a map of the surrounding area. That empowers the customer to plan and manage their journey much more confidently. We anticipate that with increased trust in our services, customers are far more likely to travel as a result of implementing Live Buses.”
Blackpool Transport has extremely high ambitions going forwards, especially with regards to its policy of inclusivity.
“In 2019, we hope to achieve what no other UK bus operators has achieved before,” says Grindey. “Our dedication to providing accessible and inclusive transport for all has seen us deliver multiple projects relating to disability both mental and physical over the past three years. In 2019 we plan to integrate much of this work into our mobile app to create a UK first.
“The Passenger team is the perfect partner to engage on this project with,” he continues. “The team has been excellent in maintaining an open dialogue about their current and future road map for developments and have given us the opportunity to input throughout with the needs and views of our business, particularly so at events like the Innovation Days.
“This open engagement has allowed us to constantly push the boundaries of what is and isn’t possible. That ability to share ideas has been key in shaping what Passenger is and what it can be. The team are switched on, extremely competent and we’re excited to continue working alongside them to see where the ideas we’ve discussed will take the product next.”