Interview with Tom Morgan, General Manager at Kinchbus

20 March 2014

Tom Morgan, General Manager at Kinchbus takes part in a Q and A

What is your role at Kinchbus?

I'm General Manager, jack of all trades, master of none. My team and I do our best to keep customers happy all year round and we're always looking to improve what we do so any feedback, good or bad, is always appreciated.

Which geographical area does Kinchbus operate in?

Kinchbus predominantly run to/from and around Loughborough. We serve the town's University, railway station and local estates, as well as providing a vital link from the three surrounding Cities (Leicester, Derby and Nottingham) to East Midlands Airport 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

How large is your fleet of buses at Kinchbus?

We run 33 vehicles and all our servicing and maintenance is done in house, here at our Loughborough depot.

We hear some really good things about Kinchbus. How does Kinchbus meet the needs of its blind and partially sighted passengers?

I don't think we do anything special. We know that to be successful we have to encourage as many people to use the bus as possible. The easiest way to do this is treat people as well as we can, then hopefully they'll use us again and again. We try to employ people who like people, it's hard to train that, you can train anyone to drive a bus. Everyone's different and we try to cater for their needs as best we can, it's about making peoples experience as simple and trouble free as possible. Even if it's just by doing the little things like stopping when we see someone at a bus stop (regardless of them putting their hand out or not), a friendly greeting when they get on, putting their change and ticket in their hand rather than on the tray, letting them know where there's an empty seat, waiting for them to sit down before pulling away, remembering their destination and letting them know when they get there.

We are fortunate that Loughborough's RNIB college is on one of our routes meaning that our team get to interact with blind and partially sighted customers on a regular basis, which I think helps put both sides at ease. Additionally our team spend at least one day a year away from depot learning about customers and the different needs they have. Furthermore, we recently teamed up with the college to put on a swap with me event at our depot. This gave our team a chance to use simulation specs and have a brief insight into using the bus from a blind or partially sighted persons point of view, although most rewardingly it allowed us to openly discuss what helps and hinders blind and partially sighted people (sometimes when we were trying to help we were making things worse).

We certainly don't get it right every time, but we'll keep learning and through feedback always try to get better.

What one thing are you proudest of achieving for blind and partially sighted customers?

Not quite achieved, but very soon to have - audio announcements on our buses. This isn't just a great facility for blind and partially sighted customers, but as with most things, an improvement for one is an improvement for many and the announcements will also help our foreign customers, those who are new to the area, or simply using us for the first time.

What one thing would you do to improve things for blind and partially sighted customers that you aren't doing right now?

If I had an unlimited budget I would do something to improve bus stops. If this could be a button that can be pressed so the driver of their service can see someone wants the bus by a coloured light at the stop. As well as audio information for all operators buses at the bus stop when requested. If all bus stops in the UK took a standard high quality layout which included such facilities to a high standard it would help everyone. I am a realist and understand unlimited budgets are a luxury that few afford. Hopefully with the adaption of smart phones technology we can keep improving things without having to rely on the Local Authority funding, which will inevitably be stretched.

Why aren't you doing that right now?

Money, money, money.

How did you get involved with the RNIB bus campaign?

RNIB approached us, and as any business should, we're always on the look out to improve our product and capture a wider audience.

Have you hosted an RNIB swap with me event? If so how was it?

We have. I touched on it earlier, it was great. The best thing coming away from it is how much our team got from understanding how to best help. We're lucky that our team are passionate about helping people and they're always willing to learn new skills.