First Bus Company has failed to put Customers First

Tuesday, 28 September, 2004

David Ruffley has challenged First Eastern Counties Buses Managing Director, John Pope, over his claim that it is not possible for his company to provide a bus service to take people home at 8.00 p.m. after the public meeting called by Bury St Edmunds Town Council on Friday, 1 October at 6.30 p.m. at the Corn Exchange in Bury.

David said: 'The public meeting on Friday has been called specifically because First Eastern Counties Buses seem to be letting down my constituents in the services they provide in the Bury St Edmunds area. They were given an opportunity to show that they want to put their passengers 'First' by providing a bus service to take people home after the public meeting. They failed to rise to the challenge and now Mulleys have stepped into the breach by offering two 'charity' buses on Friday evening to take people home. I am delighted that Mulleys have made this offer- it just shows what can be done with a bit of imagination and a positive attitude.

John Pope, as head of First, should realise that they need to put their customers first and adopt a 'can do' attitude. Does he really think his customers will take time off work to attend a public meeting during the day?'

David's letter to John Pope of 27 September:

I note your comments in the Bury Free Press last Friday relating to the difficulties you perceive to exist regarding the provision of a bus service to take people home from the public meeting on Friday, 1 October at the Bury St Edmunds Corn Exchange.

You state: 'due to the registration process … any service changes or additional services, even for one evening, would need to be registered eight weeks prior.'

However, a spokesman for Suffolk County Council clearly states: 'The bus company can decide to lay on a one-off service without needing to register it eight weeks beforehand but wouldn't be able to charge for the service.'

I do hope, therefore, that you will reconsider this matter. I should be grateful if you could let me know how much it would cost to provide a one-off service after the meeting. I am sure it will be a price worth paying to win the goodwill of many residents who are customers of your company.

My suggestion that it would be an excellent goodwill gesture to its customers if First provided a bus service to get people home at the end of the public meeting was raised at the meeting of the Bury St Edmunds Town Council last week. It received overwhelming support.

You also said to the media that you were unsure as to which areas the buses would need to run and at what times. My office's letter to you mentioned Moreton Hall and the Mildenhall Road estate. I am told that Priors estate was mentioned at the Town Council meeting. I am sure the Town Council Clerk could provide you with the information you need. As to time, the meeting ends at 8.00 p.m., again as previously stated.

The provision of a free bus service after the public meeting will send a message to my constituents that you are putting their interests first. Not to do so will have the opposite effect.