An Innovative Journey for the Bus Industry

It’s amazing to think that it’s five and half years since we launched the Arriva m-ticket app in November 2009, becoming the first national bus company worldwide to pioneer such technology.  Whilst there have been more than 20 Million journeys made on Arriva buses in that period, mobile ticketing is still a relatively new concept within transport, especially within buses, although in many ways it’s frustrating to still be using a visual display for manual recognition of the ticket, especially knowing that there have been technologies such as NFC available for many years, but unfortunately they’ve not been adopted widely to enable commercial market viability. Hopefully this will change within the next few years, with Beacon technology set to revolutionise the ticketing world, offering the potential for account based ticketing based on a ‘Be in, Be out’ concept. Mobile payments are also developing fast, with contactless EMV, NFC and ApplePay all expected to make our lives easier. That said, I don’t expect our buses to go cashless at any stage soon (if ever), and we must adopt a ‘horses for courses’ policy and present ticketing options for all of our customers, allowing them to choose what’s best for them.

It’s also been very pleasing to see the fantastic reception that our other app, the Arriva Bus App has had. Remember that this was only launched in some parts of the UK in summer 2014, and we’re fast approaching 600,000 downloads, which shows that our customers want up-to the minute information at their fingertips when they’re ‘on-the-go’. We’ve already been short-listed for some awards, and judging by the customer comments in the app stores, we’re setting the bar high for real-time information travel apps.

And let’s not forget the humble smartcard. Whilst perhaps lacking the flexibility that mobile has to offer, we should not forget that some people don’t have a smart mobile device, or simply don’t trust m-commerce, so having the cashless benefits of a smartcard, and the ability to re-use again and again is attractive to many, and in some areas, inter-operable tickets exist that enable passengers to use their tickets on multiple bus operators, and in some cases, different transport modes.

So what’s next? Increased integration between the two apps is a certainty, and in fact you can now select a ticket from the Arriva Bus App and jump straight through to the relevant screen within the m-ticket app, but a big area to tackle is to add ‘A to B’ fares, enabling the answer customers to see at a glance how much a single trip between two points would cost. With the recent launch of the Apple watch, there will be much focus on ‘wearables’ for transport ticketing, so watch this space

Dressed for Success

“Will you host this year’s Made a Difference Awards?” I was asked on what was literally my first day of a new job at Arriva. “How hard can it be?” I thought, not being a stranger to standing up and ‘saying a few words’ on occasion. Of course I would; I’d be delighted.

That was back in September last year, at the start of the planning for what was definitely one of the greatest evenings I’ve ever spent at work. But this wasn’t about me.

It was about the 250 Arriva people from all across the country who were nominated by colleagues and customers for doing the amazing things, big and little, that make a difference to our business.

It was about the 19 individuals and teams who were highly commended for their part in the success of one of the biggest bus operators in the UK.

It was about the 11 amazing people, who, on the night, tasted success as they were rightly named as winners in their individual category.

It was also about the energy, enthusiasm and commitment all of those who brought the awards to life; by taking the time to nominate colleagues, judge the entries and ensure that the celebration was one that everyone enjoyed.

And it was about the generosity of employees and sponsors who, on the night donated over £2000 to charity.

These are the people who make Arriva a great place to work and one that we’re all proud to be part of. Of course, success isn’t something we should just get dressed up to celebrate; it’s something we should all do every single day. But who doesn’t like a party from time to time?

All I had to do was say a few words; it was everyone else who made the real difference.



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It’s good to talk

The thought of tackling a crisis can be the stuff of nightmares for some communications professionals. Forewarned is indeed forearmed so far as many circumstances go, but a crisis by its very nature can come out of nowhere, so perhaps a more apt adage would be ‘fail to prepare, and prepare to fail’ otherwise you might find yourself sinking should the worst happen.

At a recent communications conference in Stockholm, professionals from across the Arriva Group gathered en-masse to discuss the matter in great detail, pouring over the ‘what-ifs’ and ‘maybes’ crisis situations will undoubtedly throw at you. From experience, it is events like these that can really put the cat amongst the pigeons and get the brain ticking over. It’s good to remain aware of the acute complexities that handling such events involves, and that can only be done by practicing and refining your crisis communication plans on a regular basis. Time passes, communication channels grow, and staff move on. You cannot expect that any existing plan will stay as robust as when it was first conceived, it has to be reviewed and put to the test regularly to ensure the structure will remain intact at the crucial moment.

Practise really can make perfect (or as perfect as it can be given the scenario). Knowing what to say, or perhaps more importantly, what NOT to say, is paramount if you want to stop an issue turning into a crisis, or a crisis turning into major reputational damage for the business. The key is always to stick to the facts. Ask questions, be aware, but never, EVER, get dragged into speculation. The truth is your friend, but it has to be succinct and measured. Remain sincere, empathetic, and most significantly, honest when questioned, but take the time to ensure that what you’re sharing is ‘need to know’ and reflects that which is also being offered by your partners, emergency services, clients, etc. Online and social is no different. Go to black-out if necessary. Say nothing until you know what you’re saying is right. Not wanting to revert back to age-old sayings, but ‘silence is golden’ (whoever said PR was cliché?!)

It all sounds so simple and straightforward on the face of it, that’s for sure, but of course we all know that it’s never that easy. Each and every circumstance will have its own unique challenges and these cannot be sanctioned against, but what we can do is make sure we know the basics, remain level-headed and be equipped for how to react. What was is the Cub Scouts say? ‘Always be prepared’. That’s life in the communications world. Dib, dib, dib. Dob, dob, dob.


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Building a social structure fit for the future

2014 for Arriva social media was all about using the existing foundations of our regionally focused customer channels (Facebook and Twitter) and looking at how we drive these forward taking a national branded approach.

This involved ensuring social media was at the heart of everything we do in all aspects of our marketing from national campaigns, customer service and specific campaign channel activity. The strategic approach is primarily about driving engagement and improving customer communications. This has led to the development of some key campaign activity such as gamification where social media users could take part in a Facebook game where they ran their own bus company, facing real life situations and were entered into competitions to reward their play.

One thing that most brands can never shy away from is that customer service is an inevitable part of social media. We have a dedicated team in place that responds to incoming customer queries (both positive and negative) and we’re in the process of getting all depots trained to push out service updates to keep our customers informed. In order to keep a strong national approach, all staff who are involved in social media had the opportunity to take part in a Social Media in Business BTEC qualification to further enhance their skills and knowledge.

Looking forward to 2015, the approach is still very much focused on engagement through developing more regional specific content marketing and national marketing campaigns. Customer data is also a larger focus for the business and social media is a key stream where acquisition and specific targeting opportunities are apparent. Community engagement pieces and user generated content have always worked really well in campaigns and this is something we’re looking to maximise this year.

B2B is another key area of focus and how we can really leverage streams such as LinkedIn to promote us as partner of choice. We’ve launched an Arriva Bus UK LinkedIn page to promote great local and national work streams from all aspects of the business from engineering right through to HR.

We’re looking forward to the challenges ahead for 2015 with a flexible and united approach.



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