Member of the Week - Stagecoach in the Highlands

This week’s member of the week is Stagecoach in the Highlands, part of Stagecoach North Scotland. Their business in the Highlands has a long history, evolving from the former Rapsons Coaches, Highland Scottish and Highland Country Buses operations.  In 2008, the business became Stagecoach in the Highlands, which it remains today as part of Stagecoach North Scotland.

Across Stagecoach North Scotland, they operate and maintain their own fleet of 350 buses and coaches.  Their services connect customers across the region to employment, education and leisure destinations, serving local populations as well as a growing tourist market.

We spoke to Mark Whitelocks; the Managing Director of Stagecoach North Scotland since October 2016. Mark joined the graduate management programme with Stagecoach 12 years ago and has held a number of senior positions across the UK during that time.

Mark told us about his role: “We aim to deliver high quality, accessible and affordable travel options to the communities we serve.  We link communities to our major town and city centres and key destinations within those centres.  Ensuring that our operations are performed and delivered successfully is no mean feat and this is something that I oversee on a daily basis, testing the products we offer to highlight the small details that can be improved upon.  Managing demands on services, ensuring vehicle availability whilst performing services on each bus every 28 days again requires a high level of expertise and skill.  My role in that is ensuring we attract the skills we require and of course make sure we do these maintenance tasks safely. My main activity however is steering the commercial approach of our business.  We want to keep our services as affordable as possible and offering unlimited travel from just £1.57 day across the network is just that.”

Mark told Inverness Chamber why Stagecoach North Scotland would like to feature as member of the week: ” I want to highlight that our core business is about providing people with travel options.  People travel not for the sake of it, but to do something, be that for work or play.  Knowing when and where people need to travel is key to our success.  Environmentally, all businesses need to play a role in reducing congestion and improving air quality to help improve and care for our environment.  We want to help other businesses do just that as well as be successful businesses in their own right. We’re committed to reducing the environmental impact of our operations; we invested £1million in Scotland’s first fully-electric bus fleet, which operates on our Inverness City network. “

Mark is pleased to share that they have recently re-launched their network in Inverness and the surrounding area to make getting to key city destinations as easy as possible. This includes buses up to every 10 minutes between the city centre, Raigmore Hospital and UHI Inverness. We have also improved connections to Inverness Airport on service 11/11A, with buses timed to meet the expanding flight schedule at the airport.

Mark said: “We made changes to our fares in Inverness and the surrounding area in April, reducing several prices to make bus travel more attractive. Customers can now travel all over our Inverness Zone 1 for just £3.60 per day or £11.00 for 7 days of unlimited travel.

In November 2017, we invested £2.75million in 10 brand new, state-of-the-art coaches for our flagship service 10, which runs from Inverness to Elgin and Aberdeen every hour. These luxury coaches feature leather seats, free WiFi and USB charging ports at every seat. They’re proving to be very popular with customers, and with certain journeys available on for as little as £1, we can’t blame them!”

We asked Mark what Stagecoach North Scotland’s business plans are over the coming 12 months: “We have plans to enhance our offering to tourists visiting the Highlands and Orkney. As more cruise ship passengers arrive in Invergordon and Kirkwall each year, our network of services connects these passengers with tourist attractions and town centres across the region. We believe we have an important role to play in bringing these tourists to the communities we serve and to benefit the regional economy.”

Stagecoach were recently recognised at the 2017 Scottish Transport Awards, with their flagship Jet 727 airport route winning the coveted “Best Bus Service in Scotland” trophy. Additionally, in 2015 investment in a fully-electric bus fleet in Inverness led to us being shortlisted for awards from the Chartered Institute of Highways and Transport, the Scottish Transport Awards and the National Transport Awards in 2016.

We asked Stagecoach what they value most about membership with Inverness Chamber: “Membership allows us to keep our finger on the pulse of what is happening in Inverness, particularly with regards to the development of the city’s infrastructure and retail offering. It is in the interests of all Chamber members that we have a vibrant, well-connected and economically productive city. Our membership connects us to a wide range of partners who can help us achieve our goals.”

Mark provided his ‘top tip’ for making the most of membership: “Networking is the key to making the most of Chamber membership. The Chamber is rightly proud of its expanding membership base, with expertise in a wide variety of fields. Speaking on behalf of the business community, the Chamber is influential in many ways- so make sure your voice is heard.”

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