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Quality of service in buses

Categories: BusQualitiesService

1) Nowadays, people are victims of poor quality/quality failures on near enough a daily basis. From electronic devices refusing to turn on to a lightbulb prematurely expiring. Therefore, according to Philip Crosby, we must define quality as “conformance to requirements”. However, Bhat (2009) believes that this does not tell the entire story. He says quality is a subjective term, thus it is in the mind of the consumer. If customer/s are not satisfied with a product or service, then it is not high quality.

Therefore, a greater definition could be quality is a measure of the conformance of the product to the customer’s needs. (Bhat, 2009)

As buses are an extremely popular mode of transport – they carry approximately two-thirds of all passengers using public transport (Stagecoach, 2018) – one would expect the quality of service to be high. The idea of quality being a subjective term translates well to this industry, as the opinions will differ greatly when separate stakeholders are consulted. For example,  quality bus service in the opinion of the passengers, is one that provides them with the highest level of comfort possible.

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Camira Fabrics, a company who supply seat coverings for buses, contracted Bus User Magazine to research passengers preferences on seat coverings. Rather than decide themselves, they planned to gauge the publics opinion on both traditional moquette and e-leather. Almost all passengers preferred moquette, prompting Camira to use it. (Booth, 2015) Not only does selecting the covering of the passenger’s choice to evoke quality, but also suggests that their opinions are heard and valued.

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The reliability of buses, i.e. their punctuality would also indicate quality to the passengers. Louis XVIII is reputed to have said punctuality is the politeness of kings, meaning being on time is a good way to show respect to others. A bus is not obliged to arrive at a scheduled time as it is no detriment to the bus company, and the people waiting are still going to get on. However, their passengers would be more appreciative of a service that runs as displayed.

Quality to the bus companies would be very different to that of the customers, their main concern is that their services run smoothly. To achieve this, they would want to limit the amount of crashes/accidents that occur to the absolute minimum. In 2017, it was revealed that the previous year, there were 28,035 collisions with buses involved in the capital alone. 5,000 more than the year prior. (Murray, 2017) TFL responded by developing their bus safety program and their innovation fund to reduce the chance of future collisions/injuries. In order to discover the root cause of any incidents, they gather information from operators, the police, coroners, the DVSA etc. in order to make the required improvements to their buses. (TFL)

To the manufacturers of the buses, quality would concern the steel they use to put together the bus. The quality of the steel can be determined by its strength, how malleable it is, its corrosion resistance etc. There are also some regulations that manufacturers must adhere to for the operators to purchase the buses. Such as, max weight (laden and unladen), max dimensions (length/width) and they are required to pass a tilt test.

2) There are numerous measures that can be utilized to assess quality within the bus industry. Quality in the opinion of the passengers can be measured by carrying out a questionnaire. The bus company could for example, send people from their own marketing team or contracted market researchers to a selection of busy bus stations/stops and ask passengers questions whilst they wait. To determine the passenger’s general opinion about the comfort onboard their buses, they could ask On a scale of 1 to 10, which number best represents the level of comfort you feel whilst using our buses? They could also include an open-ended question where passengers suggest improvements that could possibly be made. The results would reveal the consensus of the passengers and the bus company would be able to find what the average score given was. If it is high (8-10), it is safe to conclude the quality in terms of comfort is good. If the average score given is either in the middle or towards the lower end of the scale, the company can assume improvements are needed for it to be a quality service.

To measure the reliability of bus services, companies would need personnel to board different bus routes they operate and take note of whether it arrives at stops on time. They could potentially count buses that arrive up to a minute late/early as on time, as this would not inconvenience passengers greatly. If one arrives five minutes before or after it is supposed to, however, there is a high chance passengers will be affected. After a certain number of times, there will be enough data to calculate how often the bus was late/early as a percentage.

For the bus companies to assess quality, they would have to keep a track of all the accidents that occurred involving their buses. In order to improve quality, they would need to ascertain the most common root causes of accidents and see what actions they could put in place to prevent them being such a hazard in future. A large amount of bus crashes occur through no fault of the bus company, they are due to one of many external factors e.g. poor road conditions, extreme weather, other careless drivers etc. (Davis Law Firm) Some are by way of human error from the driver and it has been suggested that fatigue plays a sizable part in this. If any patterns arise between fatigue causing a crash and the number of hours the driver has worked, they could look at decreasing the amount they allow a person to drive at a time.

To assess the quality of the bus itself at the manufacturing stage, the hardness of the steel used on the buses would need to be tested. To do this, the manufacturer would need to hit the steel with different weights and see what weight makes it break. Hitting the steel with different forces but the same weight could also be utilised. The manufacturers will also have to abide by the requirements that would make the bus fit for purpose. For example, a double-decker buses overall width must be between 2.5-2.55 meters and its height between 4.2-4.42m. They would measure the framework of the bus to prove it is legal and so bus companies would purchase it. (WhatDoTheyKnow) The maximum unladen weight for a Routemaster double-decker bus is 7ton 7cwt, whilst the maximum laden weight is 7ton 14cwt. They would have to weigh the bus in both states to ensure it is right. (h2g2, 2013) A bus also needs to pass a “tilt test” before being declared road safe. This consists of tilting the bus 28 degrees without it tipping, there are either 60 “passengers” on board at the time or weighted objects to the same effect. (Rare Historical Photos, 2017)

3797301736090003) There are also various tools and techniques that can be used to both manage and improve quality. A technique that has been used several times in the past is benchmarking. This is where an industry searches for best practices that lead to superior performance. (Camp, 2006) The IBBG (International Bus Benchmarking Group) have used benchmarking to compare how its member cities annual passenger boardings have changed over time.

The chart allowed the IBBG to illustrate how London saw huge growth in the number of passenger boardings over the period in which they collected data. Bus companies could benchmark against their competitors in a similar fashion to assess their share of the market and determine what would need to be done to gain ground on those above them. The companies could also benchmark to achieve their goal of the minimum amount of accidents possible. For this they would compare the amount of accidents that occurred over time with their competitors and potentially adopt measures that are in place at companies that do better than them on that front.

A tool that can be used to assess quality is mistake proofing, a concept developed by Shigeo Shingo. Dale, Bamford & Van Der Wiele (2016) remarked no matter how observant or skilled people are, mistakes will occur unless preventative measures are put in place. In addition, Stewart & Grout (2001) called mistake proofing a powerful quality improvement approach, which usually employs relatively simple devices to achieve marked improvements. Due to mistake proofing concerning the detection and prevention of defects, this tool would be well used at the manufacturing stage of the supply chain. It was mentioned in the second section how manufacturers must adhere to certain requirements for buses to be road legal, therefore for example, an error such as an incorrect measurement meaning a bus does not fit within the width/height specs can be detected and the process stopped before other processes begin.

In addition to mistake proofing, a fairly simple tool known as the “five whys” could be utilised. An interrogative tool used to discover the root cause of problems. The idea is that after a person’s answers have been questioned approximately 5 times, the true cause of the problem shall be revealed. Whilst this is a simple concept and could potentially be used in many different contexts, for the bus industry it would best be used to assess the passenger’s


Passengers not happy with comfort level of bus service

  • WHY? – They find the seats to be uncomfortable
  • WHY? – They don’t like the material that was used on them
  • WHY? – E-leather has replaced the traditional moquette
  • WHY? – The bus company thought they would prefer it
  • WHY? – The bus company have not done market research


Passengers not happy with the comfort level of bus service

WHY? – They find the seats to be uncomfortable

WHY? – They don’t like the material that was used on them

WHY? – E-leather has replaced the traditional moquette

WHY? – The bus company thought they would prefer it

WHY? – The bus company have not done market research

The cause and effect diagram often referred to as a fishbone diagram, is a tool that could be used to identify the main causes of bus accidents. To create a cause and effect diagram, the problem is written on the right side of the diagram, with either five or six categories stemming from the problem.

The design of experiments is a method for testing and optimizing the performance of a process. Ronald Fisher (1971), who is widely recognized as the originator of DOE introduced the concept with his tea lady example. A lady declares that by tasting a cup of tea made with milk, she can tell whether the milk or tea infusion was added first. The experiment then consists of mixing eight cups of tea, four one way, four another, and presenting them to the subject in a random order, decided by apparatus used in games of chance. Her task is to then divide the eight cups into two groups of four, sorted by the way in which the tea was made. This technique is often used in manufacturing, as illustrated by Jiju Anthony (2003) when he said, in this context, inputs are factors or process variables such as people, materials, methods, environment, machines, procedures, etc. and outputs can be performance characteristics or quality characteristics of a product. This clearly demonstrates that DOE is a technique that is already utilized at the manufacturing stage in some industries, therefore manufacturers in the bus industry supply chain can apply the technique in a similar way.

Reference List

  • Anthony, J. (2003). Design of Experiments for Engineers and Scientists. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann
  • Bhat, K.S. (2009). Total Quality Management. Horsham: Global Media.
  • Booth, G. (2015, January). What do passengers want? Bus User, 7. Retrieved from R.C. (2006). Benchmarking: The Search for Industry Best Practices That Lead to Superior Performance. Abingdon-on-Thames: Productivity Press.
  • Dale, B.G., Bamford, D., & Van Der Wiele, T. (Eds.) (2016). Managing Quality: An Essential Guide and Resource Gateway. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons
  • Davis Law Firm. 3 Most Common Causes of Bus Accidents. Retrieved from
  • Fisher, R.A. (1971). The Design of Experiments (7th ed.). New York: Hafner Publishing Company
  • h2g2. (2013). The Routemaster Bus – Big, Red and Shiny. Retrieved from
  • International Bus Benchmarking Group. (2011). Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. Retrieved from D. (2017, October 2). Revealed: Bus crashes on capital’s roads rise by 5,000 in only three years. Evening Standard. Retrieved from
  • Rare Historical Photos. (2017). Proving that London’s double-decker buses were not a tipping hazard. Retrieved from
  • Stagecoach. (2018). UK Bus Industry – FAQs. Retrieved from D.M. & Grout, J.R. (2001). THE HUMAN SIDE OF MISTAKE-PROOFING. Production and Operations Management, 10 (4), 440-440. Retrieved from for London. Bus safety. Retrieved from
  • WhatDoTheyKnow. General Layout Requirements. Retrieved from

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Quality of service in buses. (2019, Dec 02). Retrieved from

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