[Brad Johnson | Deputy Editor]
For many students at the University of Hertfordshire, University Bus Ltd., or UNO Bus as they are commonly known, provide the free shuttle between the de Havilland Campus and College Lane. However, for some students, they also provide the main transportation network between their homes and the university. Therefore, for many commuting students at the university, they are key services that when late, can provide disruption to not only their day but also to their studies. For years, UNO Bus has faced conflict from students over issues including services and timings. UniVerse has now looked into student feedback to see where UNO Bus is now in terms of providing a service for students.
One student who has been aggrieved by UNO Bus for many years is Myles Antonio Crawford, a first year Joint Honours students who used the service while at college and now at university. He has recently written to the Students’ Union and happily shared his letter with us. He stated that for nearly three years, “Uno clearly don’t stick to these times” in relation to their timetabling of planned services. He stated how the 625 consistently turned up between 15-20 minutes late. Alongside this he revealed, through a conversation with a driver on the 614 route, that “[the driver] was running over 25-30 minutes late when he began.”
The lateness of the 614 is reinforced by Psychology student, Rukki Ghafoori who posted on a social media site about the lateness of the service on a regular basis and said “you CANNOT trust the timetable” and had “to miss out on the first half of my lecture [sic].” In response to this, James Thorpe, Managing Director of UNO stated: “Most of our buses do stick to their timetables, although some bus services may be disrupted due to other factors such as traffic congestion, roadworks, closures and diversions.”
Another point raised by Crawford was that when he had chatted with a driver on his journey, although “the driver was polite and even apologised for lateness” he apparently revealed that “there were no buses at the garage” for them to actually start the service. This causes concern because not only does UNO has issues with their timings, could this mean that they don’t actually have a big enough fleet to cover all the services they provide? Thorpe explained he was “unsure why a driver would say this as we have enough buses and UNO runs a high percentage of spare vehicles over what it needs to operate its services.”
Customer service has caused concern for some students as well. When UniVerse followed a Twitter conversation between @UNOBus and @moscromozmozyea, UNO Bus revealed that their ‘News and Updates’ Twitter page was “ not manned outside of office hours” even though a duty manager is on duty.
This suggests that if you have a timetable or lateness problem that not between 9am and 5pm, you may be left without information about your onward travel, which has several implications. This could be seen by some as an unethical approach leaving customers without advice or updates at times of the day when they could be at their most vulnerable. “All UNO buses are also tracked in real time and the Intalink app provides this real time information”
“Our admin office is staffed between 0800 and 1700 and the bus garage is staffed 24/7,” explained Thorpe. “While tweets are not as frequent outside office hours, serious service disruptions will be posted out of hours. All UNO buses are also tracked in real time and the Intalink app provides this real time information 24/7. Extending our ‘Tweeting’ cover is something we are currently looking into.”
In his letter, Crawford also reported that “it’s funny that some UNO Bus Drivers can be quite pleasant to talk to whereas some of them can display a negative attitude towards passengers.” With such a student facing service, could UNO Bus be letting it customers down through poor customer service training for their drivers?
Thorpe responded by discussing UNO Bus’ customer service training by saying: “We have an ongoing programme of training for UNO drivers and this includes customer service training, some of which is currently being undertaken.” Another student, Amin Uddin, said how in comparison to late drivers some drivers fail to stick to their timetables by leaving earlier than stated, leaving some students left stranded although they arrive on time for the planned service.
He also commented saying,“If they had waited that extra 2-3 minutes, that student who had just ran from the third floor of the LRC to the bus stop would have made their next lecture or tutorial at College Lane.” Thorpe gave advice by saying, “If a student provides us with a specific time and date, we will investigate fully and take appropriate action. Students can do this by calling 01707 255764 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.”
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Students can contact UNO BUS by calling 01707 255764 or emailing email@example.com or the Students’ Union’s Vice President Democracy & Services by calling 01707 285007 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org