Operations

Whippet Coaches

Whippet is one of Ascendal’s current businesses, 100 years old as of 2019, making it one of the United Kingdom’s oldest bus companies. Whippet takes great pride in operating services on behalf of Cambridge City Council and the University of Cambridge. It also runs local services that include routes along the Cambridgeshire Guided Busway, the longest busway in the world, and is a significant partner operator for National Express Operators in the UK.

Whippet’s aim is to operate reliable and well-priced services driven by friendly drivers, delivering public transport options that help reduce congestion and pollution, improve social inclusion and spur economic growth.

Whippet has recently committed to forming several partnerships with leading technology companies with the purpose of trialling the latest cutting-edge innovative mobility solutions, combining its strong history and experience of delivering high quality bus services with Ascendal’s revolutionary technology.

Whippet is one of Ascendal’s current businesses, 100 years old as of 2019, making it one of the United Kingdom’s oldest bus companies. Whippet takes great pride in operating services on behalf of Cambridge City Council and the University of Cambridge. It also runs local services that include routes along the Cambridgeshire Guided Busway, the longest busway in the world, and is a significant partner operator for National Express Operators in the UK.

Whippet’s aim is to operate reliable and well-priced services driven by friendly drivers, delivering public transport options that help reduce congestion and pollution, improve social inclusion and spur economic growth.

Whippet has recently committed to forming several partnerships with leading technology companies with the purpose of trialling the latest cutting-edge innovative mobility solutions, combining its strong history and experience of delivering high quality bus services with Ascendal’s revolutionary technology.

100th
Anniversary
2019

Autonomous
Vehicle Operations

We are working with a major FTSE-100 international client to deploy autonomous vehicles at their operations in the United Kingdom. Having run a successful autonomous shuttle trial at their London headquarters, the next stage of the project is to deploy an operation airside at a major London airport.

For the initial pilot test project, Ascendal ran an autonomous vehicle service for our client’s employees during a period of five weeks, with the purpose of gathering feedback and learning key lessons about the new technology. Our operational support helped to ensure that deploying this complex technology was as smooth a process as possible and ensured it was safe at all times.

Post-trial, a comprehensive review of the operational and technological challenges and shortcomings was completed with specific targeted actions and improvements developed to enable the deployment of similar technology at other test sites. Further trials continue to refine this technology for our client with the aim of operating airside and penultimately to rolling out a fit-for-purpose solution to our client’s international locations

The business is also focussed on developing the capacity and ability to deliver multi modal transport solutions for clients under one operation.

Cambridge Universal

The travelling public in Cambridge are facing growing challenges in going about their daily lives.  The city’s economic growth is now generating some of the worst peak time traffic congestion in the UK and often causes serious inconvenience to bus and other road users. The University of Cambridge re-tendered their bus service in 2016. It was suffering from low passenger satisfaction levels, mostly related to reliability and poor customer service, making it unreliable. The service needed to be more reliable and punctual. However, the new service specification required buses to divert via Cambridge Railway Station, which would lengthen end-to-end journey times and had the potential to make reliabilty worse!  Whippet Coaches took a fresh look at all the requirements and won the contract by submitting an alternative bid based on quality, not price. Patronage has grown significantly  and feedback from customers has reassured the University that they made the right decision.

This was a chance to create a bus service worthy of its association with the University of Cambridge. A compliant bid would have perpetuated the delays and disruption being experienced by customers. We wanted to show what could be achieved in a congested city when the right resources are deployed. A reliable and punctual service would attract more users and help meet the growth targets required. Also, a reliable service would be less stressful for staff, resulting in friendlier drivers and better customer service.

Our bid was based on operating via the Cambridgeshire Guided Busway so buses could serve Cambridge Railway Station without adding to end-to-end journey times. A flat fare for those not associated with the University was also recommended, based on the experience of Brighton & Hove and Transport for London.

The travelling public in Cambridge are facing growing challenges in going about their daily lives.  The city’s economic growth is now generating some of the worst peak time traffic congestion in the UK and often causes serious inconvenience to bus and other road users. The University of Cambridge re-tendered their bus service in 2016. It was suffering from low passenger satisfaction levels, mostly related to reliability and poor customer service, making it unreliable. The service needed to be more reliable and punctual. However, the new service specification required buses to divert via Cambridge Railway Station, which would lengthen end-to-end journey times and had the potential to make reliabilty worse!  Whippet Coaches took a fresh look at all the requirements and won the contract by submitting an alternative bid based on quality, not price. Patronage has grown significantly  and feedback from customers has reassured the University that they made the right decision.

This was a chance to create a bus service worthy of its association with the University of Cambridge. A compliant bid would have perpetuated the delays and disruption being experienced by customers. We wanted to show what could be achieved in a congested city when the right resources are deployed. A reliable and punctual service would attract more users and help meet the growth targets required. Also, a reliable service would be less stressful for staff, resulting in friendlier drivers and better customer service.

Our bid was based on operating via the Cambridgeshire Guided Busway so buses could serve Cambridge Railway Station without adding to end-to-end journey times. A flat fare for those not associated with the University was also recommended, based on the experience of Brighton & Hove and Transport for London.

... The travelling public in Cambridge are facing growing challenges in going about their daily lives ...

The Universal service is operated on behalf of the University of Cambridge for the benefit of their staff and students, although the ‘Universal’ branding makes it clear that anybody can use it. We work in partnership with the University’s Environment & Energy Department to encourage patronage growth. The service is also connected with Cambridgeshire’s County Council’s Busway Quality Partnership. Consequently, the County Council’s Busway Smart Card is accepted throughout the service, providing multi-operator ticketing for the same price as a standard adult single ticket.

Unusually for a service requiring just six vehicles, we recruited a Route Performance Manager to oversee the day-to-day operation. They can react immediately when delays occur to reduce the impact on passengers and also provide up-to-date customer information using the dedicated Twitter account. We know from feedback that the improved service is making a significant difference to people’s lives.

The new vehicles are built to a high specification to make the passenger experience pleasant, even if the vehicle is stuck in a traffic jam. Next stop audio/visual announcements are made to help new users or those with disabilities. The names of all stops are displayed on London Underground-style line diagrams visible from most seats, enabling passengers to know when their stop is approaching.

A Review Meeting is held with the University of Cambridge every 4 weeks where a written report is discussed, showing service reliability, patronage figures and customer feedback.  Tracking reports are submitted separately showing the punctuality of all journeys on a daily basis to identify trends and a revenue report shows how the service is performing financially. The meetings are always constructive and have led to some great promotional activities and also solutions for forthcoming known disruptions or special events.

The Universal service is performing well and has started to exceed our patronage expectations. We have seen year on year patronage growth since the start of the service.

The Universal has built up a good reputation and there is a desire from some stakeholders to replicate the service in other parts of the city. We’ve tried very hard to deliver a service we can be proud of.  Staff take a lot of pride in giving great customer service and there have even been instances of drivers working longer than required in order to cover trips affected by bad traffic congestion. We’ve invested a lot of time and money in a bus service where success can be impeded by so many different factors. This level of commitment demonstrates our desire to make bus services better.

The Universal service is operated on behalf of the University of Cambridge for the benefit of their staff and students, although the ‘Universal’ branding makes it clear that anybody can use it. We work in partnership with the University’s Environment & Energy Department to encourage patronage growth. The service is also connected with Cambridgeshire’s County Council’s Busway Quality Partnership. Consequently, the County Council’s Busway Smart Card is accepted throughout the service, providing multi-operator ticketing for the same price as a standard adult single ticket.

Unusually for a service requiring just six vehicles, we recruited a Route Performance Manager to oversee the day-to-day operation. They can react immediately when delays occur to reduce the impact on passengers and also provide up-to-date customer information using the dedicated Twitter account. We know from feedback that the improved service is making a significant difference to people’s lives.

The new vehicles are built to a high specification to make the passenger experience pleasant, even if the vehicle is stuck in a traffic jam. Next stop audio/visual announcements are made to help new users or those with disabilities. The names of all stops are displayed on London Underground-style line diagrams visible from most seats, enabling passengers to know when their stop is approaching.

A Review Meeting is held with the University of Cambridge every 4 weeks where a written report is discussed, showing service reliability, patronage figures and customer feedback.  Tracking reports are submitted separately showing the punctuality of all journeys on a daily basis to identify trends and a revenue report shows how the service is performing financially. The meetings are always constructive and have led to some great promotional activities and also solutions for forthcoming known disruptions or special events.

The Universal service is performing well and has started to exceed our patronage expectations. We have seen year on year patronage growth since the start of the service.

The Universal has built up a good reputation and there is a desire from some stakeholders to replicate the service in other parts of the city. We’ve tried very hard to deliver a service we can be proud of.  Staff take a lot of pride in giving great customer service and there have even been instances of drivers working longer than required in order to cover trips affected by bad traffic congestion. We’ve invested a lot of time and money in a bus service where success can be impeded by so many different factors. This level of commitment demonstrates our desire to make bus services better.

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