Case study

Service delivery manager — Matt King

Find out how Matt's degree in transport management and his experience as a bus driver led him to a career in passenger transport management

How did you get your job as a passenger transport manager?

I began my career aged 16, doing a Saturday job selling bus and National Express tickets. From that, I developed a passion to work in the bus industry and at 18 I became one of the youngest bus drivers in the country. This experience gave me an understanding of work at the 'coal face' and helped shape my view of improving an industry that's vital to so many people. At the same time, I enrolled at Aston University to do a transport management degree.

Following a graduate management trainee course at Go South Coast, I was promoted to assistant operations manager for morebus. After spending a year leading the team, an opportunity arose to join industry-leading trentbarton.

What's a typical working day like?

Each morning involves a new set of challenges to address, problems to solve and people to meet, including our large (more than 200 employees) team and stakeholders such as councillors, businesses and, most importantly, our customers.

One of my priorities is to focus on improving our product, finding efficiencies without compromising quality, and the management of a large team, which fortuitously is the best in the country (fact - we topped a national survey for consecutive years on Britain’s best bus drivers).

What do you enjoy most about your role as a passenger transport manager?

The variety of challenges and freedom to influence what our product is, what it delivers and how it can be improved. It's great being at the centre of the action and outside of a tedious nine to five job.

What are the challenges?

Congestion remains a huge challenge to the industry and my role within the business, as it severely affects our punctuality and reliability. Managing that through realistic regulation, which I've recently introduced to combat this issue, means that the problem is managed in a more constructive way and we ensure that customers keep moving.

Competition is also rife, and despite the clear advantages of public transport, private car ownership continues to rise and delivers many challenges. The technological advances of autonomous driving and app-based travel such as Uber and Lyft are also driving our innovation further, and we're adapting significantly away from the traditional 'fixed route' bus service to something more apt to our connected society - watch this space.

In what way is your degree relevant?

Aston University was able to offer the academic support to build a foundational knowledge on what the public transport industry is, its purpose and its challenges. This in-depth understanding provides a solid grounding to begin a career in public transport.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

From graduate management trainee to managing four locations with more than 300 staff in twelve months - it developed very quickly. The next step for me is to continue developing my skills and work upwards, potentially to a director level. That said, office life has never been for me, so I'll have to ensure I'm always near the action, regardless of my role.

What are your tips for others wanting to get a career in public transport?

  • Flexibility is crucial in the public transport sector as it's effectively a 24-hour, 365-day business and a lifeline to so many. It's also personally demanding so adaptability is vital to being successful.
  • Having high standards and the ability to question everything are both important. In many ways, the industry suffers from some archaic thinking, so being able to challenge that and form an educated opinion, which in time becomes an action to improve the business, is an absolute must.
  • Above all, you need passion. All employers look for enthusiasm and a drive to improve and it's an attribute that can make change happen.

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