A passenger transport manager plans, coordinates and manages passenger transport operations, which cover bus, train, tram, light rail, air, ship and ferry services.

The job varies depending on the nature of the transport system and the size and type of employer. Passenger transport managers, however, tend to be involved in the finances and budget of the transport services, day-to-day operations management, marketing and PR, strategic development and service planning, and people management. They need to make sure a quality service is provided at the right price.

Job titles vary and the word 'passenger' will not necessarily appear in job advertisements. Depending on the focus of the role alternative titles include:

  • transport manager;
  • operations/operating manager;
  • depot manager;
  • customer services manager.

Responsibilities

Specific tasks vary depending on the level of responsibility. Those in junior posts are involved in customer contact and routine staff supervisions, while someone in a senior position takes on more strategic planning and project management work.

In general, common tasks carried out by a passenger transport manager include:

  • making sure the transport operation meets its performance and safety targets, monitoring it and reporting to senior management;
  • writing clear reports and presenting options and recommendations to clients and senior management;
  • advising on policy and strategic developments and examining business decisions (pricing policy, level of service provision, timetable changes) to assess their impact on passengers;
  • ensuring that all operations are carried out in accordance with UK and European Union laws and regulations, particularly relating to health and safety;
  • managing and supervising staff, organising work shift rotas and coordinating staff training;
  • negotiating and managing contracts and developing new business opportunities whenever possible;
  • minimising disruption and resolving any unscheduled delays, having to make decisions in difficult situations;
  • meeting passengers and customers to deal with complaints and areas of concern;
  • analysing results of surveys on passenger/customer satisfaction and starting new projects to improve performance;
  • making sure that transport services are available to all through social inclusion initiatives;
  • marketing passenger services to encourage greater passenger use of particular routes and methods of transport;
  • liaising and negotiating with different stakeholders including planning and highways authorities, residents, councillors/politicians, developers and transport providers;
  • identifying existing and possible future transport problems, developing transport models and investigating the feasibility of alternative means of transport;
  • liaising with passenger watchdogs and other professional bodies;
  • using IT systems for tasks such as timetabling and managing usage flows.

Salary

  • Starting salaries depend on the employer but typically range from £18,000 to £24,000.
  • With experience, salaries can be in the region of £25,000 to £35,000.
  • Senior transport managers can earn in excess of £50,000.

Salaries vary considerably according to the geographical location, sector, size and nature of the employing organisation.

Typical benefits in the public sector include flexitime, pension schemes and health insurance. In the private sector, benefits may include a company pension and free or reduced-cost travel with the company.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

Passenger transport managers usually work 35 to 38 hours a week. Shift and weekend work is often required for operational roles.

Part-time work or career breaks may be possible in some organisations, although more likely to be offered within the public sector.

What to expect

  • Depending on the employer and sector, the work can be office, site or depot based, with visits to see clients.
  • Self-employment and freelance work are possible, although not common.
  • The dress code can vary but tends to be conservative with business-wear for the majority of organisations.
  • Some roles involve regular travel, both within the UK and internationally.

Qualifications

A career in transport management is open to graduates from all degree subjects. However, the following subjects in particular may be helpful in the job:

  • business studies or management;
  • civil engineering;
  • economics;
  • geography;
  • logistics;
  • marketing;
  • mathematics;
  • transport management and planning;
  • town planning.

A range of skills are needed in transport management, meaning many different degrees can be relevant. Personal skills and experience are often seen as more important than the degree subject.

Graduate-management training schemes are available with major suppliers of passenger transport and they are open to graduates from a variety of subjects.

Transport managers working in local authorities often have a degree in a relevant transport or engineering subject, such as:

  • transport planning and management;
  • transport studies;
  • civil engineering;
  • transportation.

Postgraduate courses in transport studies are available, but a pre-entry postgraduate qualification is not essential.

Entry without a degree may be possible if you have relevant sector experience. You may need to start at a lower level and work your way up.

Skills

You will need to show evidence of:

  • excellent communication and interpersonal skills;
  • a commitment to teamwork;
  • leadership and motivational skills;
  • organisational, planning and time-management skills;
  • project management skills;
  • financial and commercial awareness;
  • a creative approach to problem-solving;
  • the ability to think logically and make quick decisions;
  • a flexible approach to work as operational roles often involve working shifts and weekends;
  • IT skills;
  • an understanding of the transport sector.

Some companies operate abroad or deal with international passengers, so language skills can be useful. A clean driving licence may also be necessary.

Work experience

Relevant work experience in a customer-focused environment, or general management experience from any other sector, will help to show employers that you have the necessary skills.

Employers

Employers range from small enterprises to large organisations that form part of multinational operations and include all suppliers of passenger transport in the UK, including:

  • rail companies;
  • bus and coach companies;
  • airlines and airports;
  • ferry and cruise operators;
  • light railway operators;
  • tram operators;
  • travel and tourist companies;
  • tube and metro train companies.

Some companies may operate more than one type of transport system, for example buses, coaches and trains, which may provide broader career development opportunities.

Local authorities employ transport managers to work on the planning, implementation and review of transport services.

Organisations that own facilities such as stations, airports and ports recruit staff to deal with passenger information and support services to improve the travel experience.

There are a number of specialist transport consultancies offering a range of transport-related services, and there are also opportunities in environmental consultancies that may specialise in transport management and reducing the carbon impact of passenger travel.

Look for job vacancies at

Although organisations usually recruit graduates directly, recruitment agencies can be a useful source of vacancies.

Get more tips on how to find a job, create a successful CV and cover letter, and prepare for interviews.

Professional development

Graduate training schemes are offered by many of the large suppliers of passenger transport. These usually last from six months to two years and consist of on-the-job and formal training. Once on the scheme, you get to experience time in different departments to get an overview of the whole operation.

Companies with overseas operations usually provide a work placement abroad, particularly if you have relevant language skills. Most placements provide the opportunity for you to take on research and other projects, as well as experience operational and strategic duties.

Your training may involve studying for a Transport Manager Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC), as all organisations running a passenger carrying vehicle (PCV) or road haulage business must employ at least one transport manager with this qualification. It covers many topics relevant to the job of transport manager, including the necessary licensing and legislation.

The Transport Manager CPC is offered by various organisations including:

Continuous professional development (CPD) is important for passenger transport managers as you need to keep up to date with new techniques and legislation. CILT(UK) provides support and can help to plan the activities and training that go towards CPD. It also offers a range of professional qualifications that are widely recognised in the industry. Areas of study include logistics and transport and operations management.

Masters courses in transport and related topics are available. These are mainly aimed at managers already working in the transport sector, although large companies may support graduate trainees to gain industry-specific Masters qualifications.

You can also work towards chartered membership of (CILT)UK. Depending on your area of work it may be useful to gain membership of the:

In addition to transport-related qualifications, it may also be useful to take a general management qualification.

Most organisations provide in-house training in areas such as:

  • health and safety;
  • security;
  • customer care;
  • developments in information technology;
  • organisational decision-making;
  • problem-solving.

Career prospects

There is no typical career path in transport management, as progression depends on the type and size of organisation. In general, there will be more career development opportunities with larger employers.

Graduate training schemes run by the major suppliers of passenger transport provide the opportunity to become an effective manager.

Career development opportunities may include taking on responsibility for a larger area of the business, which could include operations, customer relations, marketing, human resource management, facilities development, project management and application of IT systems. Career progression often involves taking on a more strategic role.

Those working in local authorities may find well-established promotion routes to more senior posts. There may be opportunities to become head of a larger department that employs other professions such as environment or planning.

Large companies often encourage, and usually pay for, relevant postgraduate and professional training.

It may be useful to work towards chartered membership of The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) UK. Membership can provide useful networking opportunities and access to continuous professional development (CPD) resources and opportunities. All of this can help with career development.

Airlines, coach, ferry and some train companies are just as much linked with holiday and leisure travel as with business and everyday users. This means that it is possible for people specialising in new service development or marketing to move into jobs in the tourism sector.

There are certain jobs in transport planning that are accessible to those with a passenger management background, and there are also opportunities within logistics, fleet management and distribution companies.

Large multinational companies may provide opportunities for managers to work overseas. Experienced transport managers may find work in planning, consultancy and academia.