Arriva sees no need for more buses to improve reliability
The CEO of Arriva Malta, Richard Hall, said today that his company was committed to improving punctuality and reliability, but it did not see a need to raise the number of buses to do so.
"We are starting to deliver, we have a number of action plans, we have addressed a number of service groups already, we are addressing another service group, the 70s as explained in a statement yesterday, it is about delivery. We are not increasing the number of buses because the number of buses we operate is absolutely correct in terms of the contract with Transport Malta. What we have to do is to improve reliability and that is about working in partnership with TM, the government, the police, about getting all these things right, about us getting our times right. We want to deliver a sustainable and strong service for the Maltese islands," Mr Hall said. "We want Malta to be recognised as a class leading provider in public transportation."
Speaking on TVAM, he said the company's main problems were punctuality, reliability and image, all of which were being addressed.
Arriva, he said, wanted to address its problems in a way which was sustainable and lasting for the term of its contract and beyond.
He said that part of the problem was that the integration of an entirely new network was a huge challenge not only for the company but also for the skills of the people who were employed. The employees, 98% of whom are Maltese, were 'absolutely passionate' about wanting to deliver, he said.
He said the current service was hugely improved over the old service, with better low floor and low emission buses.
Indeed, the age profile and quality of the bus fleet in Malta was better than in many European cities.
"There are reliability challenges, some of the schedules we have in place have not been sustainable and there is an action plan to address that," he said, adding that the issue was being tackled in segments.
Some of the route timings, he said, had not been robust. However the changes brought in on November 11 had gone well, with less than 1 percent complaints.
He insisted that the provision of buses was determined by the contract with Transport Malta, not profitability. However he admitted that there had been cases where the number of buses deployed on the routes was not sufficient.
He said the company was working on measures to improve communication with its users including further development of its control centre in Floriana and its external customer service agency, a facebook page and twitter. Mobile phone technology was also being developed to send messages to regular users.
When it was pointed out that people expected Arriva, as an international company, to have come to Malta with such structures already in place, the CEO said learning skills had to be developed here - claiming that while other countries had a big single operator and an existing network, the situation here was different, with the largest operator having maybe 25 vehicles and the service divided between a number of cooperatives and individuals.
"We have created something entirely new for the Maltese islands."
He also defended the use of bendy buses saying they are "absolutely great for the Maltese islands" because they are cost effective solutions for carrying people and also because they are efficient in view of the number of doors. Replacing them, he said, would mean doubling the number of required buses, with the resultant costs.
Replying to questions on accidents, Mr Hall said any company which covered millions of miles was bound to have accidents. He admitted that some accidents were the drivers' fault and the company was addressing that as required. But there were also other factors, including traffic and road conditions.
He also pointed out that the company has signed a collective agreement which will see drivers' salaries rise by 36% over three years, thus making working for the company more attractive for trained drivers.
He disputed the claim that there used to be fewer accidents in the old service, saying that Arriva was receiving more media attention than the situation before since, he said, there is now one provider whereas before there were a number of cooperatives and private operators, and the publicity around that was different with the focus now on one company.