With all the rhetoric, I hear daily about public transport I hear very little about marketing what we have. A visit to the council's transportation website (with the ongoing changes to the website I hope to see this improved soon) leaves one at a loss. Want to buy a bus pass? You will be told how to get a senior’s travel pass even how to apply for disabled pass but little or no information on buying a bus pass.

In my opinion the main issue affecting public transport today is the cost of sustaining what is already a depreciating service. Ridership, funding and timetables (not necessarily in that order) are individual causes, together they sound the death knell for public transport as we know it. The present state of affairs did not happen overnight, years of snowballing fares and inadequate schedules have eroded rider-ship. In the present financial climate there is a real probability that unless councils look at pro-active marketing principles services will get worse not better.

Many successful companies have been created that move both people and goods from A to B. This it seem is not the case at a local level and it’s obvious from present rumblings that people want more than a mediocre bus service. If public transport is going to survive there must to be a change in direction. The old proverb ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ may be an overused expression, but time and again history demonstrates just how true it is. Perhaps in these times of austerity we should be looking at ways other than the public purse to generate the funds to create a self-sufficient and clean transport system.

Without bums on seats things are not going to improve and increasing subsidies for services that are seen as mediocre by those who use them, benefits no one. Fact, increasing fares and cutting services will do nothing but put more people in cars. For public transport to be as good as it must, a successful marketing plan is essential one that has at its core a simple idea that is easy to grasp. With this in mind I am proposing a loyalty card as an alternative to the present system of little or no marketing. Rewarding consumers when they spend is a well-recognised marketing strategy in the retail industry. The main reason that businesses offer loyalty cards is to increase footfall while at the same time building a data base of customers.

Increasing ridership on public transport means less traffic, fewer gridlocks, and lower pollution levels Increasing rider-ship would not only reduce the present cost of subsidies the savings generated could be used to improve cycle and foot paths which will lead to healthier life styles.

The following is a short introduction to what would not only increase ridership on public transport it will help to create a sustainable system with all the benefits that go with it. In most cases travel passes are the most economical way to travel. It is, with this in mind, that I would like to propose an initiative called Buspass with Benefits. A travel card that offers discounts on theatre/movie tickets, hotels, restaurants, retail outlets as well as other modes of travel is a simple concept but it will work.

For those who might be concerned with the start-up costs of this initiative, there is good news. A number of pieces to the jigsaw are presently in place. Thanks to an investment by Herefordshire tax payers there is already a loyalty card (http://www.truffleherefordshire.co.uk for more information.) offering savings from Herefordshire retailers. Not only does the county have an exceptional collection of unique retail outlets in and around its market towns. In today’s competitive market place the list of retailers both locally and nationally who would buy into such plan is endless.

David Summers