The Back View episode 4 – Mark Fowles

Fellow Liverpudlian and MD of Nottingham City Transport (NCT), Mark Fowles, chats with Ian Jones about how the council-owned bus operator transformed from one that was so shabby in 1994 that it had a programme to de-flea its buses every six weeks, into today’s multi-award winning business.

By his own admission Mark Fowles “fell into the bus industry after getting bored watching things dripping into test tubes,” yet his technical background later served him well when he launched the first citywide smartcard in the UK – four years before London’s Oyster.

He talks about psychometric testing, recruitment and people management. And, how as a new recruit from the National Bus Company’s management training scheme he soon became part of a management buy-out at deregulation.

The responsibility he was given early in his management career “quickened the pulse” and he recalls how, armed with £1m in 1986 from his directors, he was tasked with a creating a start-up company.

That business, Sheffield & District Bus Company, went from nothing to starting full operations with 94 buses and 250 staff, in just five months.

Listen as he tells Ian Jones about ‘the idea that got away’ that could have seen a very different outcome for him.

Being radical is what he brought to NCT, and he talks about how he overcame resistance to a major re-invention and turnaround of the business – changing everything from the routes, to frequencies and introducing new marketing ideas.

The result was that 2001/2 saw NCT’s first increase in patronage since 1956, and growth continued from there.

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