Martin Gibbon – Passion And Drive
Written by Joff Alexander-Frye
Photos by Nick Hook
There are lots of things that you probably don’t know about Stagecoach South West. For example, between May 2016 and April 2017 alone, they carried over 30 million passengers across more than 20 million miles. Or how about this…Since 2015, they have invested £20 million in new buses in the South West. And if that didn’t whet your whistle, their new site on Matford is the award-winning first of its kind in the country; operating a shared use scheme with Matford Park & Ride, whereby the park and ride car park is used to park the entire fleet of buses overnight. I found out these nuggets of gold (and more) when I met with their Operations Manager, Martin Gibbon, a few weeks ago.
Aged thirty, and originally from Peterhead in Aberdeenshire, Martin attended The Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, leaving with a degree in Law as well as a BA in Law with Management. Upon graduation, he had already worked out that he was more interested in management than law and embarked on a journey into the world of gainful employment, applying for Stagecoach’s Graduate Management Programme.
This led to a two-year training process for Martin, during which he had a thorough education in all things Stagecoach; driving, cleaning and re-fuelling the buses in South Wales and then West Scotland. This ‘ground-up’ involvement from day one stood him in good stead, giving him a broad and in-depth working knowledge of the business and its operations.
Then, in 2013, Martin took on his first role as Operations Manager at Stagecoach’s Winchester Depot. After a successful two-year stint there, he was given the doubly hard role of running two depots, this time in Basingstoke and Andover. Again, a positive two-year tenure lead to the significant promotion of running the Exeter depot, with 450 members of staff reporting to him. A mountainous task for anyone.
Whilst discussing his role, Martin commented,
“I’d be lying if I said that my job is easy. It is very demanding and hugely varied. One day I can be focusing on our recruitment, dealing with HR issues and in finance meetings. The next day, I’ll be working hard on stakeholder engagement, resolving complaints and trying to clear my inbox. It is a full-on job!”
As well as giving me some golden nuggets of information during our conversation, Martin also debunked some myths about bus travel and Stagecoach as a brand, saying
“Buses are one of the solutions to environmental and air quality issues. One bus can take up to seventy cars off of the road, and our brand-new buses emit less diesel emissions than one standard diesel car. A seventy to one improvement ratio isn’t too shabby is it? So, it is vital for us to stimulate modal shift; encouraging people to stop using cars and start using buses. It isn’t the sole answer, but it will certainly go some way to tackling air quality issues in Exeter. Our intent to positively contribute to this process can be seen in the fact that we plan to roll out a fleet of fully electric buses in the future. It won’t be tomorrow, but it won’t be too long.”
Another project which signals Stagecoach South West’s intent in the city was the recent innovative ‘Connexions’ partnership with the Exeter and East Devon Enterprise Zone, East Devon District Council and Devon County Council. This new route has been designed to improve links between the Met Office, Science Park, Skypark, Exeter Airport and Exmouth. A premier example of joined up thinking in a city which moves fast and has fast-developing requirements.
“There is so much more development and opportunity happening in Exeter compared to everywhere else that I have lived and worked. As one of the key transport providers in the city, we need to be at the forefront of the growth and development, to ensure that we are putting forward mobility solutions that are fit for the growing urbanisation of the city. The question at the forefront of our minds as a business is ‘How can we best react to the changes in the city to make sure that we continue to offer a product that is relevant, fit for purpose and value for money.”
A challenging task indeed. But one that I think Martin is up for. I found him to be a humble, modest man who was straight-forward and clear in his thinking. For example, he intentionally chooses to still drive the odd route or two to show that he can, but also to gain up-to-date ‘front line’ experience which he can then use to relate to members of his team when managing them.
Outside of work, Martin enjoys everything that the South West has to offer and is committed to a regime of fitness training; for the obvious physical benefits but also the fact that exercise is a stress-reliever and mind-focuser, both things that Martin needs to balance out the pressures of his role.
With advances in technology, a fast-changing city to keep up with and a complex mix of customer requirements to consider, Martin (and Stagecoach’s) job is a hard, but achievable one. I wish him the very best in his role and wish Stagecoach well in continuing to be a transport provider fit for the amazing city that we love so much.