‘I’m here to listen’ says new transport boss Jane

New managing director of Blackpool Transport Jane Cole
New managing director of Blackpool Transport Jane Cole
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If you are a long-standing train traveller, the chances are that Jane Cole’s voice might be familiar to you.

For in the early days of her career, the new boss of Blackpool Transport was the announcer at Blackpool North Station, where she also worked in the booking office.

It was that experience on the frontline that was to shape her attitude to passenger transport – in her view it is all about the customer.

Jane is the first female managing director at Blackpool Transport – but she is used to being a pioneer in her industry.

For in 1992 she became the first female manager at Preston Railiway Station, where her role was quality manager.

All in all she has clocked up 35 years’ experience in the rail industry after following her father into the business.

Originally from Manchester, Jane’s career began in 1979 when she took her first job as a technical officer in signalling and telecommunications.

She moved to Blackpool in 1989 when her father took a job in the resort and she wanted to be nearer her family.

Since 1996, Jane has worked for Virgin Trains, most recently as a senior manager in customer service, operations, commercial and marketing.

Joining Blackpool Transport, following the departure of her predecessor Trevor Roberts in March from the role of MD, has been something of a baptism of fire.

The company has come in for criticism from its own staff and passengers after it was “overwhelmed” by demand for tram services during what was one of the busiest half-terms in years.

Jane has already come out strongly to pledge lessons have been learned and next year will be better.

As a former board member at Visit Lancashire, and an active member of the Blackpool Business Leadership Forum, she is fully aware of the unique challenges of running public transport in a town which one week is swamped with visitors, and the next is back to handling more manageable residential levels of demand.

The role also means being in charge of a company which carries more than 20 million passengers a year and employs 650 staff.

She said: “The customer is our bread and butter and what we need is to take cognisance of all their needs – social, leisure, business and work journeys. It all has to go into the pot so we can work out where services need to be and where people need to get to.

“The customer voice has to be heard so that we are aligning services to meet the needs of the Blackpool and Fylde population.”

Jane hopes to do that by working more collaboratively with the council, which owns Blackpool Transport, and liaising with councillors about the needs of their constituents.

The lack of a central bus station and a desire to ensure Blackpool’s much-loved heritage trams are preserved in some form, are just two of the issues consistently raised by residents.

Jane went on: “This is a commercial operation first and foremost. We have to be reliable but we have to be profitable. To really enhance the transport opportunities our transport plans and our business plans have to be intertwined.

“But we are also a visitor attraction – the ride up and down the seafront in one of our trams is something that can be enjoyed for itself.

“I think the heritage trams have got a place and we are open to ideas and opportunities about what we can do to showcase the heritage trams more frequently.

“I think Blackpool does need a bus interchange, not only on Talbot Road but in quite a number of places in the resort and that’s something we are committed to working with the council on as part of their strategic transport plan.”

Better marketing of the services will also be a priority for Jane, who believes transport should be embedded into the holiday experience to the point that visitors should be able to buy their bus and tram passes before they even arrive in the town.

She said: “I want to see us reaching out so people know about us before they get here, so they are pre-booking our service as part of their tourism visit. We want to look at what we can do from a commercial and marketing point of view to start reaching out to Visit England, coach operators, and encouraging use of our services, which in turn means people can get around more easily, can visit more attractions and spend more money here.

“We have a fantastic workforce, they are customer focused and they are loyal to the company.

“It is a local workforce, and they care about the resort and they care that we have a good transport service and that they give a good service.”

It sounds like it is a passion which their new boss very much shares.