For the theory that the customer is central to any organisation is a common theory well establish in marketing academic circles, but does it really work in practice? And is its implementation necessary? Is it carried out correctly? Or is about time we rendered the theory simply unachievable? Through this essay an attempt will be made to answer these questions and perhaps suggest some alternative ideas along the way. The chosen organisational subject of this essay is Cardiff and Wales' largest bus company, Cardiff Bus. Cardiff Bus operates its service to the capital and its surrounding area.

CARDIFF BUS Cardiff bus is a council owned company that was formed out of existing firms that have operated in Cardiff and the surrounding areas for the past century or more. The Council introduced the first electric trams in Cardiff in the year 1902 running between the Newport Road (Roath) Depot and the town centre having taken over the tracks and vehicles from the privately owned Cardiff Tramway Company. Motorbuses were introduced on Christmas Eve 1920; the first diesel engine motorbuses appeared in 1932. The Council expanded its motorbus services throughout the twenties and thirties.

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By the late forties Cardiff bus operated on a massive scale across the whole of the Cardiff area and its surrounding districts. The company and the routes it provided grew rapidly throughout the sixties, seventies and eighties until the 1985 transport act. The 1985 Transport Act deregulated all bus services, except those in London, and obliged Local Authorities to establish private "arm's length" bus companies. Accordingly in October 1986 Cardiff County Council established its own company - Cardiff City Transport Services Limited (trading as Cardiff Bus). Links with the County Council remain strong.

The Council owns all the shares in Cardiff Bus and is represented on the board of directors. As a private company however Cardiff Bus is not permitted to receive subsidies and is expected to make a contribution to its shareholder (the County Council) to recognise the Council's investment in the Company. In order to do this and to compete with other providers of transport, Cardiff Bus has to be run along commercial lines and to be successful. The Transport Act has produced mixed results throughout the country and many long established bus operators have either disappeared or been taken over.

At Cardiff Bus a key objective has been to offer stable bus services to the benefit of its passengers, the local council (shareholder) and employees alike. Growth in the network of services provided by Cardiff Bus has involved significant increases in the size of the fleet and the number of employees at the Company. In 1992, following the closure of the National Welsh bus company, Cardiff Bus extended its network of services into Barry and the rural Vale and increased bus services in the Caerphilly area.

Each weekday around 80,000 passenger journeys are made with Cardiff Bus and regular dividend payments are made to the shareholder to the benefit of local Council Tax payers. Technological advances have enabled the company to grow steadily through the nineties. All new buses are now of the low floor concepts that are designed to line up with special raised kerbs at bus stops. Their respective local Councils who feel that more stylish state of the art shelters are needed to emphasise Cardiff's desire to become the capital for European culture in 2008 are replacing bus shelters throughout the City and the Vale of Glamorgan.

In Cardiff, electronic bus arrival displays are being installed area by area. This equipment is linked to new bus radio and location systems and modernised ticketing equipment - which not only keeps waiting passengers in touch with the running of their services, but also activates traffic lights to enable late running buses to gain precedence over other vehicles on the road. Travel Shops have also been opened in Cardiff and in Barry. In May 2000 a new Telephone Call Centre was installed and provides detailed computer based timetable information for all bus and rail services throughout Wales.

It remains their key objective, according to its web-site promotion, to; "Supply stable and reliable bus services to all our passengers and to seek to improve and innovate. All the indications are that new developments in our network including the Cardiff Bay project will see the creation of new jobs and opportunities. Public transport requirements are set to grow and studies have been, and are being made, as to how these requirements are to be met in the years ahead. For our part we look forward to the challenge of playing our full part in meeting these requirements by continuing to provide our passengers with a first class service".