Red Arrow Motorcoach diversifies service
The 35 year-old luxury coach service adds Sprinters and ebus to get everyone Safely Home
By David Hubbard
Thirty-five years ago the late Robert B. Colborne, founder of Pacific Western Transportation (PWT), Calgary, Alberta, Canada, realized his dream to build and operate Red Arrow Motorcoach as Alberta’s first intercity business-class passenger coach service and make it accessible for everyone.
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Colborne passed away in 2012, leaving a legacy of 22 independent bus and coach operations throughout Canada under the PWT group of companies that developed into one of the largest privately held transportation companies in North America; and seeing his Red Arrow succeed just as he expected it would.
Speaking to BUSRide in 2009 [BUSRide, June 2009, p. 20], Colborne shared his vision:
“I always believed there was a better way to package and deliver motorcoach service,” he said. “When we started this company, I said if we can get a person to ride Red Arrow one time we will have a customer for a long time to come.”
Red Arrow Motorcoach has delivered on its promise every day since 1979 to provide top-shelf scheduled coach service between the province’s major cities. The service now takes in Fort McMurray, Edmonton, Red Deer, Calgary and Lethbridge, and even more through recently added services.
“R. B. Colborne was a visionary and a pioneer in the passenger transportation industry,” says Red Arrow General Manager John Stepovy. “He always focused his passion on safety and meeting the needs of passengers.”
Establishing ticket offices and curbside service from convenient locations, including separate stations within popular hotels, has eliminated many of the hassles associated with motorcoach commutes between cities.
Stepovy says because of its success over the years, Red Arrow Motorcoach attracts savvy passengers who have simply elected to leave their vehicles at home and take a coach. The company says the average annual number of satisfied customers now tops 250,000.
Red Arrow Motorcoach also recently introduced direct service to Calgary International Airport with 10 daily trips, where a Red Arrow passenger experience representative handles ticketing and reservations from a kiosk center located in the airport.
“Many motorists are not comfortable with the increasing traffic congestion on major highways,” he says. “With the rising cost of fuel for lone occupant travel, increasing concern for the environment and wanting to reduce their personal carbon footprint, they prefer to book a seat on Red Arrow where they can feel comfortable, relaxed and be productive.”
Red Arrow fleet and operations
Red Arrow has ran Prevost coaches from day-one. Today, 22 H3-45 Series coaches comprise the fleet, expressly outfitted with the luxurious two-and-one leather seating for 36 passengers Colborne originally configured for the first Prevost La Mirages.
“It was a radical idea back then,” he told BUSRide. ”Several manufacturers wanted nothing to do with it. When I took it up Prevost, the engineers could see exactly where I was headed and helped me come up with the finished product.”
A host of onboard amenities include three-point seat belts, foot rests, fold down tables, Wi-Fi, power outlets, satellite radio, onboard movies, overhead compartments and a galley offering a selection of refreshments and snacks.
New PWT-branded service
The recent Bus Modernization Program in Alberta essentially replaced a regulated system with an open market for inter-municipal bus service. This has allowed Red Arrow Motorcoach to expand in new directions, introducing two Mercedes-Benz Sprinters into the fleet for daily scheduled and connector service to Sylvan Lake and Rocky Mountain House in central Alberta.
In another move to further meet emerging public transportation needs and connect with a new generation of passengers, PWT introduced ebus in 2011.
“PWT implemented the new ebus brand to better connect with university and college students, who are web and social media savvy, looking for economical, efficient and safe passenger service,” Stepovy says. “In 2013 we added direct service to and from the University of Alberta, and have since added daily motorcoach passenger service to Fort McMurray, Athabasca, St. Albert, Edmonton, Red Deer and Calgary.”
“We also have introduced service from Grassland, Lac La Biche and Anzac,” Stepovy adds. “In addition, we initiated direct service from Edmonton to the employee work camps in the Fort McMurray region. Passenger safety is the most valuable aspect of the service. Once aboard, these workers don’t have to contend with traffic on one of Alberta’s busiest and dangerous highway corridors.”
It’s about the team
The Red Arrow division of PWT employs 130, including its 50 professional coach operators.
In addition to experience behind the wheel and a sterling safety record, high customer service standards are prerequisite to driving for Red Arrow.
Stepovy says the Red Arrow employees continually demonstrate the core values of PWT.
“Someone, somewhere on a daily basis within the operation is always stepping up,” he says. ”For example, when a passenger arriving at his destination and discovered he forgot his wallet, our driver provided him with the taxi fare he needed.”
Stepovy says Red Arrow Passenger Experience representatives are always at the ready to personally deliver luggage, briefcases and lost belongings to homes, businesses and hotels.
“Our fleet of Red Arrow coaches may be the trademark, but the commitment and professional talents of our people are what really define the Red Arrow brand,” says PWT President and CEO Michael Colborne.
Everyone arrives Safely Home
Stepovy believes the Red Arrow operation will continue for years because of the core values of PWT and its special emphasis on safety, most recently proprietarily rebranded as Safely Home.
According to PWT, with stringent maintenance policies laid now in operations, maintenance and on the road, this core concept is essentially about making good choices for everyone the company touches — its employees, customers, passengers and the general public — so that everyone arrives home safely.