“Understand the local market and culture” – CEO Q&A with Andrew Edwards from Go-Ahead Ireland

CEO Q&A, Interviews | Wed 3 Nov | Author – Business & Finance

Pictured: Andrew Edwards, Managing Director, Go-Ahead Ireland

Go-Ahead Ireland is part of the Go-Ahead international transport group and since 2018 has serviced 10% of all bus routes in Dublin on behalf of the NTA – 25 Outer Dublin Metropolitan Area (ODMA) routes, as well as 5 Dublin Commuter routes. The Irish organisation consists of over 600 staff and the company operates a fleet of over 200 buses across its service routes. Andrew Edwards is from Gloucestershire in the UK and moved to Ireland last October with his family to take on the role as Managing Director. He has worked in the transport sector since he began his career in the early 2000’s, with roles across the UK and prior to coming to Ireland, he was Managing Director of Go-Ahead Singapore.

What are your main priorities and goals in your role?

In my role I am focused on working with the company management team and broader colleagues to facilitate the delivery of our bus services across Dublin, and on our commuter routes. At Go-Ahead Ireland, we service 30 routes with over 200 buses daily, carrying close to 15 million people a year, so my role is varied. With a team of over 600, I am very focused on empowering colleagues and giving them the opportunity to develop day-to-day. I firmly believe that such development will not only benefit them, but also our business and ultimately our customers.

What are your biggest challenges as CEO? 

Like many other businesses and organisations, navigating the day-to-day issues and complexities of COVID-19 is currently my biggest ongoing focus. Our drivers and teams have been working throughout the pandemic, so we have to constantly balance the needs of our business and ensure we are meeting the needs of our customers.

How do you keep your team/ staff motivated? 

Drawing on my international experience in Singapore and the UK, I primarily look to give others the opportunity to be creative, take on projects and roles, and grow within their position to benefit the business and themselves. Naturally, we also look to provide a good working environment also for everyone across the business.

What are the challenges facing the industry going forward? 

Day-to-day it is the return to normal service and adjusting to the impacts of the pandemic through changes to travel habits and working arrangements, but we are navigating these challenges. On a broader front, we require more mechanical and electrical engineers to service our bus fleet and business. This is an issue we see internationally also, as we move toward electric vehicles and more sustainable forms of transport.

What new trends are emerging in your industry? 

We are seeing the integration of new technologies such as electric battery and hydrogen powered buses. Customers are also benefiting from improved telematic and time saving technologies to improve their journeys, which overall we are actively integrating to our business for customers. 

Are there any major changes you would like to see in your sector? 

In line with the Government and indeed global focus on climate action, we would like to see more priority for buses on roads, a broader modal shift to public transport and consideration to congestion charging where appropriate in urban areas. 

As an employer are you finding any skill gaps in the market? 

Yes, there is a current issue around the availability of engineers but there might also be a future challenge around skilled drivers. Today there is a good pool of driver talent but as networks grow and services increase, this may not be the case. 

How did your strategy develop in the context of the banking crisis and economic crisis? 

Go-Ahead Ireland only entered the Irish market in 2018 but our success is reflective of the broader recovery and growth that has taken place in the Irish economy.

How has Brexit affected you? 

Given the bus services we provide, day-to-day there is no impact however we have noted increased delivery times for parts, and at an international Group level there has been a general increase in required administration.

How has the COVID-19 crisis affected your business/sector? 

As an essential service, we adjusted quickly and have worked very closely with the NTA. We have introduced new service innovations such as sanitiser for passengers and modifications to our vehicles to encourage airflow. Overall, it has demanded that we are agile and innovative.   

How do you define success and what drives you to succeed? 

For me, success is delivering our service for the public and NTA and ensuring that our colleagues can develop. More broadly, I do want us to lead the ongoing modal shift to public transport.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given, or would give, in business? 

Understand the local market and culture. I have worked in the UK and Asia, and now in Europe so knowing the local ways of working and differences, in my opinion, is a key for success. Even if you are local to a market, it should not be taken for granted.

What have been your highlights in business over the past year? 

The way we have adjusted to the challenges of the pandemic and the resilience of our colleagues has been a point of pride. We also announced a partnership with Dublin GAA to sponsor the counties adult leagues, an important statement of our support for the communities we serve and our commitment to Ireland.

What’s next for your company?

We will continue to partner with the NTA in delivering our services and from a broader perspective look for opportunities for growth. 

Where do you want your business/brand to be this time next year? 

Next year we will be five years in Ireland, so we want to continue to grow. We are working closely with the NTA across the BusConnects programme, which will be a big part of our network and future plans.