Everything’s gonna be O-Kaye | Dave Kaye

Arriva’s newly-appointed Managing Director Dave Kaye is resolutely optimistic about the beleaguered bus service’s future on the Maltese islands

Arriva's managing director Dave Kaye
Arriva's managing director Dave Kaye

"I want to get people from wherever they are to where they want to be." This is what Arriva's newly-appointed Managing Director, Dave Kaye says about his job.

He says that he has come to Malta to "increase the passenger numbers, get the buses running on time, communicate and market the service better and deliver day in, day out".

"We are aware of our reputation so we need to work on people's perceptions. The only way we can do that is to keep delivering something that people want to use. I cannot force people onto buses but I can deliver a service which makes people want to use the service." 

Four weeks ago, Kaye was appointed as Arriva's Managing Director for an interim six month period. He was appointed to oversee the operations and development of the 285-bus business, part of a ten-year contract which went into operation in July 2011.

On the ten-year contract signed with Transport Malta, Kaye said that although Arriva is delivering more than the contract originally envisaged, and that there are ongoing discussions between Arriva Europe and Transport Malta, "both sides are happy with that, and are now simply discussing the finer details".

The former professional rugby player was entrusted with tackling the company's problems in Malta and rehabilitate Arriva's tarnished reputation. Arriva's adventure in Malta did not have the brightest of starts and the company ended up being the butt of all jokes over the past eight months.

Arriva's chaotic start created a climate of public uproar, which most probably saw some people giving up on buses and reverting back to personal cars.

Despite Arriva's controversial reputation in Malta, Kaye says that throughout his brief stay on the island, he never noticed any major issues, apart from the large amount of traffic congestion which took him by surprise.

"There are no issues that I have not faced elsewhere I have been, but this is Malta and this how things work. At the end of the day, I have to convince car drivers to leave their cars at home and get them on our vehicles, but I have to get them where they want to be when they want to be."  

Kaye explains that he wants to put the customers at the forefront of the company's operations. "I am meeting local councillors, members of the public and drivers because we cannot sit in the office and say that people want to get from Valletta to Mgarr. We have to actually ask the people to see how many persons want to use the route, where people want to be and listen to the customer, who is the most important person for me. If the customers are not pleased, the business will suffer."

"If the customers are pleased, they will come back, tell their friends, and more people will use the service, revenues will go up and we can invest in other services."

The disastrous launching of the service was partly down to the lack of proper planning of routes and partly due to the no-show of a third of Arriva's drivers on the first day of service. Adding this with the country's intrinsic propensity to oppose change did not make it easy for the Anglo-German transport company.

Kaye admits that Arriva could have done things differently, but the changes in November have placed the company on the right track. "We want to hear the feedback of our customers. We will be present in various localities to meet people. We thrive on feedback because the customer is the most important person in the business so we need to listen to the customers and what they want."

Kaye says that the number of passengers is going up, and a recent survey confirms that customer satisfaction is also on the rise. Asked to comment on the current performance of Arriva, Kaye describes it as being "hugely better. I think it is well documented that last year, we did not get it right but we have worked very hard since then, and our team has put in a fantastic effort. The service change we did in November has made a massive difference to where people want to go and the punctuality. I think compared to where we started off from, it is massively better."

"We got better in the four weeks I have been in Malta, because we are more focused, and we are now identifying what the problem areas are and putting action plans in place and slowly getting things done. I believe that you can eat an elephant, but you cannot eat it one sitting."

Looking ahead, Kaye says that "there is a lot to do. I am pleased at how the team responded. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and our performance in the next few months can be compared to last year. I see no reason why we cannot provide a good service for the citizens of Malta and tourists. At the end of the day, tourists are major part of our business and we need to give a good service.

"Areas of improvement are punctuality and reliability. Our customers want to know that they can get on a bus within a certain time and arrive at their destination roughly when they expect to."

According to Kaye, the key thing in public transport is punctuality and he says that Arriva needs to work with its partners - namely Transport Malta - to improve the service. He makes reference to road works in various parts of the islands which might delay buses. However he adds: "I do not make excuses. What I do is identify a problem and find a solution. One of the problems we have at the moment is the large number of road works.

"We have to work together with government and Transport Malta to plan things better. There is a number of road works in specific places which have an impact on the coordination of the bus service. We have to work with our partners to coordinate things better, and we also have a lot to do ourselves. I am solution-focused, and we have to get our running time right, our punctuality right and our reliability right."

Kaye says that a huge improvement has been recorded in the morning hours since the transport task force was set up in November. The task force is presided by the prime minister and includes transport minister Austin Gatt and officials of Arriva, Transport Malta, the police and the AFM. It was created by the government in the aftermath of the no-confidence vote in transport minister Austin Gatt which was defeated despite government MP Franco Debono's abstention.

The task force was created with the intent to tackle the various problems the new public transport service faced, chiefly the morning traffic congestion. In reality, congestion was already a big problem before Arriva came, especially in certain areas of Malta.

On the morning traffic chaos which was affecting the service, Kaye said that before his arrival it was an exception when the buses reached the morning peak "but now it is the exception when we do not".

He adds that the same ethos needs to be applied to solve the problems in the afternoon peak as "people want to get home from work on time" and the traffic in the evening needs to flow as well as it does in the morning.

Kaye said he is very pleased with the relationship Arriva have with Transport Malta as "both are pushing in the same direction". He said that the relationship with the regulator in Malta is not hostile, as was the case with regulators in other countries in which Kaye has previously worked in.

"We have got a good relationship with Transport Malta, we are in regular dialogue with them and since I have been here, I have had lots of meetings with Transport Malta. They are very open, very honest and we have a very good working relationship with them." He notes that since undergoing a overhaul in November, up to 80% of the network is completely different to when Arriva started its operations. Kaye said this happened after Arriva and Transport Malta "worked together to deliver a service that works for Malta".

On the fleet of buses which was intended to be solely composed of Euro 5 buses, Kaye says that the company is in the process of replacing the non-Euro 5 buses.

"There's a conversion plan at the moment and we will have a meeting in a week or two to discuss what's going to go back, what's going to be added and what to do with the fleet we've got. The majority of the fleet is Euro 5 and we will fulfil our obligations to have a fleet solely composed of Euro 5 buses.

Kaye described the number of bus breakdowns as "normal-ish" but added that the situation "can get better". He says that vehicles will always break down and the Arriva buses are very complex in terms of electrics and mechanics.  

Kaye adds that by the time he took charge, a considerably high number of Arriva buses were breaking down due to engineering problems. But their number has, luckily been significantly reduced. Asked about the cause of these breakdowns, Kaye explains that Arriva's engineers do not have the necessary experience in dealing with the current buses, as the company has only been operating in Malta for eight months. He also blames the poor state of roads in Malta which puts a big strain on the buses' suspensions.

"The art of good engineering is never having the same problem twice. The business is practically a start up here in Malta and our engineers had experience in engineering, though not on these particular models - especially looking at the type of buses the old system used. The number of breakdowns in Malta is not significantly higher than elsewhere, but one breakdown is one breakdown too many."

On the foreign nationals employed by Arriva as bus drivers to make good for the drivers who did not show up for work in July, Kaye said that by 4 March all drivers will be Maltese nationals.

Kaye invites anybody who would like to join the Arriva team to apply. He says that "the better the team, the better the performance. We still need more drivers, as you will always have a turnover with a workforce of 800 drivers. We have a higher number of operations then other European operators during the day and we are currently employing part-time drivers that will help full-time drivers have better shift patterns.

"We need around 720 and 750 full-time drivers and a number of part-time drivers. I am comfortable with the number of drivers, so we're just about there but we have to stay on top of it. As for engineers, we are just one electrician short and we just appointed a number of mechanical fitters. We virtually have a full establishment of people." 

The next review of the public transport service is due to happen on 13 May, when the summer timetables will be launched. Kaye did not exclude a few tweaks to the service before May, which will be discussed with and finally approved by Transport Malta.

Kaye wants to push through the fine-tuning changes before May in order to "tell the customers what services will be running, get the publicity and marketing right".  



Here is what i can't understand how come the old system used to work near perfect with the old busses so why did they change it ?
What happened to my earlier comment?Hope this was not removed deliberately. Frederick Cutajar Mayor of Santa Lucija.
What happened to my earlier comment?Hope this was not removed deliberately. Frederick Cutajar Mayor of Santa Lucija.
Luke Camilleri
O-Kaye imma ghal Arriva, zgur mhux ghalina iggamjati f'xi traffic jam kawzata minn ta' L'Arriva, jew bla parking ghax hadu il-Parking biex ghamlu il-Bus- Stops u l-parking bil hlas fejn qabel kien b'xejn ! Iva kollox OK..... ghal min?
Luke Camilleri
O-Kaye imma ghal Arriva, zgur mhux ghalina iggamjati f'xi traffic jam kawzata minn ta' L'Arriva, jew bla parking ghax hadu il-Parking biex ghamlu il-Bus- Stops u l-parking bil hlas fejn qabel kien b'xejn ! Iva kollox OK..... ghal min?
Dear Mr Dave Kaye, If you really want to succeed in your undertaking there is one thing you should instill "DISCIPLINE", and when you receive some complain from your customers take heed and take the necessary action. Good Luck
Mr.Dave Kaye pls. pls. pls. Ahna tal-kottonera gbajna nibatu emails gbajna incemplu fuq ir-rotott 2 u 3, qed nitkelmu fuq popolazzjoni bejn il kalkara birgu u bormla ta xi 40 elf ruh kull ma ghanna bus kull nofs siegha matul il gimgha u fil weekend u festi kull siegha meta qabel kelna wahda kull kwarta u barra ekk in no 2 kif tasal il birgu mil-belt tibqa addejja minghajr ma tabbi lil hadt min stage(Riche) li tant ikun emm nies jistennew specjalment turisti li ikunu zaghru il birgu. Ghalek nitolbok tati kass dan lilment f'isem eluf ta nies.