The 36: Riding, Redefined
2 months ago
This multi award-winning Harrogate icon is one of the standout success stories of the UK’s commercial bus market.
A local, customer research-led proposition, The 36 enabled complete transformation of the perception of bus in a car-dominated town, and links Ripon, Harrogate and Leeds in quality and style.
The high-specification, twin-deck buses offer an amazing variety of class-leading features, many the result of continued talking and listening to customers and non-bus users. Every year, over 2 million customer journeys are made on high-backed, quilted leather seating in a spacious ‘two plus one’ layout, aircraft-style LED lighting, fast and free at-seat Wi-Fi and USB power, an on-board ‘Library 36’ offering books to read and exchange, and even a glazed roof to enjoy Yorkshire’s blue skies – or gaze at the stars.
Customers are welcomed on board The 36 with bespoke announcements by the ever-popular former BBC Look North presenter Harry Gration – with one of the buses named in his honour on his final day on screen in 2020. Another 36 bus is named after Ripon’s 2016 Olympic Gold medal winning diver, Jack Laugher and Euro 2020 England hero, local legend Gareth Southgate - both of whom live near to the route.
The 36 buses each feature a signature black, red and silver livery to emphasise the quality of the service, which is carried through to the brand and marketing media that supports the route: these won a Gold award for Sustained Marketing Excellence in the 2017 UK Bus Awards.
The success of The 36 is demonstrated by rising customer numbers leading to frequency improvements: it now runs up to every 10 minutes between Harrogate and Leeds, carrying a mix of leisure and recreational customers, and commuters. This has resulted in overall customer growth of 21% in the last five years, even alongside a doubling of the competing rail service.
In the Government’s 2021 Bus Strategy, a £3 billion plan for the future of bus services across the country, The 36 is identified as a service where significant growth has been seen at a time when bus usage has declined elsewhere.
The Bus Strategy document says The 36 “offers a sophisticated and comfortable service which has transformed the passenger experience, and encouraged people to make the switch to bus” – and concludes: “Achieving consistent growth, the number of passengers using The 36 has nearly doubled over 15 years.”
The 36 is now as much a part of Harrogate’s culture as spring water and Bettys. It features in local paintings and is a byword in top-class, luxury bus travel. Property listings proudly indicate proximity of living on The 36 as a key selling point. And people who on the route don’t say that they catch the bus… they say they catch The 36.