Transdev, public transportation operator in the Bassin d’Arcachon

Publié le 27 May 2024

Based in La Teste-de-Buch, the company Transdev Bassin d’Arcachon operates the Baïa network in the 4 municipalities – Arcachon, La Teste-de-Buch, Gujan-Mestras and Le Teich – of the Transportation organizing authority Communauté d’Agglomération du Bassin d’Arcachon Sud.

With a significant seasonal activity during the summer period, Transdev Bassin d’Arcachon is recruiting to meet the needs and ensure passenger transport services.

Valentin Bonnaire - Transdev Bassin d'Arcachon
Réseau Baïa - Arcachon
Flexnav - Transdev Bassin d'Arcachon

For the past 2 years, Transdev Bassin d’Arcachon has been using our training GPS Flexnav, a tool designed to assist drivers in learning their routes.

On this occasion, we interviewed Valentin, Operations Manager at Transdev Bassin d’Arcachon to understand his role and the structure of Transdev Bassin d’Arcachon.

Could you please introduce yourself?

Of course, my name is Valentin BONNAIRE. I have been working as an operations manager at Transdev Bassin d’Arcachon since May 2023. Since then, I have learned a lot as I did not come from an operations background. I pursued a degree in public transportation with a Master’s in Urban and Regional Passenger Transport (TURP), which I completed in 2021. Following my Master’s degree, I worked in a consulting firm specialized in transportation as a mobility consultant. In May, I transitioned to operations management in an urban network because I needed hands-on experience and a balance between fieldwork and office work.

Since when has this training program been in existence?

In 2021, I was part of the 29th cohort. The first year of the Master’s program is primarily focused on freight and passenger transportation, with specialization occurring during the second year. In my case, I chose passenger transportation as offering transportation solutions resonated more with me.

Which organization did you pursue your training with?

It’s a training program jointly accredited by the University Lumière Lyon 2 and the ENTPE (École Nationale des Travaux Publics de l’État).

What reasons led you to choose a career in the transportation industry?

So, it happened a bit by chance. After completing my degree in economics and management, I was questioning what I wanted to do. It was somewhat serendipitous; a friend had completed the TURP Master’s program and spoke highly of it, so I decided to pursue that direction. Today, the main challenge is to provide transportation services adapted to clients without personal vehicles or who are willing to travel more responsibly.

What directed you towards the urban domain rather than the interurban domain?

I prefer and find it more interesting both personally and professionally to work in the urban domain. Additionally, recruiting in this sector is easier compared to interurban transportation. Recruitment remains a significant issue in interurban transportation, whereas in urban transportation, especially in the 4 municipalities of the Baïa network, we offer services in the morning (6am-1pm) or afternoon (1pm-8pm). This time frame allows for a better balance between professional and personal life for drivers.

What is your role on a daily basis within the operations of Transdev Bassin d’Arcachon?

Today, I have a multi-faceted role. I am the operations manager, but I have several daily missions. My main mission is to ensure the quality of service on the network, ensuring that buses run on time and adhere to a certain level of punctuality, which is crucial. There is a lot of management involved with our 62 drivers; understanding each individual’s motivations and concerns, and figuring out how to adjust them so that everyone is in the best working conditions on a daily basis. Managing schedules is also part of my daily routine. It involves adapting to constraints, planned absences, and paid leave, so a lot of anticipation is required. There is also the relationship with temporary agencies. Today, we work with 4-5 temporary agencies, and it’s crucial to have good relations with them because they provide us with personnel who have D licenses, so it’s up to us to welcome them as best as possible and to try to retain them so that they want to come back and work with us in the future. There’s a lot of managing unforeseen events as well, such as unplanned detours. We need to be quite reactive to ensure that the service is provided on time and find solutions quickly. A lot of short-term, medium-term, and long-term planning is involved as well. For example, today, we’re at the end of March, but I’m already working on the staffing for the summer 2024 season, knowing that the Arcachon network is very seasonal between May and September when we have a lot of activity and our employees take vacations, so we need to find solutions to compensate for these absences.

What is the difference between an Operations Director and an Operations Manager?

So here, we have a Network Director, Maxime LARONDELLE, who has a dual role. He handles tender responses and is present to understand on-the-ground issues. The Operations Manager handles the tasks mentioned earlier. Here, we don’t have an Operations Director because we are a small network.

Could you define the structure?

At Transdev Bassin d’Arcachon, we have around 70 employees, including 62 drivers, 3 operators, 2 mechanics, 2 commercial agents, 1 operations manager, 1 production manager, and the Network Director. We work for COBAS (Communauté d’Agglomération Bassin d’Arcachon Sud), which delegates the operation of the Baïa network to us. COBAS encompasses four municipalities: Arcachon, La Teste de Buch, Le Teich, and Gujan-Mestras. Before 2022, on the old network, our service extended slightly to Biganos. However, with the new Public Service Delegation (DSP), our service now ends at Le Teich on the east side. During the summer, we extend our service to the ocean beaches, whereas during normal times, our service stops at the Dune du Pyla with Line 3, which is highly seasonal.

What do you enjoy most on a daily basis?

The fact that every day is very different is what I enjoy the most! Having different situations to handle every day; over the months, we’ve encountered many cases, but it’s true that at the beginning, there was a lot of learning about managing different situations. The days are very dynamic and diverse. We can have HR issues with employees facing particularities or even fieldwork if a bus needs to be changed. You have to be quite flexible and versatile.

Do you encounter specific challenges on a daily basis compared to the rest of the year?

The main challenge is the training of temporary staff related to recruitment for the summer period from March/April to the end of August. Either the drivers are new, or they were already present in previous years or remain throughout the year. We need to take the time to train these individuals, which represents a cost for the company, both financially and in terms of time, as we want the temporary staff to be comfortable with their duties. We invest a week of training to familiarize them with the routes, vehicles, and different procedures, so it’s a comprehensive process. During the 5-day training program I set up for each new arrival, they are supported by 5 different trainers. Even though we are a small network, we still have 70 employees, but in the end, we quickly see the same faces, and it’s quite familial here. There is a good working atmosphere which makes it easier for us to retain employees.

How did you establish this family atmosphere within the operations?

The family spirit has always been present here. It’s something that attracted me. From the very first days, I felt it. All doors are open, encouraging exchange. You can talk to everyone, ask for information. It’s also being in a region where people are quite open-minded, and you can easily integrate into the company.

How many temporary workers do you recruit for the summer season?

We don’t have exact figures, but the more I recruit, the more I can offer my employees the opportunity to take time off. Our goal is to have committed individuals who understand our daily operations and our way of working. Last year, we had approximately 15 temporary workers. This year, I am aiming for around 20 temporary workers.

Earlier, you mentioned that you’ve already prepared for the season. In normal times, when do you start preparing for the summer season?

Let’s say it never stops. Already at the end of the N year season, we assess with the temporary worker whether they enjoyed the work, the work environment, and the network, and we start working to see if the temporary worker wants to work with us for the next season. So, it’s a year-round job; it slows down a bit between November and February because the period is a bit quieter with the holidays, but from March onwards, I dive back into recruitment to see if they are available, at what period, it’s a lot of work upstream to prepare and adjust the needs according to the paid leave of the employees.

Do you have the chance to see the same temporary workers year after year?

So, it’s actually an advantage for us. When seasons go well and when temporary workers are happy with the environment and the quality of work, they are likely to come back; it’s not the case for everyone, but we do have people who come back year after year like retirees, individuals seeking additional activity over the summer. We have a lot of different profiles, which is also a strength for us.

Is the shortage of drivers a real issue for you?

For us, no, because we have our staff and we are not in deficit, which allows us to properly provide our services and avoid penalties. Today, we have this opportunity, but also the fact of having enough resources in temporary staff. But it hasn’t always been the case. We also have major housing problems in the Bassin d’Arcachon. It’s also a criterion for us to know if the candidate has the possibility of finding housing in the basin.

Have you been involved in the development of the commercial offer for the summer period?

The contract was signed in 2022 and runs until 2028. We are proactive in terms of adjustments and improvements. Often, adjustments come from any customer complaints that we listen to, and depending on the relevance of the complaint, we pass the information on to our organizing authority, which will then decide whether to amend the contract if we make changes such as adding intermediate stops.

Do you provide Demand-Responsive Transport (DRT)?

Yes, absolutely, we have three types of Demand-Responsive Transport (DRT) that we subcontract. The night DRT operates every day from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. in July and August; we handle it directly in the summer through a booking platform. We also have DRT for people with reduced mobility (DRT PMR) and DRT for seniors, available only to individuals over 75 years old.

Besides DRT, do you subcontract any other activities?

So, we subcontract both the DRT and the school transport because we don’t have the staff or the rolling stock. We subcontract to two entities: Transports David CFTI, located in Salles, about twenty kilometers away, and Keolis, located in La Teste-de-Buch. We also have the Sea Bus service between the port of Arcachon and the Moulleau pier with a stop at the Thiers pier. The advantage is that it’s a service at the same price as a €1 bus ticket for a duration of 60 minutes. It’s a little-known service but it allows people to travel a bit on the sea at the same price as the bus and cheaper than a tourist boat.
Exploitation Transdev Bassin d'Arcachon
Thank you, Valentin, for sharing your experience, and to the teams at Transdev Bassin d’Arcachon for their trust! We wish them a safe journey.