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Knutsford pouring $500m into fleet, digital systems

Transport company Knutsford Express Services Limited is reforming its passenger processing and boarding procedures, using a model that partly mimics airport logistics, inclusive of departure gateways.

The company has also added ticket-checking kiosks to facilitate what it describes as “a seamless digital experience in the booking and check-in phases of travel”.

Knutsford Express operates a luxury bus service across Jamaica, transporting both passengers and packages to around 20 touchpoints spanning all parishes, except for St Thomas.

CEO Oliver Townsend said St Thomas would be added to its routes later this year, but Knutsford is still reviewing data before deciding where in the parish to place its depot.

Data is also being compiled regarding the placement of pickup lockers in every parish, where packages transported by Knutsford Express can be collected around the clock.

“There are some package pick up lockers in testing. We are in testing phase,” said Townsend. “We are doing internal tests to be followed by external testing and then full deployment.”

The new passenger movement system is up and running at the company’s Drax Hall depot in St Ann, whereby travellers headed to different destinations exit through labelled gateways after bookings, and once verified by codes that are scanned.

The company described the new system as an operational bonus at a time when passenger traffic is on the rise.

So far Drax Hall is the only depot operating in that manner but it’s unclear whether it will span the entire network.

“We will be investing in other locations with new infrastructure, buses and coaches. We will have the gateway system at places where we plan to improve infrastructure and add buses. I can’t tell you right now,” Townsend said when asked how widescale the system would be.

Among Knutsford’s current touchpoints, one of them, Annotto Bay in St Mary, is a passenger-only route; while five others, namely Pier 1 in Montego Bay, Ocho Rios in St Ann, Washington Boulevard in Kingston, Harbour View in St Andrew, and Portmore, St Catherine, are for courier service or packages only.

Coming off a second quarter of rising revenue and passenger flow, Knutsford Express is bullish on business. Townsend said the investments in public infrastructure, including roadways connecting to Portland and the Morant Bay Urban Centre in St Thomas, “bode well” for the company.

To keep up with demand for its services, both on its current routes and the new destination to be added, Knutsford will be investing $500 million to expand the bus fleet and its systems over the next three years.

For the second quarter ended November 2023, revenue grew by 19 per cent to $473 million. Over six months, revenue also climbed by 19 per cent to $965 million.

“This was underpinned by more passengers travelling on all of our routes,” said Knutsford in its latest financial report.

Profit for the November quarter rose by nearly 22 per cent to $71.7 million.

The ongoing investment in coaches “will allow us to continue growing,” the company said.

“Our plan of investing in our coaches and stations, of adding capacity, convenience, enhanced customer experience and gains in operational efficiency and productivity is well under way.”

The amounts already spent on the fleet and systems improvements to date were not disclosed. However, over six months ending November, Knutsford’s capital expenditures have grown fivefold, from $25 million to $134 million.

“We are delighted with the increased levels of customer demand experienced from all of our gateways and tiers of customers. In fact, we constantly evaluate our locations and remain bullish on finally adding connectivity to or from St Thomas with the rest of the island,” said Townsend.

“We see in the next three years, including the current year, investment of around $500 million in coaches, facilities and systems that will enable us to serve more customers more productively, and further raise the customer experience to unprecedented levels,” he said.

Knutsford Express’ headquarters is now housed at Drax Hall, where it set up a commercial centre in 2021, which also offers 14 storefronts for rent.

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