The award for operators running services wholly or mainly in our major cities and conurbations.
Winners: Brighton & Hove Bus and Coach Company
With its partners, Brighton & Hove has led many of the industry developments but it has not rested on its laurels. It has continued to ‘up its game’ with excellent customer service built on its network of high frequency services provided by a modern, clean and attractive fleet, and supported by innovative marketing and clever ticketing to the point where, in recent Passenger Focus surveys, the city has now achieved the highest bus service satisfaction levels.
Brighton & Hove has an enviable reputation in the local community, perhaps the best example of how patronage can be grown and modal shift achieved by close partnership with local authorities and other stakeholders. The company is at the heart of the business community, a key player in the retail sector as well as an everyday part of the city’s thriving social scene – an essential part of living, working and moving around the city.
Other companies may be coming up to their standards, but Brighton & Hove is still the best!
Runners Up: Stagecoach Yorkshire
Since its acquisition by Stagecoach in 2006, the erstwhile Yorkshire Traction company has been transformed into a thriving, growing and successful operator, the judges being greatly impressed by what has been achieved in a relatively short time. Stagecoach Yorkshire is achieving network-wide passenger growth and much greater passenger satisfaction through substantial investment, improved reliability and punctuality, value for money ticketing, innovative marketing, enhanced and simplified service networks, and closer integration, all of these helping to deliver a substantially improved profit margin.
Stagecoach Yorkshire has been a full and willing participant with South Yorkshire PTE in Britain’s first Statutory Quality Partnership in North Sheffield, and subsequently one in Barnsley. In addition, it takes part in several voluntary schemes in its operating area including proactive Punctuality Improvement Partnerships.
One of the largest operators outside London and another that has transformed itself in recent years, Stagecoach Manchester has achieved 23% growth in passenger numbers since 2004/5 and so now carrying over 97 million passengers a year. The judges were again particularly impressed with the commercial initiatives supported by clever marketing to target specific potential markets, e.g. students with its Unirider product, and its ‘low-cost’ Magic Bus operation. Improved profit, capital investment and passenger growth has been maintained despite the current economic circumstances.
Strong investment has delivered a young, well presented fleet, and priority is given to good customer care and operational performance in what is a busy and demanding big city operation. This is facilitated by comprehensive employee training at all levels, and strong emphasis on health and safety with risk assessments playing a central role.
Lothian Buses is the UK’s largest publicly-owned bus company operating 600 buses in Edinburgh and surrounding area carrying over 350,000 passengers daily. Despite a very difficult period with major operating problems caused by road works in preparation for the introduction of the Edinburgh Tram, Lothian has continued to provide a top-class service to the residents of Scotland’s capital. These legitimate difficulties were recognised by the Scottish Traffic Commissioner in applying only a token fine when the company was called to Public Inquiry regarding punctuality in July 2010. As a result, unusually, the judges felt that the call to PI should not prevent the company from being short-listed. In addition to the traditional standards expected of this operator, the judges noted that the fleet had become totally low-floor easy access eight years ahead of the Government deadline.
National Express Coventry
National Express Coventry is the leading operator in Coventry. It now has a 100% low floor fleet and achieved a 90% customer satisfaction level in the recent Passenger Focus surveys (another survey gave a figure of 52% in 2004). This has been achieved by continual improvement in communication with its customers, increased staff training, major investment in new buses and ICT, and an improved cleaning regime. It is ‘Investor in People’ accredited.
In addition, it enjoys a close relationship with Centro and Coventry City Council which have seen initiatives like the PrimeLines Partnership. This has been a driving force in delivering better reliability and punctuality to customers, and has brought about a 6% patronage increase and a morning peak modal share of 19.2%, a level last achieved in 2001.
The judges felt that the company still had some distance to go before it could be considered a truly top operator, but praised what had been achieved to date.
Judges’ Overall Verdict
Yet again an excellent range and standard of entries, demonstrating how the quality of bus operation has improved dramatically in recent years and making it difficult to choose a final short list.
Again the leading operators were generally those that had developed close partnerships with their local authority or PTE. The judges were especially impressed by the commitment to the environment, health and safety, and risk management in most of the entries.
Whilst undoubtedly very good operators, there was regret that a couple of nominees were felt to have undersold themselves in their entries.
Who could be nominated?
This award is open to operators of registered local bus services based in, or operating wholly or mainly in:
- The PTE areas:
- Greater Manchester
- Tyne and Wear
- South Yorkshire
- West Yorkshire
- West Midlands
- Greater London
- Other major cities with populations of over 250,000, with density greater than 15,000 per hectare. These are:
- Brighton & Hove
Criteria and Entry Requirements
The results were determined on the basis of the quality of the submissions, which needed to:
- Show how the operator maintains and improves customer relations. For example how it uses:
- customer satisfaction surveys
- suggestion and complaint handling procedures
- customer newsletters
- State whether it has policies for specific customer groups, for example recognising disability and diversity
- State whether the company resolved any issues by reference to the Bus Appeals Body within the last three years prior to entry. The issues and the outcome need to be described
- Provide evidence of the company’s employee relations policies, including:
- equal opportunities
- employee development programmes.
- Provide statistics on timekeeping and lost mileage
- State any Traffic Commissioners’ action in the three years prior to entry and describe the company’s responses
- Provide information to demonstrate the financial sustainability of their activities. This could come, for example, from the most recent audited accounts for the two years prior to nomination and include:
- Capital investment: amount per £1,000 turnover; changes in fleet age profile
- Commercial performance: % operating profit margin
- Movement in reserves.
- Demonstrate the company’s approach to risk assessment in all its activities including:
- a commentary on Health and Safety issues for the past year, supported by reports on any significant incidents,
- showing how the company assesses the impact of its activities on staff, passengers and the general public and has monitoring and control measures to reduce risk and the level of the residual risks.
- Describe the operator’s approach to environmental matters and social responsibility.
- Submit evidence on matters such as any partnership working, describe how the company responds to the policies of its local transport authority and how it fosters and contributes to the life of the communities it serves.
- Show how the operator contributes to sustaining and expanding the market for public transport in their area, including joint working with local authorities and integration schemes. This should be supported by statistics to confirm patronage and revenue trends, and statistical evidence of modal shift.
Shortlisted entries will be assessed by “mystery travellers” to monitor the standard of service delivery.