Top City Operator

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The award for operators running services wholly or mainly in our major cities.

Winner, Gold Award

Nottingham City Transport

Customers on Nottingham City Transport's (NCT) buses are the most satisfied in the country, with an overall rating of 97% in the most recent Transport Focus survey. Nottingham has the second highest bus use per head of population in the UK, despite a very challenging couple of years as new tram lines were built, the ring road was upgraded and the A453 was expanded. Partnerships with local authorities have also brought benefits to customers including 1,400 bus stops with real time displays in Nottingham (the highest outside London), direct access to Nottingham's Traffic Control Centre cameras to allow NCT Control Room staff to manage the network, and over 50 junctions now fitted with bus traffic light priority guaranteeing a green light for late buses. NCT instigated a Roadworks Consultation Regime to ensure that bus operators are involved from the planning stage of street works, something that has been vital through the recent A453 widening, tram works and ring road upgrade. The installation of next stop announcements has continued and they now cover 80% of the fleet, whilst the whole fleet now offers free wifi, which is thought to be a first for an operator in England. The first 'Oyster' Pay As You Go system outside London has also been added this year.

The judges noted that despite difficulties with roadworks, NCT has continued to offer an excellent service. The Free Travel Fridays on routes affect by tram works is a nice gesture to keep customers happy. The company clearly ticks lots of boxes with investment in new vehicles and facilities for passengers such as next stop announcements and free wifi across the whole fleet. The judges also commented on the way drivers are looked after with extensive training in customer service skills and offering the highest pay rates in the region.

Winner, Silver Award

Lothian Buses

Lothian Buses, Edinburgh's principal bus operator, has a vision to deliver a world-class safe, efficient, green and socially-inclusive transport service for all those who visit, live, work, or study in Edinburgh and the Lothians. With a network of 70 day services, an extensive NightBus network operating citywide and the Airlink service which operates a 24 hour express service between Edinburgh Airport and the City Centre, Lothian Buses carries over 2.3m passengers per week. Edinburgh Bus Tours, the open-top tour division, is Scotland's third most popular paid-for visitor attraction. Lothian Buses is locally owned with shares held by the City of Edinburgh, East Lothian, West Lothian and Midlothian Councils and is the largest of the remaining municipal bus companies in the UK. Highlights over the pas year have included major changes to the provision of information, working with Google Maps to provide real time information, updating of the mobile app to include spoken directions for the visually impaired and the first m-ticketing app in the UK to allow transfer of a ticket to another user. Twelve new Volvo buses were put on the 24 hour Airlink route featuring a stylish glass staircase partition and integrated glass roof as well as leather seating, wifi, table areas, USB and three-pin power socket and plenty of luggage space. The 'We think the world of Edinburgh' environmental brand was launched last year and now 94% of waste is recycled across all Lothian Buses sites. An additional two million passenger journeys were made last year.

The judges comment on continued investment in the fleet, notably the 24 hour Airlink route which operates alongside the tram, and the increased functionality of the company's app. Passenger carryings and revenues have both increased and the judges praised the frontline staff who have kept the services on track during a period of changes in the organisation.

Winner, Bronze Award

Arriva Merseyside

Arriva Merseyside employs just short of 2,000 people, operating out of six garages covering Liverpool, Knowsley, Wirral, Sefton and St Helens. Over 80 million passenger journeys are made each year with over 600 vehicles. Significant investment has been made in 114 new vehicles fitted with free wifi, as well as a further 48 hybrid and 12 all electric buses. Arriva Merseyside considers itself to be a company focussed on people - both customers and employees, and a close-knit management team inspires confidence and good morale at each individual site. Numerous social activities take place to build team spirit across the garages including football teams, golf teams and numerous other social societies. Staff regularly take in activities such as cycle rides and mountain climbs to raise money for charities. There is a real sense of pride at Arriva Merseyside and depots are often used as trial areas for initiatives which are then rolled out across the company.

The judges noted the high standard of the company's cross-river services using hybid vehicles and Arriva Merseyside's continued significant investment in new vehicles. The judges also applauded the company's Polish and Promote scheme focussing staff on making buses look the best that they can before leaving taking passengers.


National Express West Midlands

National Express West Midlands (NXWM) runs over 1,500 buses on 200 routes, carrying nearly a million passengers every weekday. There is much competition from the car and now also the tram, so the company has to work hard to attract passengers. A hundred new buses were ordered this year, all with next stop audio visual announcements and a further 141 vehicles have had it fitted. Last year NXWM spent ú34m on 58 'Platinum' double decks with free wifi and comfy seats. After six months of service, some routes saw growth of between 10 and 25%, and 27% of those questioned new new bus users. The company feels it is part of the community it serves and is proud of the diversity of its workforce including the BME and LGBT communities. It is also the first transport plc to pay the Living Wage and NXWM is the largest Living Wage employer in the West Midlands. The company works closely with the police and has seen crime, and more importantly the fear of crime, fall markedly. And most significantly, NXWM is part of the UK's first Bus Alliance, which is paying dividends.

The West Midlands Bus Alliance has been a positive step and the judges noted other strong partnerships the company has built which are also bringing benefits to the business. Significant investment in high-specification vehicles is increasing passenger numbers and encouraging modal shift.

Stagecoach Merseyside and South Lancashire

Stagecoach Merseyside comprises of Liverpool's Gillmoss depot and the Birkenhead garage, which between them operate 218 buses and employ 528 drivers, 95 engineers and 25 management and support staff. Last year the company operated 25.4 million passenger journeys, achieving 93.3% reliability. Passenger Focus found Stagecoach Merseyside was voted best value for money in both the PTE and All England categories, and its buses were voted best in the PTE for cleanliness and condition. Drivers are trained to assist customers in wheelchairs with boarding and alighting and the company offers a free taxi service for any customer in a wheelchair who is intending boarding a service which is full. Towards the end of last year, the first Stagecoach gold fleet of 16 ADL 300's was delivered for use between Liverpool, Wirral and Chester with free wifi, Italian leather seats and USB charging points. Then in April, 14 Enviro 400 MMC's, also with free wifi and USB charging points, were introduced on Liverpool's 14 route. Stagecoach Merseyside is part of a new formal 'Bus Alliance' with PTE Merseytravel and bus operator Arriva which aims to grow the number of fare paying passengers, improving customer satisfaction and driving up investment for the benefit of all who use bus services in the Liverpool city region.

Translink Metro

Metro is the brand name of Citybus an operating company within the wider Translink brand, the integrated public transport provider for Northern Ireland. Metro, as with all Translink operating companies, has a commercial remit and is a public corporate with a direct award contract from government. Against an extremely challenging set of circumstances with an unprecedented level of cuts, Metro has had an outstanding year, delivering its highest ever number of fare paying passengers and strong results in passenger satisfaction levels.

The judges noted the turn around in the business and increased patronage.

Who Could be Nominated?

This award was open to operators of registered local bus services based in, or operating wholly or mainly in: 

  • The PTE areas:
    • Greater Manchester
    • Merseyside
    • Tyne and Wear
    • South Yorkshire
    • West Yorkshire
    • West Midlands
  • Greater London
  • Other major cities or conurbations with populations of over 250,000, with density greater than 15,000 per hectare. These are:
    • Belfast
    • Bristol
    • Brighton and Hove
    • Cardiff
    • Edinburgh
    • Glasgow
    • Kingston-upon-Hull
    • Leicester
    • Nottingham
    • Plymouth
    • Stoke-on-Trent

Criteria and Entry Requirements for all Bus Operating Awards:

The short-list will be determined on the basis of the quality of the submissions, which need to:

  • Provide the full range of information requested in the Key Performance Indicators section of the entry form
  • Address as fully as possible the individual criteria headings on the form. 

It is important that all KPIs and each of the following criteria are addressed as fully as possible because the allocated marks are not transferable.

The following notes provide further guidance on the information to be provided under each of the headings:

  • Customer Relations and Performance: show how the operator maintains and improves customer relations and monitors its operations to optimise performance. For example how it uses: 
    • technology, including social media, real-time information and mobile phone apps
    • other methods of communicating with customers and potential customers including printed information
    • customer satisfaction surveys,  suggestion and complaint handling procedures and the monitoring of feedback.
  • Management of Stakeholder Relations and Partnerships: describe the company’s approach to the management of its relationships with local authorities, LEPs and other community and local business organisations. Describe the work done on partnerships with authorities and other bodies and state how it fosters and contributes to the life of the communities it serves.
    • Where operated, with the approach to and results of delivering local authority contracted local bus services should be described. 
  • Market Growth and Development: show how the operator contributes to sustaining and expanding the market for public transport in their area by
    • offering different payment methods and range of tickets including discounts for specific groups, for example young people
    • providing a range of commercial services at different times of the day and days of the week
    • introducing innovations over the preceding twelve months
    • The descriptions and examples should be supported where possible by statistics to confirm patronage  and revenue trends and by evidence of modal shift. 
  • Employee Relations and Training: provide evidence of the company’s employee relations policies and any discernable outcomes, including;
    • diversity
    • equal opportunities
    • training, including CPC progress
    • employee development programmes, such as advanced driver training and testing
    • other initiatives and/or practices that engender staff loyalty.
  • Health, Safety and Risk Management: 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.
  • Environmental and CSR Matters: describe the operator’s approach to environmental matters and social responsibility and consequential outcomes.
  • Policies on diversity and accessibility: state whether there are policies for different customer groups, for example recognising disability and diversity, and/or deprived localities and specifically describe the operator’s approach to improving or promoting the accessibility of their product for people with various types of mobility difficulty.
  • Serious Complaints and Enforcement Action: state whether or not the company was referred to the Bus Appeals Body within the last three years prior to submission of this entry. If so, the issues and the outcome need to be described. Entrants should also state whether or not there has been any Traffic Commissioner action in the three years prior to entry or whether any investigation, disciplinary hearing or known VOSA report is ongoing at the time of entry.  If so, provide a full account of the matter(s). 

Shortlisted entries will be assessed by ‘mystery travellers’ to monitor the standard of service delivery.


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