This award is designed to reward schemes that encourage or promote the use of bus services in rural areas. The versatility of the bus needs to be exploited in rural areas for many reasons, including:
- Minimising the environmental impacts of increasing leisure and tourist travel
- Providing access for local residents who do not use cars
- Providing increased access to the countryside for those who do not use cars or wish to leave them at home
- Reducing congestion in many of our scenic and tourist areas.
This award is designed to attract entries which:
- enhance the attractiveness and use of existing services
- provide innovative service designs and marketing
- provide innovative and attractive products for visitors and tourists
Although manay rural bus services will always require external support, nonetheless they must be shown to represent value for money and tested against alternatives. Entrants were strongly reminded therefore to include evidence that demonstrated the effectiveness of their project.
The Winners: Stagecoach in Oxfordshire
Stagecoach route 20 connects Chipping Norton on the edge of the Cotswolds with the city of Oxford through the picturesque town of Woodstock and runs close by Blenheim Palace.
The route is run from an outstation in Chipping Norton, and has a dedicated team of drivers, all of whom live locally and who have become familiar with their passengers. They often know who to expect where and when, and where they are going, even before they board the vehicle.
In the last three years passenger numbers have grown by 34%, and this has led to the introduction of new low floor accessible vehicles which even have free Wi-Fi on board. Journeys are timed to connect with services to Stratford-upon-Avon, Witney, Banbury and main line trains at Oxford rail station. Passengers can also buy through Londoner tickets that include travel to and from London on the Oxford tube coach service.
Route 20 has had a varied history, but with a programme of continuous improvements, extensive passenger consultation supported by a local team of drivers, this has developed into a highly successful and well-liked bus service in the countryside.
Runners Up: City & County of Swansea
The Gower Explorer network replaced a mixture of part commercial and tendered services, and has transformed public transport in the Gower peninsula, Britain’s first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Using Welsh Assembly transport grant funding, the City & County of Swansea acquired six new accessible buses to operate a completely new integrated network of tendered services designed to cater for all needs, including school and hospital access.
With improved passenger information and more effective promotion the network continues to show impressive passenger growth, recording 13.5% in its third year of operation.
Telford & Wrekin Council, The Gorge Connect
The Gorge Connect is a bus service running in the intereting part of the country generally regarded as the birthplace of industry. It transports visitors and residents in and around the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Ironbridge Gorge, which attracts 750,000 visitors each year.
The Gorge Connect serves a number of museums and tourist attractions scattered around the gorge, and is quickly establishing itself to be a leader in reducing the effect on local congestion and the impact on the environment. Links are provided to Telford Central rail station and town centre bus station, which also gives local residents as well as tourists greater travel opportunities.
The Gorge Connect has a very bright future with enormous opportunity for expansion as the area evolves. The judges felt this was an excellent scheme promoting sustainable tourism.
FirstGroup, Service 41 - Wheal to Coast
Working together with Cornwall County Council, University College Falmouth, and an urban regeneration company in Camborne, Redruth and Pool, FirstGroup has invested in new buses, improved frequencies and effective marketing to deliver improved rural public transport links on rural service 41. Now branded as 'Wheal to Coast', the service has seen year on year passenger growth of 55%.
New Forest Tour Partnership, The New Forest Tour
The New Forest Tour is an open top bus experience offering a unique tour of Britains newest national park. The 2 hour circular route includes historic villages, coast, and the traditional "open forest". It presents numerous opportunities to view the famous ponies! The tour is marketed through a coordinated marketing campaign involving local communities and tourism industry. It is popular with both visitors and local people.
Who could be nominated?
Entries were welcomed from operators, local authorities and others specifying and securing services, partnerships and tourist agencies.
...and by whom?
Nominations have been accepted from all eligible organisations, and self-nomination was also acceptable.
Criteria and Entry Requirements
The judges were looking for entries which demonstrated how buses in the countryside had built patronage and improved access. Decisions have been based on the quality of the submissions made, and the extent to which they address the criteria.
Entry submissions were asked to:
- Describe the services or schemes (e.g. fares and ticketing, enhanced marketing) involved.
- State whether a partnership was involved. This may include service specification and financing and any interested bodies, including local authorities, local bus operators and other commercial organisations or user, leisure and tourist representative groups.
- Show how environmental impact was minimised.
- >Describe the objectives set for the initiative.
- Describe how:
- needs and the potential needs were assessed, including details of market evaluation and customer research
- potential customers were informed of the improved or new product(s)
- interest in, or desire for, the product(s) was facilitated.
- Indicate the methods used to measure:
- the progress made towards meeting the objectives,
- overall patronage, and
- the impact of marketing campaigns before, during and after the initiative
- State whether any changes were made as a result of the monitoring.
- Supply statistical evidence showing the results of the initiative in terms of patronage, revenue or other appropriate indicators, and modal shift.
- State whether the results are likely to be sustainable.
- Describe any future plans for further development.
- Include any relevant supporting material.