The award for the operation of high quality scheduled express coach services.
Scheduled express coach services are an integral part of our transport system, alongside local bus services and the rail network. Services to airports, tourist attractions and for less-affluent people - including students, for example - can act to improve sustainable accessibility and reduce car travel in just the same way as other forms of public transport. The growth of competition in the market, together with the continued development of brands such as Green Line, Scottish Citylink, Megabus and National Express, shows that the express service sector is dynamic and plays an important part.
The winner of the Express Coach Operation of the Year award will demonstrate delivery of consistently excellent customer service; the company will be sound financially, maintaining high operational and engineering standards, giving priority to the health and safety of passengers and staff through comprehensive risk management. The nominees must be able to demonstrate investment in fleet and operating staff, effective partnerships, responsivenesss to their markets and coninuous efforts to sustain and grow their markets.
Winners: Stagecoach East, Stagecoach East, for the X5, Cambridge to Oxford
The X5 has had another outstanding year following the launch of 17 brand new vehicles in January 2009. Going from strength to strength is a fitting superlative to describe the impressive growth record for this first class express service.
Operating up to every 30 minutes, 7 days a week between Oxford, Milton Keynes, Bedford and Cambridge with: wheel chair accessible, air-conditioned, leathered seated, Wi-Fi enabled coaches, the X5 once again saw passenger numbers grow in 2010.
Integrating with other operators, providing cheap seats for advance online booking, its own dedicated website, officially forming part of the train network between Oxford and Milton Keynes are among a long list of credentials, added to which a glowing mystery traveller report, making the X5 a very worthy winner for the second year in a row.
Runners Up: Stagecoach in Oxfordshire, for the Oxford Tube
The Oxford Tube is an iconic double deck coach service linking Oxford and Central London. This around the clock operation with journeys up to every 10 minutes at peak times makes it Europe’s most frequent express service carrying more than 6000 passengers a day to and from the capital.
The purchase of 26 new high specification vehicles including toilets, air conditioning, reclining seats with generous leg room, seat belts, power points for laptops and mobile phones, free Wi-Fi, GPS tracking, continue to enhance and refresh the image of this already established popular quality service.
Customer Research has shown that frequency, price and reliability are the three principal reasons why customers choose to travel on the Oxford Tube. With high customer satisfaction levels from long-term users clearly demonstrates that loyalty on the Tube is very prevalent.
RailAir, Reading to Heathrow, First in London and Berkshire
RailAir is the dedicated non-stop coach service between Reading and Heathrow airport and this well established brand of over 40 years remains as popular as ever.
Ongoing improvements in service delivery via Wi-Fi tracking and growing customer satisfaction levels have been notable achievements in the last twelve months. With a focus throughout 2009/2010 on greener and safer driving, RailAir continues to provide a quality and vital express coach link.
The “A” services: London to Stansted Airport, National Express
The A6 links Stansted Airport with Central London and the A9 links Stansted with Stratford in East London and extended to Liverpool Street Rail Station overnight have quickly become essential and popular coach links between the capital and its third airport.
Operating a timetable, which is designed to cope with the peak flight arrivals and departures, the A6 departs every 15 minutes and the A9 every 30 minutes.
With a customer service desk open for 24 hours a day at the coach station and a desk situated in the arrivals hall open 20 hours a day there is always a member of staff close at hand to aid and guide any tired and bewildered potential coach traveller.
Acting on both Staff and Customer feedback has seen introduction of a number of night time journeys when other forms of public transport are not available.
Stagecoach East Scotland, for Express City Connect
Express City Connect services operate between towns in Fife and the city of Edinburgh. The network of services was completely revamped in late 2007 after consultation with local residents.
The introduction of improved peak time frequencies more direct services provided by comfortable leather seated vehicles, with free Wi-Fi has provided a competitive edge over the local train services in the area.
Connecting with other services at the award winning Ferry toll Park & Ride Interchange, Express Connect services have experienced successive years of high passengers growth.
Express City Connect services very ably demonstrate what consultation, investment and commitment to high quality service provision can achieve.
Who could be nominated?
Individual scheduled express coach services operated by single licensed operators, either on their own account or under contract to a marketing organisation (e.g. National Express or Scottish Citylink).
… and by whom?
We welcomed nominations from customers, authorities, user groups, bus operators or marketing organisations which contract in operators to run a service or network of services. Self-nomination was acceptable.
Criteria and Entry Requirements
Entries were judged on the quality of the submissions made, which were required to:
- Address the issue of customer relations:
- For own-account operators, explain how the company maintains and improves customer relations. Submissions should discuss, but not necessarily be limited to, the use of customer satisfaction surveys, suggestion and complaint handling procedures and customer newsletters
- For contracted operators, provide evidence of feedback on customer relations performance, supplied by the operator’s clients if possible
- Explain the company’s approach to catering for specific customer groups, for example mobility impaired passengers
- Submit evidence on the approach taken to transport integration, partnership working, response to the policies of transport authorities on the route(s) and how it fosters and contributes to the life of the communities it serves.
- Describe any fares initiatives designed to increase patronage, particularly amongst car-owners, and / or to improve accessibility to a wide range of potential passengers.
- Provide evidence of the operation’s employee relations policies, including:
- equal opportunities
- employee development programmes.
- Provide statistics on timekeeping and lost mileage
- State whether or not there has been any Traffic Commissioners’ action in the three years prior to entry and, if so, the operator’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 operator’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,
- remarks explaining how the operator 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.
- Describe the operator’s approach to accessibility for people with mobility difficulties
- Submit evidence by statistics to confirm patronage and revenue trends, and statistical evidence of modal shift.
Short-listed entries were assessed by “mystery travellers” to measure the operators’ standard of service.