The Award for the operation of high quality 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 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 award is open to operators of services on their own account or who contract to others (e.g. National Express or Scottish Citylink).
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 Express Coach Operation of the Year demonstrates investment in fleet and operating staff, forms effective partnerships, identifies with and responds to the markets it serves and, through its quality of operation, continually strives to sustain and grow its market.
Winner: The Oxford Tube
Stagecoach in Oxfordshire
The Oxford Tube is iconic. As probably the most frequent coach service in Europe, providing a ‘turn up and go service’ between Oxford and London 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, 365 days per year, with no pre-booking required, it is an extremely well respected and innovative brand.
The judges were impressed that, in addition to its reputation for reliable, customer-friendly service, Stagecoach were not resting on their laurels but had continued to invest in vehicles, the service, environmental, marketing and customer initiatives that would keep ‘The Tube’ in the forefront of express coach operation, and growing passenger numbers and revenue.
Runner Up: Express City Connect
Stagecoach East Scotland
The Express City Connect operation provides a network of services across Fife and into Edinburgh, giving a very high level of reliability and punctuality for commuters and other travellers. Leather seats and free wi-fi help to make public transport an attractive alternative to using the car, and the service has been very successful in achieving modal shift and thus reducing traffic congestion, with an increase of nearly 14% in passengers over the last two years.
In a pioneering initiative, Express City Connect became the first carbon neutral network in Scotland, 140,000 trees were planted, in association with the environmental charity Global Trees, to absorb the carbon produced by the fleet in the five years from 2008.
First UK Bus - Greyhound UK
In 2009, FirstGroup brought the iconic Greyhound brand to the United Kingdom, promising exceptional customer service. Its luxury coaches with free wi-fi, plug sockets, complimentary newspapers, leather seats and extra legroom have enticed many passengers. So too has Greyhound’s personable, customer-friendly approach, and the company has earned the reputation for going that extra mile. Since the initial services from London to the south coast, the operation has expanded into South Wales and into the London to Scotland express coach service market.
Stagecoach East – X5, Cambridge to Oxford
An award winner in this category in previous years, Stagecoach East’s X5 continues to offer a very high quality express coach service between Oxford, Milton Keynes, Bedford and Cambridge running up to every 30 minutes, 7 days per week.
Further customer initiatives like the ‘My X5’ facility, enabling the company to be in touch with customers directly in the event of disruption, and a very high level of reliability and punctuality in sometimes difficult operating conditions, have guaranteed the ongoing success of this service with a 10.9% increase in passenger numbers in the past year with the associated financial rewards.
Judges' Overall Verdict
There was a limited number of entries, but the lack of quantity was made up for in the quality of some really first class submissions. The judges had an extremely difficult job in choosing a winner and runner-up.
There was regret at the lack of entries from Oxford Bus (London Espress), Berrys and, in particular National Express. Especially at a time of threat to BSOG for express coach services and the consequent likely impact on the senior citizens’ coach travel concession, the profile that could have been given by UK Bus Awards to express coach services was thought to have been an opportunity wasted.
We hope to be able to welcome more entries in 2012: there are some really top class examples of express services around the country that need a higher profile: the Awards can help!
Who can be nominated?
Individual scheduled express coach services operated by single licensed operators, either on their own account or under contract to a marketing organisation.
… 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 is acceptable.
Criteria and Entry Requirements
Entries are judged on the quality of the submissions made, which should:
- 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 will be assessed by “mystery travellers” to measure the operators’ standard of service.