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.
Oxford Bus Company, The Airline
The ‘airline’ offers a high frequency coach service direct from Oxford to Heathrow and Gatwick airports. The service has grown tremendously in recent years (9.3% passenger growth in 2011 alone) to the extent that the Heathrow link now runs three times per hour at busy times. The whole service was re-launched for the 2011 season and re-equipped with new coaches (Oxford Bus Company’s largest ever single investment) giving a more generous seat pitch so that laptops can be opened fully, at-seat power sockets and wi-fi.
For many years, the express services of Oxford Bus have enjoyed a first-class reputation as a high quality product. It would have been easy for the company to rest on its laurels but the latest re-launch of the ‘airline’ operation, in the view of the judges, has taken the service to a new very impressive high – a view confirmed by the mystery travellers.
Arriva the Shires, Green Line 757
Green Line 757 is a high quality express coach service linking Luton and Luton Airport with central London, with up to four journeys per hour, twenty-four hours per day, seven days per week using fully accessible coaches. The 757 is extensively marketed featuring agency partnerships with easyBus, National Express, P-Air and Terravision. Following significant investment and an increase in frequency despite the very challenging economic times, the service continues to grow carrying 12% more passengers in 2012.
The judges were impressed with the service provided and how it is still being actively developed despite the recessionary times. Arriva’s strong commitment to improving customer service through a number of initiatives like the new five-language website and enhanced staff training were also considered praiseworthy.
Scottish Citylink Coaches, Express Operation
Scottish Citylink Coaches operates inter-city and long distance express service coaches throughout Scotland. The operation also includes megabus.com services in Scotland and cross-border services to London. With a number of strong commercial initiatives in recent years including Citylink Gold and new improved connections on a number of routes, passenger numbers increased by 9% and 10% respectively in the last two years. With its range of services bookable through the internet, in-house call centre or an extensive network of sale agencies,
Citylink really does continue to keep Scotland connected. The judges noted especially how the company continues to develop its network despite the difficult economy, and how clever marketing initiatives are an important part of its success in attracting more people to use express coach services in Scotland.
Stagecoach East Scotland, Express City Connect
Stagecoach Express City Connect operates a network of services across Fife and into Edinburgh, providing a high standard of services for commuters, with leather seats and free wi-fi, making public transport an attractive alternative, relieving congestion and achieving modal shift. Passenger growth has been maintained despite the general economic climate.
The judges again noted the extremely high operational quality of these services and were particularly impressed by the company’s pioneering initiative to make Express City Connect the first carbon neutral network in Scotland by planting 140,000 to absorb the carbon produced by the fleet in the five years 2008-2013.
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.
… 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 need 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 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).
- 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.
Entries should address each of the above criteria to assist with the judging process, because non-transferable marks will be allocated for each of these criteria.
Short-listed entries will be assessed by “mystery travellers” to measure the operators’ standard of service.