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 students, for example, can all act to reduce car travel as much, if not more than, 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 has an an important part to play in the market. The award was 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 Operator of the Year award demonstrated delivery of consistently excellent customer service; the company demonstrated that it was 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 Operator of the Year invests in its fleet and its 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 the market for express services.
Winner: Oxford Bus Company - The Airline
The Airline is a high-frequency coach service between Oxford and London Heathrow. Through targeted investment and a high-quality approach to the product, the service has grown three-fold over the last 12 years.Now operating three times per hour, with daily, 24-hour coverage, the service has recently had a further £2.5m investment in 10 new coaches and fresh branding.
Particularly noteworthy are the feedback and consultative arrangements for involving both customers and staff in developing and fine tuning the service. The judges were impressed by the 'all-embracing' approach which ensures that the service provides a complete travel package for the Heathrow community adding pricing, ticketing and luggage handling to the 24/7, high frequency, accessible service. They felt it was an excellently conceived and continuously improving service to meet the needs of the Heathrow - Oxford corridor, both air passengers and those commuting to work at the airport.
Runner Up: Stagecoach - Oxford Tube
Europe's most frequent single route express service, Oxford Tube, provides dependable 24 hour services between Oxford and London 365 days a year.Integration with transport networks at both ends of the route is combined with competitive price structures. Highly trained staff, impressive investment levels and added-value services all help maintain a 3.5% per annum growth in passenger numbers.
Despite being one of Britain's longest-established high frequency coach services, the Oxford Tube continues to innovate and improve. Offering its passengers standards of service matching the best that rail or many air services can offer, the latest innovations include WiFi and breakfast service. Customer appreciation is reflected by an independent survey recording satisfaction levels approaching 100% across a range of factors. The company is careful to reflect the diversity of people and travel purposes in the communities it serves both in its staffing and in its customer relations.
Highly Commended: Arriva Midlands - Skylink
Leicester Skylink runs hourly and through the night to East Midlands Airport, as part of the EMA Bus Partnership. Since its launch in October 2006, the service has benefited from sustained marketing and now carries over 1,000 passengers per week. Arriva Midlands is committed to delivering the highest levels of customer service, and maintains high operational and engineering standards.
Building on a well-tried partnership with the County Council and the East Midlands Airport, growth of the service demonstrates effective use of kickstart funding to establish quality links for air passengers and airport workers.