Top Independent Operator 2012

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Vehicle manufacturer Scania sponsors this award

The Award for smaller bus companies with fleets of less than 100 vehicles not owned by a public limited company (plc) or a group containing three or more operating subsidiaries.

The Winner

A hybrid in the Ensign fleetEnsignbus, Thurrock, Essex

Perhaps best known to date for its City Sightseeing operation, bus sales activities and rail replacement work, Ensign is fast developing a significant local bus network in Essex. It is a customer-driven company uniquely placed to offer the highest levels of quality and service due in no small part to the diversity of its portfolio. Reliability and punctuality levels as good as any in the industry, strong fleet investment and some imaginative commercial initiatives have seen it build passenger numbers substantially above the norm for the industry.

Runner Up

A vehicle from the Perrymans fleetPerrymans, Berwick-upon-Tweed

A small, family-run business providing bus services in Northumberland and the Scottish Borders, the company has evolved into one with an ethos of wanting passengers to choose to travel with them rather than using their services through necessity. Despite difficult operating conditions, the company has risen to the challenge by upgrading its fleet, training its staff and tailoring its services to meet customer needs. High levels of reliability and punctuality have enhanced its already strong reputation in its local area. As the company says, "its name is its reputation".

 

Highly Commended

DRM proprietor David Morris and one of his modern fleetDRM of Bromyard

Despite the economic downturn, DRMBus continues to invest in its fleet, providing a safe and friendly journey experience. Lost mileage is almost unknown and with punctuality extremely high in the rural Herefordshire and Worcestershire areas it serves, the company provides an essential and extremely well-respected local service. Affectionately known in the industry as the Little Country Lad, David Morris plays a major part in the operation, setting the high standards by which his company operates.

 

A Newport vehicle on its inter-urban X30 serviceNewport Transport

As the main provider of public transport in the city of Newport, the company's unique, innovative approach to operating bus services and encouraging people to use them has seen its passenger numbers increase by 4.2% in the last year and its network grow across South East Wales despite the difficult economic climate. With a strong commitment to its people and a close relationship with stakeholders, high levels of reliability and punctuality have been achieved, providing an increasingly attractive alternative to car use.

 

One of Ipswich's doubel deck fleetIpswich Buses

In these challenging times for the local economy and the bus industry, Ipswich Buses continues to provide a high standard of quality across its operations, promoting bus travel to all members of society by aiming to get the basics right, first time every time. Staff and operational initiatives, as well as marketing and pricing schemes designed to achieve modal shift and a commitment to providing high levels of reliability and punctuality as well as reducing its carbon footprint, continue to put the company at the centre of the community it serves.

Who could be nominated?

This Award is open to operators of registered local bus services with operators’ (‘O’) licences for fewer than 100 vehicles which are independently owned.

In this context, “independently owned” means not in the sole or majority ownership of a public limited company (plc) or a holding company which owns three or more bus operating subsidiaries.

… and by whom?

We welcomed nominations from customers, local authorities, user groups or bus operators. Self-nomination is acceptable.

Criteria and Entry Requirements

The results were determined on the basis of the quality of the submissions, which needed to:

  • Show how the operator maintains and improves customer relations. For example how it uses:
    • customer satisfaction surveys
    • suggestion and complaint handling procedures
    • customer newsletters
  • State whether it has policies for specific customer groups, for example recognising disability and diversity
  • Submit evidence on matters such as any partnership working, describe how the company responds to the policies of its transport authority and how it fosters and contributes to the life of the communities it serves.
  • Show how the operator contributes to sustaining and expanding the market for public transport in their area, including joint working with authorities and integration schemes. This should be supported by statistics to confirm patronage and revenue trends and statistical evidence of modal shift.
  • Provide statistics on timekeeping and lost mileage
  • Provide evidence of the company’s employee relations policies, including:
    • diversity
    • equal opportunities
    • training
    • employee development programmes.
  • State whether or not the company resolved any issues by reference to the Bus Appeals Body within the last three years prior to entry. If so, the issues and the outcome need to be described
  • 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 company’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
    • showing how the company 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 improving or promoting the accessibility of their product for people with mobility difficulties

Shortlisted entries will be assessed by “mystery travellers” to monitor the standard of service delivery.

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