Top Independent Operator

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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 2015 Results

Winner, Gold Award, - Safeguard Coaches

Family-owned Safeguard Coaches says it is achieving year-on-year commercial bus patronage growth by continually innovating and delivering a quality service with passion day-in day-out. "We are increasingly demonstrating that buses have a vitally important role to play in providing a sustainable transport option for the congested county town of Guildford," it says.

The judges felt Safeguard is a long established, respected, family-run operation which uses professional marketing techniques, targeting young people, particularly 19 year olds. They noted that the company has not increased fares since 2010 and operates in an area which isn't necessarily suited to bus where there is high car ownership.

Winner, Silver Award, - Ensign Bus Company

The Ensign Bus Company is an independent operator that runs a fully commercial network in difficult operating territory around the A13 and M25 Dartford crossing area. "Already fiercely proud of our operating statistics and being the reigning Independent Operator of the Year, the last 12 months have seen us improve the operation and business further," it says.

The judges were impressed by the company's doubling of turnover in a year, and that it ran Boxing Day services.

Winner, Bronze Award, - Courtney Buses

Courtney Buses says that it has worked hard to enlighten non-bus users about the independence and financial rewards that bus services provide. "By carrying out repeated customer survey's and using other tools to measure customer confidence, we are able to prove that puntuality and reliability has been rewarded by a increase in passengers and usage," it adds.

The judges welcomed Courtney Coaches responding to the local market such as through an on-bus notice about the new royal baby. For a small operator, the judges were impressed that is has done clever things with smartcards.

Finalist, - Compass Travel (Sussex)

Compass Travel says that it has had an exciting year, taking over additional local bus services from group operators in Brighton and Surrey whilst facing the challenges posed by heavy cutbacks in local authority support for bus services, notably in East Sussex. "Investment continues in all areas of the business," it says. "Compass still holds true to its core customer focus ethos and going the extra mile in service provision."

The judges noted that Compass serves tendered routes on a commercial basis.

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 short-list was 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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The UK Bus Awards scheme is organised by The Bus Industry Awards Limited
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