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.
2013 Winner: Norfolk Green
Following the acquisition of First’s West Norfolk operation in 2011, Norfolk Green has continued to innovate to protect its network against the impact of the national economic climate, and the cost and legislative pressure on the industry. A 23% increase in passenger revenue came despite a 14% reduction in the fleet and demonstrated yet again how first-class customer service, built around a strong understanding of the public transport needs of the community, can still deliver the very best in bus operation despite the rural nature of the company’s operating area. Fares initiatives, especially those targeting young persons, particularly appealed to the judges.
Runner Up: Courtney Buses
Celebrating its fortieth anniversary, the company puts its longevity down to hard work and placing a strong emphasis on its relationships with its staff and customers, as well as providing modern, attractive vehicles. Whilst in the past largely an operator of contracted services, Courtney continues to be a forward-thinking business evidenced by its significant recent move into operating commercial services, with such mileage increasing by 80% since the start of 2013. The judges liked the wide use of customer surveys and use of social media, on top of a very high standard of operation.
Compass Travel is a growing independent company operating services in East and West Sussex, Surrey, and Brighton and Hove. The company has a strong customer focus ethos, endeavouring to ‘go the extra mile’ to ensure high standards of service provision. Despite the difficult economic climate, Compass has continued to invest heavily in both its workforce and vehicles. The judges noted that, where possible, drivers and vehicles were allocated to specific routes, encouraging staff to develop good, professional relationships with their customers, and also that the company positively encouraged feedback by making it as easy as possible.
Ensignbus is noteworthy for its fully commercial and expanding network of services in and around Thurrock, an area in which other operators had previously struggled to provide quality bus services. Impressive passenger growth and financial returns demonstrate the quality and effectiveness of the operation despite the very high levels of traffic congestion and potential delays in the area. The judges were particularly impressed by the company’s commitment to new technology and the transporting of young people through its CollegeBus scheme.
By putting its customers first, Perrymans is another company that continues to achieve passenger growth and a strong financial return in a largely rural operating area. Its ethos is to make people want to travel with them, rather than travel with them because they have to! As a small company with excellent local relationships, it has been able to tailor its services very closely to the needs of its customers. The judges were especially impressed with the community links, and that in a number of instances the company had gone beyond the requirements of local authority tenders to ensure the appeal of its services.
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 need 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
- State whether the company resolved any issues by reference to the Bus Appeals Body within the last three years prior to entry. The issues and the outcome need to be described
- Provide evidence of the company’s employee relations policies, including:
- equal opportunities
- employee development programmes.
- Provide statistics on timekeeping and lost mileage
- State any Traffic Commissioners’ action in the three years prior to entry and describe the company’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 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.
- Submit evidence on matters such as any partnership working, describe how the company responds to the policies of its local 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 local authorities and integration schemes. This should be supported by statistics to confirm patronage and revenue trends, and statistical evidence of modal shift.
Shortlisted entries will be assessed by “mystery travellers” to monitor the standard of service delivery.