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 2014 Results

One of Ensign's unique heritage fleetGold Award Winner

Ensignbus, Essex

Ensignbus shines out for running its fully commercial network of services in difficult operating territory in and around Thurrock. Despite being an area traditionally considered to have low potential for public transport use, extremely high levels of reliability and punctuality have enabled the company to achieve a substantial increase in passenger numbers. The judges were impressed by the company's commitment to its customers and staff, its development of technology to improve its services and the environment, its ability to 'move fast' in the event of any disruption on the road or rail networks, and its general entrepreneurial approach to all bus issues.

One of Ipswich's stylish fleetSilver Award Winner

Ipswich Buses

Ipswich Buses is an operator with a reputation for providing a steady, good quality bus operation, reflected by a high customer satisfaction score of 93% in the most recent Passenger Focus survey, the second highest in England. Operating a fleet of nearly 90 vehicles throughout Ipswich and employing more than 200 employees, the company impressed the judges with its new customer service strategy. The strategy includes benchmarking against successful organisations within and outside the transport sector, proactive use of social media, methods of consultation with customers, and a number of new commercial initiatives to grow passenger numbers such as much improved links to out-of-town centres and its Sunday 'Happy Hour'.

Some of the fleet with the team at CompassBronze Award Winner

Compass Travel (Sussex)

Compass Travel runs a 60-strong bus fleet in East & West Sussex, Brighton and into Surrey and employs nearly 20 staff. The company has improved turnover and profitability not least by its record in identifying new markets, whether commercial routes, tendered services for a range of public bodies, franchise services for a major bus group or school contracts. Compass Travel's ability to mix work and spread cost to enable it to thrive in such a broad spectrum of operation appealed to the judges, as did its investment in new vehicles and technology, a strong customer focus and close partnership with other stakeholders in contributing to success.

The impressive Courtney fleetFinalists

Courtney Coaches, Berkshire

Courtney Buses has traditionally operated services to Business Parks and a number of local authorities in addition to providing a town network in Maidenhead. However, 2014 has seen the business expand no end - winning contracts within the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead and in Bracknell and Wokingham in Berkshire. The result has been a 20% increase in the fleet size – 11 new buses including electric hybrid vehicles, with most of the other vehicles running on Ultra Biofuel, which impressed the judges. Owner Bill Courtney takes immense pride the company and its growth and attributes it to the hard work of all his helpful and enthusiastic staff of nearly 90, stringent health and safety assessments, and newly designed CPC courses.

Two members of the Prentice fleetPrentice Coaches, East Lothian

Originally and primarily a coach company that has expanded its bus operation considerably in recent years, the family-owned Prentice Coaches operates in East Lothian. Offering high quality operation, an innovative approach to tendered services and Prentice is eager to try new commercial service initiatives and prides itself on making a profit in each year it has traded since 1991. The judges were particularly impressed by the company's customer service ethos, its use of social media and its app, marketed as 'App-Prentice'. The app allows interaction via smartphones and tablets with Prentice's real time information system which the judges noted is provided without cost to the local councils, unusual for a small independent company.

 

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:
    • diversity
    • equal opportunities
    • training
    • 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.