This is the award which benchmarks the performance of bus garages in London, and rewards the best with a cash prize to be used on facilities to benefit the team which delivers the best service on a day-to-day basis.
2013 Winner: West Ham (Stagecoach London)
West Ham faced the challenge of three garages coming together into one, with staff from diverse backgrounds.By setting clear and high standards, restructuring in all disciplines resulted in a leaner, more focused workforce, getting the message out loud and clear that management and Union meant business, supporting colleagues who do a good job, and offering support and training to those who want to. The garage operations team faced a number of challenges as a result of the losing a number of routes and staff through tendering. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, there has been an increased emphasis on improving performance and a number of initiatives have been put in place. One has involved working with the drivers' Trade Union on a communications campaign to explain how drivers can make a positive difference to performance.
On the engineering side, technician and upskilling programs were created to develop and enhance the staffs' technical skills and knowledge base. The apprenticeship scheme was restarted to train skilled staff for the future. A portfolio of technical training courses focused on the areas of poor vehicle reliability and analysis of breakdowns, changeovers and 'driver defects' helped the team to develop a strategy to spot trends and improve the first time fix rate. The Managing Director holds 6-monthy garage “Open Forums", where the agenda is set by staff, not management. These can be candid debates, not for the faint hearted, but allow management and staff to really understand the issues, establish mutual respect and establish a common way forward for improvement in essential areas such as service performance and driving standards.
Runner Up: New Cross (Go-Ahead London)
New Cross Garage operates buses in a combination of inner and outer-city environments, both high and low frequency, and yet consistently performs in excess of its targets. A key to that success has been the recruitment of a multi ethnic work force reflecting the rich cultural diversity of the local community. The New Cross team are professional in their approach to the job in hand. They are committed to providing a safe, reliable, comfortable and clean service to all their customers and acknowledge that, at the heart of any effective organisation, is a well-trained, customer-focused work force. This is reflected by the fact that drivers volunteer to take the Institute of Advanced Motoring test in their own time: to date one hundred and sixty drivers have passed the test, six of whom have achieved a Grade 1 pass.
Excellent customer service is assured through continual monitoring in the areas of public comments, safe driving and quality service reports from both internal and external sources. This has proved effective in motivating drivers on an individual basis, thus enabling continuous improvement. Improvement of customer service is jointly re-inforced at the garage by management and the union. They have found that a few hours retraining or a “one to one” customer care seminar can result in employees trying hard to maintain a higher standard, to the benefit of all.
Barking, Stagecoach London
Barking garage has a good record of customer service that can be attributed to the friendly atmosphere within the garage and the general helpfulness of all staff. Commendations from passengers have been both staff specific and general. These are shared with staff, at the same giving examples of both good and bad customer service to highlight the standards expected. Barking invest in their staff by developing training courses relevant to their day to day work and this has led to the delivery of CPC courses in Service Delivery, Cycle Awareness and Exploring Behaviour at Work. There is a good support network in place through the training department and in the garage experienced mentors are always on hand to provide guidance to staff that needing assistance.
Barking garage stands out as a place where staff really enjoy working, with people waiting to transfer in. This is due to the friendly welcoming atmosphere and, although it is a reasonably large garage, all employees know one another and there is a family feel to the place. The diverse demographic reflects the location of the garage and there is a mutual respect between faiths and cultures with all being prepared to change holidays and working patterns to accommodate colleagues' religious festivals. A number of social functions are held for staff throughout the year and there are retired members' days out too. Some drivers belong to a running club and regularly run marathons in support of local charities.
Everyone at Cricklewood Garage has worked very hard over the last year to develop a strong team spirit, a sense of ownership and commitment to their environment and local community, at the same time developing an understanding of how everyone at the garage can make a difference when it comes to performance and providing the very best service possible. There has been hard work over the last year to develop a strong team spirit, a sense of ownership and, importantly, an understanding of how everyone at the garage plays a part and can make a difference when it comes to performance.
Cricklewood garage is continually looking at ways to improve customer service and continues to deploy members of the training team to personally speak with every single driver ahead of every single duty in a single week, one to one, to remind them of the need to always be alert to driving safely whilst also being mindful of being patient and courteous to passengers.
The garage also continues to lead the way with extensive engagement and information campaigns with staff and roadshows encouraging the very best in customer care. Recently, a Cricklewood driver, Euphema Wallace, won the accessibility champion category at the London Bus Awards for training her colleagues on how to drive different types of vehicles and develop the best ways to help elderly or disabled passengers. In an effort to share and encourage best practice, the Cricklewood management team also developed a series of positive posters called ‘setting the standard’, displayed around the garage highlighting commendations, letters from the public and awards won specifically by its staff. This also communicates to drivers just how the public value good service and that the smallest things really can make a difference.
Hounslow (London United)
A bus garage that prides itself on strong performance, teamwork and communication, where everyone is focused on customer satisfaction and whose competitive employees strive for 'their' route to be the best in London. A strong desire to take its place as one of the best in London has been a key driver in achieving Hounslow's excellent performance standards. This required changes at the garage, starting with the removal of communication barriers across all disciplines and at every level so that the 'them and us' culture was replaced by one of openness, co-operation and teamwork. A thorough review of working practices and procedures was undertaken and a number of changes were implemented. On the engineering side, for example, 'working chargehands' were introduced and there are now three of them at Hounslow – providing close supervision from 6am to 10pm. They are accountable for delivering high maintenance standards and reducing lost mileage through breakdowns.
On the operating side, the introduction of spare drivers and vehicles at strategic locations, such as where there are known roadworks and disruptions, has done much to help boost mileage by closing up gaps in service. The emphasis on headways has meant a major re-education of drivers to encourage them to space out their journeys by checking the ibus screen and so avoid bunching. The service quality manager meets the team regularly to share best practice and a new service delivery manager runs special courses for those who work on lower performing routes.to ensure optimum route performance.
Orpington garage is the largest in London equating to 2.79% of the London network. The garage runs 28 routes amounting to just over 9 million miles per year operated in a mix of inner and outer London boroughs. They take pride in ensuring their bus fleet remains highly presentable and invest heavily in maintaining this. At Orpington the priority is to operate a full service on all routes despite any issues that may arise. The targets the garage sets itself are in excess of TfL's standards and are regularly exceeded despite problems faced with traffic, roadworks and adverse weather etc.
The Controllers have a blog system to keep all the team involved and informed of the latest developments; they have been issued with iPads to maintain control of our services and to report issues encountered operationally.To help ensure performance remains high, in addition to the Operations Control staff the garage have introduced Route Champions on each rota for Drivers, both experienced and new, to have a point of contact if they need guidance and support. This also helps transmit the garage vision of continually improving our operations in a supportive environment.
The company sees job progression as vital in sustaining performance levels and promoting team spirit, this is carried right the way through from Driver, Route Champion to Operations Controllers and Management. For example, all of the current managers have been promoted from within the driver/supervisor ranks.
Who could be nominated?
This award was open to garages that operate buses on contract to London Bus Services Ltd. Performance and monitoring data was used by TfL London Buses to compile a shortlist of garages reaching high levels of recorded performance, which included:
- Driver Quality Monitoring data
- Wheelchair ramp operational audit data
- Customer Satisfaction Survey and Mystery Traveller Survey results
- Lost Mileage
- Quality of Service Indicators
- Engineering standards
- Levels of public comments.
Each short listed garage was then challenged to submit its own assessment of its achievements, emphasising its impact on passenger service, staff well-being and the communities served by reference to specified issues.