Making Buses a Better Choice

The Peter Huntley Memorial Award

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Peter Huntley had a long career in public transport, working in transport co-ordination for local authorities, as a consultant at The TAS Partnership, as a journalist and writer, and as an inspirational managing director of a bus company, Go North East, between 2006 and 2011. He was tragically killed in a climbing accident in February 2012 at the age of 55.

Peter helped to found the UK Bus Awards in 1995 and we have dedicated this award in his memory as the category that best represents the breadth of his interests and his passion for excellence.

About the Award

This Award is designed to recognise and reward initiatives, projects or innovations which add value to, or improve the attractiveness of, bus services – primarily by reducing the generalised cost of bus travel.

The judges will be looking for a scheme, project or partnership that achieved one or more of the following:

  • improved the provision of an existing bus service
  • improved passenger facilities on an existing bus service
  • provided a genuinely innovative new service
  • improved services through new infrastructure or facilities giving faster and/or more reliable journeys.

Winner, Gold Award

Cityzap - Transdev Blazefield

Cityzap is an innovative concept in intercity bus travel by developing an 'intelligent' non-stop interurban bus service between Leeds and York. Drivers use Garmin sat-nav equipment (branded as Zap-Nav!), programmed to avoid low bridges and routes unsuitable for large vehicles, to choose the fastest route based on the current traffic conditions. They also underwent enhanced customer service training, empowering them to not only choose the route, but upgrade customers to weekly tickets and promote other bus offers as well as give a refund if a passenger is unhappy. Branded high specification vehicles with leather seats, USB power points and free wifi are used on the service which has exceeded its passenger forecast targets and achieved passenger satisfaction scores of 5/5.

The judges considered this to be a truly innovative scheme, not only exploiting technology in a way not used before on buses, but also in handing over the power to select the route to the driver. Good marketing and relationship building has produced excellent ridership from what are all new customers. A very worthy Gold Winner.

Winner, Silver Award

Leopard and Lion - Reading Buses

Having identified growing housing and economic activity to the south and east of Reading, Reading buses took the opportunity to expand its network beyond Reading into Wokingham and Bracknell. Former route 144 was put out to tender by Wokingham Borough Council, and having won the tender, Reading Buses re-branded the route as Leopard, utilising six new gas buses with high quality interiors and free wifi, resulting in year-on-year passenger growth of 56%. The newly re-branded Lion service, meanwhile, runs between Bracknell, Wokingham and Reading. Eight 'heavily refurbished like new' electric-hybrid vehicles have been employed, and together with an enhanced timetable running later in the evening and doubling the Sunday frequency, has increased ridership by 52% - and 231% on Sundays!

By extending its network to the surrounding area, Reading Buses can tap into potential new customers in major residential areas. The judges noted the company's consistent approach to improvement has enabled it to produce signifcant increases in passenger numbers on these two routes, which is even more impressive given the very high car ownership in the area.

Winner, Bronze Award

Two Stars in Two Months - bluestar

Over the space of two months last autumn, bluestar launched two new services to communities that that had been left without a viable local transport option, due to competitor services that had been severely reduced or withdrawn. Research showed a need for an alternative bus service to Southampton hospital, so the Bluestar 17 was introduced running from 0520 to 2330 with a peak frequency of 15 minutes, making it popular with staff as well as visitors. Meanwhile, residents of Sholing were left without public transport into Woolston and Southampton. Understanding the distrust for transport providers, Bluestar 7 utilises a team of hand-picked drivers with the best customer service record on a dedicated rota, and wearing name badges so that customers can easily become acquainted with a friendly, recognisable face. After initial passenger growth of 33% in the first three months, patronage has continued to grow at a steady 13%.

The judges cited these two routes as good examples of how making improvements and going out and selling the services can reap rewards, even in a very difficult operating area. The use of drivers dedicated to a route was noted and overall the judges thought the two services to be good examples of making buses a better choice.


Eclipse - Driving Up Expectations - First Hampshire & Dorset

The South Hampshire Bus Rapid Transit is a pioneering partnership project developed by Hampshire County Council with Solent Transport and First Bus, which links Fareham and Gosport with a dedicated busway built on the route of a disused railway. In its four years of operation, passenger journeys have grown to over two million a year and the scheme has encouraged significant modal shift with 20% of passengers being former car users, taking advantage of the shorter journey times than by car. The Eclipse services that use the busway are a shining example of a partnership working not just for passengers, but for the local economy. A KPMG/Greener Journeys study showed that for every £1 invested in the scheme, Eclipse is delivering £6.94 of benefits to bus users, non-users and the wider economy. This year First Bus will be investing £3m in a fleet of 17 new high specification vehicles for the Eclipse services.

The judges liked this mature entry with a proven track record of continued passenger growth over a number of years and modal shift from the car. They were also pleased to see the continued commitment of First Bus with its investment in new vehicles.

The Castles Express - Go North East

Go North East's Castles Express is the new brand for interurban bus service linking Bishop Auckland, Durham, Chester-le-Street and Newcastle. New high specification branded vehicles with leather seats, power sockets, free wifi, next stop announcements and four tables on the upper deck have been introduced along with a slightly revised route producing much increased reliability. Passenger and revenue growth has been between 11% and 13% against the same week the previous year.

The judges considered this to be an excellent example of turning around an existing service with resultant growth in passenegr numbers and revenue. The distinctive branding makes it clear where the vehicles are going and sit alongside other sucessful branded routes Go North East operates.

South West Falcon - Stagecoach South West

Stagecoach's South West Falcon is a 24/7 coach service connecting Plymouth, Exeter, Taunton, Bristol Airport and Bristol City Centre. It was launched withe ú2.5m in February with eight high specification coaches featuring free wifi, power sockets and leather seats. The Falcon is a stand-alone brand, and through intensive marketing, it has generated a high level of awareness exceeded passenger and revenue targets. It is particularly popular with Bristol airport customers, day trippers, theatre and concerts attendees, students and commuters as well as the weekend break market.

The judges noted that Stagecoach has done an excellent job in turning around and improving the service, and most importantly, going out and selling it. With the passenger growth from regional airports, the judges considered it is good to see that a bus company is taking advantage of this as well as building passenger numbers in and out of Bristol.

Goldline 212 - Translink

The 212 route links Northern Ireland's two largest cities - Belfast and Derry. Starting in April 1991 with just one bus and two return journeys per day, the service now operates with a peak frequency of every 15 minutes over a 19 hour day. The 212 has become one of Translink's major success stories with consistent passenger growth. The timetable was expanded in response to customer demand, and the introduction of 12 new high specification wheelchair accessible coaches this year has added capacity and increased comfort. Route development has enabled punctuality to increase to 98% and reliability to 99.8%, making the service popular with commuters - allowing them to reach either city centre before 0830 - as well as being heavily utilised by students and tourists

Although replicating what has been done elsewhere in the UK, the judges were pleased to note continued passenger growth over a long period and a positive response by Translink to increase capacity and passenger comfort.

Who could be nominated?

Entries were welcomed from operators, authorities and others specifying and securing services, partnerships and tourist agencies.

… and by whom?

Nominations were accepted from all eligible organisations and self-nomination was acceptable.

Criteria and Entry Requirements

The judges were looking for entries which added value to, or otherwise improved, bus services by making them faster, more efficient, offered improved passenger facilities or enabled operators to provide a better service. Decisions were based on the quality of the submissions made and the extent to which they addressed the criteria.

Note that where schemes had equal or equivalent merit, the final determinants were the nature and extent of improvements for customers and the degree of priority accorded to buses.

Entry submissions needed therefore to:

  • Describe the services or schemes involved.
  • Describe the objectives set for the initiative.
  • Describe how the needs of existing and potential additional passengers, including those with mobility difficulties, were met
  • Describe any environmental benefits and show how any environmental impacts were minimised
  • State whether a partnership was involved. This may include service specification and financing and any interested bodies, including local authorities, local bus operators and other commercial organisations or user, leisure and tourist representative groups
  • Describe how:
    • needs and potential needs were assessed, including details of market evaluation and customer research
    • potential customers were informed of the improved or new product(s)
    • interest in, or desire for, the product(s) was assessed
    • customers’ access to the product(s) was facilitated.
  • Indicate the methods used to measure:
    • the progress made towards meeting the objectives
    • overall patronage
    • the impact of promotional campaigns before, during and after the initiative
  • State whether any subsequent changes were made as a result of the monitoring
  • Supply statistical evidence showing the results of the initiative in terms of patronage, revenue or other appropriate indicators and modal shift.
  • State whether the results are likely to be sustainable
  • Describe any future plans for further development
  • Include any relevant supporting material.


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