New Horizons

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Technology and customer interests and expectations continue to develop at a rapid pace; the bus industry needs to embrace these changes, and react to the challenges coming from a changing mobility and social landscape.  The New Horizons Award is intended to be a showcase for creativity and innovation. As such, a successful nomination for this Award needs to demonstrate development of an original or novel idea, or the application of a technological solution, that achieves one or more of the following:

  • improves the image of the bus
  • stimulates interest in, or desire for, the bus product
  • improves the viability or efficiency of the industry

This Award will be made for the innovation or technological application which, in the opinion of the judges, most contributes to the improvement of the bus product. Evidence of quantification of the benefits achieved or expected is essential.

Please note that schemes which are designed to reduce or mitigate the environmental impact of the bus should be entered for the Environment Award.

Winner, Gold Award

CheckedSafe Walk Around App

Checkedsafe uses an app to enable drivers to carry out the mandatory daily walk round check. The data collected is GPS time, date and location stamped and cannot be tampered with. The data is sent to a back office system that allows transport managers to manage rectification and record actions in line with DVSA guidance. The system is DVSA compliant as it captures real time data. Developed from the point of view of a transport operator that found paper checks were difficult to enforce and monitor, this solution can eradicate non-compliance as required by the legislation. The system has had live paying customers for almost two years and reviews have been very good with users reporting savings in time and money and improved maintenance.

The judges were impressed with this solution to the problem of performing walk round safety checks. Its simple and easy to use format combines with the benefits of real time data. Drivers doing checks in the dark will benefit from an illuminated screen and torch facility. Although focussed on the maintainence side, anything that helps ensure that vehicles are fully roadworthy is of benefit to passengers. This entry was marked down for being over the word limit.

Winner, Silver Award

Traveline GB Journey Planner - Traveline Information

The Traveline GB journey planner allows users to plan door-to-door multi-modal journeys across England, Scotland and Wales with live bus times (where available) and timetable look up for every bus service. Available as a website and app, the new planner replaces the various regional travel planners in an updated and easier to use format. The planner is the result of listening to customers and stakeholders and has been delivered by a not for profit partnership between the bus industry, Local Authorities, passenger user groups, and the UK government.

The judges liked that there is now one national journey planning app and website which give true door-to-door, multi-modal and multi-operator travel information. The inclusion of real time bus information is a real benefit to users.

Winner, Bronze Award

claret spritzer - Reading Buses

Reading Buses' claret Spritzer is a new take on bus interiors and the overall travelling experience. Four older vehicles have been refurbished modern 'coffee-shop' feel including new moquette, wood-effect flooring, silver hand-poles and graphics to the rear and staircase area, enticing customers to "come upstairs, it's out of this world" and iconic scenes from around-the-world. The upper-decks have been remodelled into three zones - study, play and lounge - which include table seating, a library and Lego, and the vehicles have free wifi and USB charging points. Whilst a novel idea for the target market, claret Spritzer has helped improve the image of buses, stimulated interest and desire for travel and improved the efficient deployment of the company's fleet - all transferable industry ideas and learning. Reading Buses has worked partnership with Reading University to place the buses as a highly visible travel option, growing the student market as well as customers across the whole route, resulting in 17% passenger growth.

The judges thought that whilst some of the highly innovative ideas could be seen as a little gimmicky, the whole project has been backed up with sound financial savings in operating cost as well as creating a huge public relations opportunity, which the company was well positioned to exploit. Involvement of customers in what was desired was noted, and creating travel demand from this demographic was seen to be very positive.


Employee App - First Aberdeen

In August last year First Aberdeen unveiled a new way to communicate with its 500+ employees - the Better Journeys for Life (BJFL) app. Born out of a need to communicate more efficiently with all staff - particularly drivers which are a traditionally remote and difficult to reach group - more than 70% of the workforce now use the app on a regular basis. The annual internal staff survey in 2014 identified that colleagues wanted increased levels of communication through convenient and more interactive methods. It was recognised that established forms of communication such as the staff magazine and noticeboards had extremely low readership, so there was a recognition that a faster and more efficient way of communication was required, and an app seemed to fit the bill. The BJFL app contains news, route diversions, driver duty sheets and a regular video blog by Managing Director David Phillips. The app allows instant and dynamic communication via push notifications and has now been established as a handy tool for colleagues to plan their lives and check vital information. The exceptionally high download rate and positive feedback has cemented it as a permanent fixture within Aberdeen, and has been so successful that there are plans to develop apps in other businesses within FirstGroup including First Student, Greyhound, the UK rail division and across First Bus.

The judges agreed that the employees rarely read noticeboards so this seems a useful tool for employees with smartphones and tablets. Anything that improves the channels of communication between staff can only be a good thing. Whilst some employees may not currently have access to a smartphone or tablet, this will change in the future. The entry was marked down for being over the word limit.

Nerve Centre Revolution - Go North East

Codenamed the Nerve Centre Revolution, Go North East has centralised its three control rooms into one Service Delivery Centre which harnesses the latest technology to provide upto date information for its customers through a mobile phone app and social media. All 650 vehicles in the fleet are now tracked in real time and calls from drivers are now answered in an a average of eight seconds compared with three minutes previously. Partnerships have been strengthened with local authorities and the team now have access to 125 CCTV cameras and will soon have a member of staffed based at Tyne and Wear Urban Traffic Management Control. Using real time tracking to identify blockages is allowing re-routing to bring increased reliability. The Quaylink service now has 95% of buses on time, up from 79%.

The judges were pleased to not the benefits that the new centre brings to customers by increasing reliability and providing real time information. Better internal communication, particularly with drivers, was also noted.

The Transport for Edinburgh App - Lothian Buses

The Transport for Edinburgh (TfE) smartphone app brings together Lothian Buses and tram information in one place, and together with its connected ticketing app, allows users to buy m-tickets. The Travel Information app has been downloaded over 410,000 times and is used by an average of 30,000 people a day. In addition to journey planning, the app allows users to share their journey while blind and partially sighted users can have any part of the app spoken, including next stop announcements and walking directions to a bus or tram stop. With the app installed, a customer can point their smartphone at a tram or bus stop and the name of the stop and where services go from there is announced. Almost 10,000 m-tickets are used each day and the app allows customers to transfer an m-ticket to another customer's smartphone.

The judges recognised that the app and its associated ticketing app contain many useful features, such as the ability to transfer an m-ticket to another user, and that tram and Lothian Buses information is included, though not all bus operators in Edinburgh. Whilst in theory a single m-ticket can be bought, which would be useful for a visitor to the city, there is a minimum app transaction charge of ú10. The app has clearly been successful for regular travellers.

E-paper bus stops - Transport for London

Real Time Information is the life-blood of a metropolitan transport network, and despite the rise in personalised services and smartphone apps, the demand for signage on street remains high. Although TfL's Live Bus Arrivals system gives arrival information for more than 19,000 bus stops via the internet, text message, application program interface as well as over 2,500 on-street countdown signs in bus shelters, it is not practical to install these signs at every stop. Using e-paper displays similar to those used on e-book readers allows easy fitting to existing stops and the reading clarity of paper. A tiny amount of power is used to change the display and power the 3G communication system which can be provided by a small solar panel and battery mounted on the stop. This allows for real time countdown alongside timetable, and any other information, to be displayed instantly. The first trial started a bus stop in Waterloo in November last year and seven more trial locations have been added this year with a the results expected next year.

Whilst this system is a new and innovative use for e-paper technology, the judges thought that it was much too early in the scheme to make a judgement on its viability long term and would welcome an entry in a future year when the outcomes of the trial sites are known and a decision has been made about its rollout. However, recognising the innovation, and its potential use in other areas of bus transport, the judges thought that the project should be included in the list of finalists this year.

Who could be nominated?

This category was open to industry suppliers, operators and authorities either separately or in conjunction with one another. 

… and by whom?

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

Criteria and Entry Requirements

Entries will be judged on the basis of the quality of the submissions which need to:

  • Provide a full description of the project, describing how it works and how it was introduced
  • Explain how has it made a difference
  • Supply evidence of the overall trend(s) affected by the project, as appropriate, in:
    • patronage/revenue 
    • customer satisfaction
    • cost and efficiency levels
  • State whether the results are likely to be sustainable
  • Describe any future plans for further development
  • Include any relevant supporting material
  • Describe how the impact of the project was measured
  • Describe how staff were informed and trained and the impact, if any, that the project has had on their jobs
  • State whether any partners were involved and, if so, describe their roles 
  • Describe the mechanisms put in place for public consultation (where appropriate) and for dealing with comment and feedback.

Entrants should note that judges will be expect to be able to view and try any technological solutions or applications for themselves as part of the evaluation process where practicable, and provision should be made in the entry for them to do so.

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