The Overcoming Adversity Award is an occasional series of commendations which the UK Bus Awards Management Committee makes for companies, organisations or individuals who have coped well with a difficult situation and helped the travelling public under difficult circumstances.
For 2016, the Committee made two such awards, which are described below. You can watch a short video about them by CLICKING HERE.
Stagecoach East Scotland – The Forth Road Bridge Emergency
On a normal weekday Stagecoach East Scotland runs some 365 service journeys across the Forth Road Bridge, part of the 22 million plus vehicles a year that the 52 year old structure now - providing a vital north-south link between the Lothians and Fife.
On Tuesday 1st December 2015, a fault was discovered on part of the bridge that supports the carriageway. A contraflow system was immediately introduced to allow for emergency inspection, after which, during Thursday 3rd, it was decided to close the bridge completely until repairs could be carried out.
When this happens, the nearest alternative crossing is at Kincardine, fifteen miles upstream, which results in an extra journey of nearly 50 miles, much of it on congested, single carriageway roads. At this stage, the duration of the closure was unknown but from that point onwards, Stagecoach management were involved with the emergency planning process alongside Transport Scotland, Police, the Bridge Authorities, the Scottish Cabinet and the First Minister.
By Monday morning, Stagecoach had assembled staff and vehicles to operate additional special shuttle services every 20 minutes from three Fife Park and Ride sites to Edinburgh via the diversionary route. A fleet of 32 extra vehicles was arranged with loans from other parts of the group as far away as Wales and the Midlands. 65 drivers, managers and supervisors were loaned from Glasgow, Newcastle, Manchester, Liverpool and the Midlands, whilst a closed depot at Cowdenbeath was reopened and made operational once again. Other tasks included route learning, fitting ticket machines, allocating duties to staff, fuelling, cleaning, maintaining and servicing vehicles and on top of it all finding accommodation for loan drivers – all in three days flat!
The route via Kincardine was designated a bus priority route manned by police to ensure as fast a journey as possible, and the existing Express City Connect network was rescheduled to use the same route. The services were run successfully, with some modification, until the bridge reopened on 23rd December – after a huge effort by the engineering team in the teeth of some very severe weather.
Every part of the Stagecoach East Scotland team pulled together, with drivers accepting last minute changes to duties, supervisors juggling ever-changing schedules, engineers staffing and maintaining an additional depot on top of normal fleet requirements, customer services and marketing teams trying to keep everyone up to date with the latest information, managers shuttling loan drivers to and from hotels, organising route learning for loan drivers, managing their own depots and assisting with all the other administration required to keep everything legal.
The UK Bus Awards Management Committee felt that this huge effort by staff and managers at Stagecoach East Scotland was fully deserving of a Special Commendation. Their hard work meant that Scotland could be kept moving during the three weeks of severe disruption caused by the emergency closure.
Stagecoach Cumbria & North Lancashire – The 555 Shuttle Service
After record rainfall throughout the autumn of 2015, the arrival of Storm Desmond on 4th and 5th December wrought havoc throughout northern England and southern Scotland, with severe flooding and other damage. A record 16 inches (405 millimetres) of rain fell at Thirlmere in the Lake District over the 48 hours. One of the consequences was that the A591, the key north-south route between Kendal and Keswick, was severely damaged and almost completely washed away in places. This resulted in the complete closure of a key 3-mile stretch. The only alternative route entailed a drive to Kendal followed by a 15-mile long diversion via Penrith.
Stagecoach Cumbria & North Lancashire operates the local bus network, including the iconic 555 route along the A591 between Keswick and Kendal and then on to Lancaster. Immediately after the storm, extra services were provided from Kendal to Penrith to connect with the Penrith-Keswick service, but it was clear that something else had to be done. An alternative route was identified by Cumbria County Council using a narrow road on the western side of Thirlmere, and a forest track which was hurriedly upgraded and made suitable for buses with the installation of a tarmac surface and two bailey bridges.
The route was not suitable for the double deckers usually used on the 555, so alternative mini- and later midibuses were found, requiring additional drivers and special arrangements for crew reliefs and meal breaks in the village of Grasmere, 17 miles away from the home depot in Kendal.
The shuttle service between Grasmere and Keswick was introduced to local acclaim on 16th February, but was quickly overwhelmed by the demand, so capacity was increased by 64% by the 28th. A team of ten dedicated drivers, supported by other depot-based staff, manned the route - with extra customer-care staff stationed in Grasmere and Keswick. Special low fares of £5 a day and £20 a week were in force.
Between the opening of the special route in February and the reopening of the A591 on 11 May, the shuttle services carried over 44,000 passengers. It was acclaimed by the local community it served and helped to mitigate the damage to the local economy caused by Storm Desmond, at one stage estimated at £1m a day.
The UK Bus Awards Management Committee felt that this huge effort by staff and managers at Stagecoach Cumbria & North Lancashire was fully deserving of a Special Commendation. Their hard work and team effort meant that this connection in the Lake District could be opened up three months before the road repair could be completed. It has also demonstrated the positive role the bus plays in meeting the needs of the communities it serves.