South East

Kent Surrey and Sussex

UK Bus Operator of the Year sponsored by Arthur J Gallagher & QBE Insurance

Winner, Silver Award, - Brighton & Hove Bus and Coach Company

A combination of award-winning innovation, marketing campaigns and high operational standards has delivered a long record of outstanding growth in a congested city, winning genuine modal shift. Ninety percent of customers are satisfied with its bus services, according to Transport Focus results despite extensive city centre roadworks in recent months.

In a very close contest, the company scored very well indeed on the 'mystery travelling' and the judges felt that this mean that the Silver Award in this category was well-deserved.

Winner, Bronze Award - Safeguard Coaches

Family-owned Safeguard Coaches is a long-established operator in the town of Guildford in Surrey - heavily congested, with high levels of car ownership. Even so, the company impressed the judges by demonstrating year-on-year growth in passenger usage: this is being achieved by a continuous process of innovation and the delivery of quality in service with passion.

The judges were pleased that Safeguard's service quality was praised by the mystery travellers, helping to demonstrate that buses can and do play a vitally important role in providing a sustainable transport option in a congested county town such as Guildford.

Engineer of the Year sponsored by IRTE

Winner, Bronze Award, Frank Clasen - Brighton & Hove Bus and Coach Company

Frank Clasen started out life at Brighton & Hove Bus and Coach Company as an apprentice body shop fitter 26 years ago and is now able to lead his former colleagues with the natural ease of a man who knows how to deliver consistently strong results across a spectrum of outputs ranging from the ordinary to the downright extraordinary, earning himself a prestigious in-house award. He anticipates the needs of a job within the expectations of the business and the skills and resources of his team. Frank juggles his team's scheduled business and refurbishing buses with unscheduled and unpredictable need to repair buses damaged in serious accidents. One of Frank's greatest assets is his gift for communication; he breaks down a tasks, no matter how complex, into deliverable chunks he knows his team can understand. His natural style is empathetic and he motivates staff to enthuse and engage them in a project as much as he is. For example, the much-praised project of stripping a bus and refurbishing in it into a striking creative art project to celebrate the city's annual Fringe Festival. Over the last year, Frank led his team of 11 staff to achieve a redesign of three buses to include bike racks and two vehicles to accommodate disabled passengers and converting ramps from electronic to manual on six. It is no surprise that Go-Ahead's CEO David Brown recently presented Frank with Engineer of the Year award for 2014/15.

The judges were impressed by the remarkable level of achievement demonstrated by Frank and his modus operandi of communicating with, and motivating his team, while having to deal with some technically very challenging and wacky refurbishments.

Making Buses a Better Choice: the Peter Huntley Memorial Award sponsored by Heathrow Airport

Winner, Gold Award, Upgrade to the Fastway service - Metrobus

Metrobus' Fastway Rapid Transit is a 24-hour service principally for workers at Gatwick Airport and business commuters. Launched ten years ago, 2014/15 has seen dramatic improvements including a ú3m investment in the Fastway Upgrade which comprises guided busways, bus lanes and bus-only links, and high-spec infrastructure. The service is the result of a partnership between Metrobus, Gatwick Airport and four local authorities. The upgrade project was funded by Metrobus, with support from the other partners. To justify the ú3m which funded 18 new vehicles and continuing timetable improvement, Metrobus needed to increase patronage by 4% - in the first 12 months of introducing the new buses, patronage on both Fastway routes was up by 8% to over 4.2m passengers per annum.

The judges welcomed the explicit connection of the upgrade to passenger growth and that Metrobus, building on something that works, and setting sensible targets against which the scheme can be monitored. They also noted that the partnership remains strong.

Putting Passengers First sponsored by Euro Bus Expo

Winner, Gold Award, Accessible travel for our city - Brighton & Hove Bus and Coach Company

Brighton and Hove Bus Company's Accessible Travel for Our City scheme has won praise from user groups locally and nationally. A company-wide ethos of respect and empathy, and genuine engagement with users and expert groups, has resulted in a number of initatives such as 100% of the fleet offerring audio annoucements (which sit alongside more than 300 talking bus stops) and the Taxi Guarantee which offers a free accessible taxi to any wheelchair user who is unable to access the bus. All new drivers are trained to become Dementia Friends, bring the total to more than 350 across the staff. The Company's Access Team has also contributed to the design of new vehicles such as the floor colouring on the new Coaster fleet to minimise problems for people with dementia.

The judges felt that the scheme typifies overall, absolute commitment to passengers and that the approach has been built into the business not just as a standalone project.

Top City Operator sponsored by INIT Innovations

Winner, Gold Award, - Brighton & Hove Bus and Coach Company

Brighton & Hove Bus and Coach Company is proud of thinking and acting 'local', being embedded in the community and being in tune with Brighton and Hove's creative energy and green values. The company takes a lead as much as possible with partners in such a way as to encourage residents to get out of their cars and onto buses. Ninety percent of customers are satisfied with its bus services, according to Transport Focus results despite extensive city centre roadworks. Heavy focus on social media means Facebook followers have risen from 1,800 a year ago to 12,000 this year and 15 minute responses are aimed for compared to three days previously. The company enjoys 5% year on year passenger growth.

The judges praised Brighton & Hove for being very good at providing statistics and KPIs to evidence its entry. They also welcomed numerous initiatives on accessibility, and noted that the operator has also had a LEZ in the middle of the city to deal with.

Top National Bus Driver: the Chris Moyes Memorial Award sponsored by Traffilog

Winner, Silver Award, Denis McMahon - Abellio Surrey

Denis McMahon embodies an ideal customer-focused Abellio bus driver. He loves his job and always makes sure his customers have a safe and pleasant journey. Within one and a half years since joining the company in 2013, Denis has received an impressive 12 customer commendations and he is an inspiration to his colleagues, as well as being a credit to the bus industry. Praise from passengers includes: "Great guy! Charismatic and offers sweets to passengers!"; "Kindest most helpful driver you would meet; so says everyone on the bus" and "If there were more Denis-like people in this would, it would be a far happier place". Denis' driving skills are considered to be impeccable and mystery travelling feedback praised his friendliness, welcoming every passenger, as well as kneeling the bus until everyone was seated, smooth with gentle and progressive breaking, appropriate speed and very good use of interior and exterior mirror.

The judges were impressed by the all-round quality shown by Denis with driving skills matched by his customer service, noting the very passionate and supportive commendations he has received in a short space of time.

Finalist, Zachary Narvaez - Brighton & Hove Bus and Coach Company

Zachary Narvaez is no ordinary bus driver in the eyes of his employer, Brighton & Hove Bus and Coach Company. He epitomises the sort of professionalism and customer care the industry strives towards. Zachary cannot do enough for the bus service and his love of the industry is infectious. As well as being wonderful with customers, he strategically calculates all the aspects to add up to deliver a great overall bus service. When asked what makes him stand out, some colleagues say it's the way he is with customers and others the way he talks about getting more people on buses - as if he has a personal stake - or that he observes, respects and listens to colleagues as if a fine art. All agree he makes a difference, and at the young age of 20, when he's not driving, he hoovers up any information about how the business he works in so he can play his part in the delivering the best bus operation possible. When he works on the company's tour bus, he wins over passengers with a lively introduction and addresses them like a compere on a stage. He also volunteers for the company's charity scheme.

The judges were very impressed by Zachary's passion, not only for excelling in his driving, but for wanting to boost the business as a whole, and they look forward to his achievements in the industry in the future.

Top Independent Operator sponsored by Wrightbus

Winner, Gold Award, - Safeguard Coaches

Family-owned Safeguard Coaches says it is achieving year-on-year commercial bus patronage growth by continually innovating and delivering a quality service with passion day-in day-out. "We are increasingly demonstrating that buses have a vitally important role to play in providing a sustainable transport option for the congested county town of Guildford," it says.

The judges felt Safeguard is a long established, respected, family-run operation which uses professional marketing techniques, targeting young people, particularly 19 year olds. They noted that the company has not increased fares since 2010 and operates in an area which isn't necessarily suited to bus where there is high car ownership.

Finalist, - Compass Travel (Sussex)

Compass Travel says that it has had an exciting year, taking over additional local bus services from group operators in Brighton and Surrey whilst facing the challenges posed by heavy cutbacks in local authority support for bus services, notably in East Sussex. "Investment continues in all areas of the business," it says. "Compass still holds true to its core customer focus ethos and going the extra mile in service provision."

The judges noted that Compass serves tendered routes on a commercial basis.

Top National Bus Depot sponsored by Personal Group

Winner, Silver Award, Crawley - Metrobus

Metrobus registered a commercial network in Crawley in 2001 when the existing operator declared that operations in the town were unviable. The last 14 years have seen unprecedented growth, investment in fleet, depot infrastructure and new technology. The company says it is now "an integral part of life in Sussex, Surrey and Kent, with an enviable reputation for quality, investment and customer service."

The judges noted that Metrobus' Crawley depot is in a challenging operating area and remains a good depot, where complaints have decreased and punctuality has risen. The judges were also encouraged to see a lot of training is being carried out in a small depot.

Top Shire Operator sponsored by Ticketer

Finalist, - Metrobus

Metrobus registered a commercial network in Crawley in 2001 when the existing operator declared that operations in the town were unviable. The last 14 years have seen unprecedented growth, investment in fleet, depot infrastructure and new technology. The company is an integral part of life in Sussex, Surrey and Kent, with an enviable reputation for quality, investment and customer service. Metrobus has seen patronage growth of 110% between 2001 and 2013 in Crawley and the bus services serving Gatwick Airport. Over 13,000 passenger journeys are made using the key smartcard each weekday and 3,000 tickets are sold a week on its app. Year on year growth is currently 4.3%. Metrobus prides itself on its empowerment of staff who are trusted to carry out responsibilities to the full which has lead to management being very pro-active and who have a passion for the company and its service.

The judges felt Metrobus is almost the unsung heroes of the industry, which is very good commercially and operationally over a large coverage area of Surrey, Kent and Sussex. Due to Gatwick Airport, it is one of the few operators that offer 24/7 telephone service and in Crawley, where previous operators have walked away, it has made operations a success. It is the first to bring out a rail/bus smartcard.

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