East Anglia

Bus and the Community Award 

Specially Commended, First Essex supporting Michael Birch and Essex Air Ambulance - First Essex

In September last year, First Essex bus driver Michael Birch suffered life threatening injuries after a lorry carrying a 15 tonne steam engine spilled its load crushing the bus. Twenty three passengers were injured, but none more so than Michael who was left with very severe life threatening injuries and was rushed to hospital by the Essex Air Ambulance. Fortunately, he is making a good recovery and is expected to return to work in a few months. Michael's colleagues initially rallied around Michael and his family, and then at Micheal's request, focussed their efforts on fundraising for the air ambulance which Michaels credits with saving his life. First Essex has now adopted the Essex and Herts Air Ambulance Trust as its local charity.

The judges thoughts were with Michael and his family and wish him well on his recovery. The support from First Essex and his colleagues was noted and their fund raising efforts will no doubt help the air ambulance in its vital work.

Top National Bus Driver: the Chris Moyes Memorial Award

Finalist, Michal Kudla - First Essex

Michal Kudla has been a bus driver with First Essex for seven and a half years. He is reliable and is always immaculately dressed and his skills as a driver are excellent. Michal is committed to providing his passengers with the best possible customer service and has the best Drive Green score across First Essex, in fact, across the whole of the UK, he has the third best score. Michal's positive approach to driving and customer service is outstanding. He has worked on the Chelmer Valley Park & Ride service since it opened in April 2011 and has played a key role in helping develop the route into a sustainable and popular service. Michal is an exceptional employee who has excelled at all levels in his role as a bus driver.

The judges noted Michal's excellent Drive Green scores, which will give his passengers a smooth and safe ride, as well as his exemplary customer service skills that include giving every passenger a warm welcome onboard the vehicle. He makes sure his service is reliable and punctual and he had received many customer commendations. He's the sort of driver that you want in your depot.

Top Independent Operator 

Finalist, - Uno Buses (Northampton)

Uno Buses (Northampton) Ltd, which trades under the Uno brand name, is a new bus business started four years. It is a joint venture between the Universities of Northampton and Hertfordshire and follows the Uno principles and mission in that it serves the university's travel needs but also dovetails with the travel needs of the local community and adds to the local public transport resource - a virtuous circle. It was started with eight buses and now operates 25, and has integrated the transport requirements of local further education colleges. Five brand new buses were added to the fleet this year, and an m-ticketing mobile app was launched in the summer. Also over the summer, wifi was fitted to the whole fleet.

Mirroring the successful model begun by the University of Hertfordshire, the judges noted that the newer Northampton operation is building on its success and improving its offering to its passengers. They also appreciated that staff travel regularly as mystery shoppers to monitor the service.

Top National Bus Depot sponsored by Personal Group

Winner, Silver Award, Fenstanton - Stagecoach East

Stagecoach East's Fenstanton depot houses 50 vehicles, many of which operate on the Cambridge Guided Busway for part of their route. Around three quarters of the fleet are modern Euro 5 and 6 buses with leather seats, USB and power sockets and free wifi. The depot is focussed on recycling as much as possible and helps promote green thinking within the local community throughout the year. One of Fenstanton's greatest attributes is its team spirit. Having been under the same management for the past 40 years there is a strong sense of commitment and respect among drivers, engineers, managers and all staff. The proportion of drivers who transfer in is far greater than the average depot. Although the majority of drivers are recruited as current licence holders Fenstanton still pride itself on its high level of driver training and its 100% new driver PCV pass rate. All new drivers are allocated specific driving mentors, selected for their driving standards and ability to teach others. Drivers who drive on the Guided Busway are given an additional two weeks training to ensure they can handle the variation in driving technique and increased customer service which is expected. This mentor system immediately instils a sense of support which can be felt within the depot. There is an active social scene, part of which includes a Golf Society which arranges annual trips away.

The judges noted the low lost mileage figure, despite difficult traffic conditions in Cambridge. There is good infrastructure int he area, including the guided busway, which the judges noted is being utilised for short trips to improve journey times and reliability. Schemes such as reducing the cost of the day ticket by the same amount as the local authority increased the parking charge, was seen to be of great benefit to customers.

Unsung Heroes Award sponsored by Backhouse Jones

UKBA Special Commendation for Outstanding Service, Joe Somers - Stagecoach East

Joe Somers joined the bus industry in 1960 as a conductor because he was to young to be a driver, an ambition he fulfilled four years later. And in 1991 he became the first bus driver to pass the Institute of Advanced Motorists driving test in a double deck bus. He then went on to hold various roles at what eventually came Stagecoach East in Peterborough until starting his current role as Revenue Inspector and Customer Relations Officer ten years ago. Joe has also been involved with schools in the area promoting good bus etiquette, and investigating any issues or complaints on behalf of the schools. Although Joe works on a part time basis at the moment he still spends countless hours out of his personal time promoting the company and the benefits of public transport. Undeterred by his age Joe can still be found in full uniform carrying out his revenue inspecting on a Saturday afternoon.

The judges noted that Joe has devoted his working life to the bus industry, and clearly enjoys promoting the use of public transport and helping others make the most of it. He unwavering enthusiasm over many years makes him an Unsung Hero.

Young Manager of the Year sponsored by Chartered Institute of Logisitics & Transport

Specially Commended, Matthew Elsey - First Essex

Matthew Elsey manages the Stores function for First Essex, initially for the Chelmsford depot, and after doing such a good job, he now manages Stores across all First Essex depots. Matthew's positive attitude and confident management style engages and focusses his team. He empowers them and encourages them to involved in all tasks. His theory is that a manager is only as good as his team, so teamwork is the key to achieving targets. Matthew has put into place an organised and disciplined working environment with control measure to maximise productivity and efficiency. A recent stock check by external auditors of more than 9,000 items showed 100% compliance. In fact First Essex is top of the league across all First Bus companies for operational compliance, which is largely down to Matthew's hard work. Matthew's Stores function is considered the exemplar across First Bus in the UK.

The judges were very impressed with what Matthew has achieved. He is ambitious and deserves great credit for for identifying a career path for himself. He can see the big picture, and understand how important the Stores function is to the smooth running of other departments in the garage and has made it efficient and cost effective whilst building a string team around him to ensure that systems are run properly. In view of his special effort and achievement, the judges wanted to award Matthew a Special Commendation.

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