South East

Bus and the Community Award sponsored by

Winner, Gold Award

Helping Hand - Brighton & Hove Bus and Coach Company

Helping Hand is considered to be the best assistive information card available, and was developed by Brighton & Hove Bus and Coach Company. It is now used widely by other bus operators in surrounding areas, and the deliberately unbranded cards are also used in cinemas and shops as far afield as the continent. The card's bespoke messages don't label the customer's condition (unless they wish it to) but instead focus on the type of help needed such as 'Please be patient if I'm confused'. The company is working with Government to see if it's possible to roll the scheme out across the country.

"Brilliant!" was the way the judges enthusiastically received this entry. Brighton and Hove Bus and Coach Company has shown how the bus industry can be a leader and has developed something with wide appeal beyond buses. Exemplary engagement with organisations and the local community has allowed person-led development which it is hoped will be adopted across the country. The judges considered Helping Hand to be a very worthy Gold Winner.

Top Independent Operator

Winner, Bronze Award

Compass Travel (Sussex)

Based in Worthing, West Sussex, Compass Travel continues to grow its bus business and is growing patronage on both urban and rural routes. It has a strong customer focus ethos, and despite the difficult climate which has seen a number of well established independent companies fail in the past year, continues to invest heavily in both its fleet and workforce. A new partnership with the organisers of the Wings and Wheels events at Dunsfold Aerodrome will result in the provision of a bus service on a permanent basis so that people can attend the event using public transport. Compass also provides five double deck shuttle buses at the Aerodrome between the car park and studio hanger where BBC Top Gear is recorded. The partnership with Brighton & Hove City Council and Brighton & Hove Bus and Coach Company means that Compass is now accepting Keycard and M tickets issued by the Brighton operator, which is thought to be the first such arrangement involving an independent operator. It is a major advance for passengers in the area by providing flexibility of travel. Real time travel information has been extended throughout Brighton & Hove on Compass routes and will shortly be extended to routes in East Sussex. The company believes in empowering employees to offer excellent customer service. They are given considerable latitude and flexibility to work with customers which provides high staff motivation. Compass will post, free of charge, copies of its area timetable booklets and the company has a policy of reimbursement of taxi fares should a passenger incur this expenditure through a bus breakdown or similar. A further eight new buses have been added to the fleet this year as part of the continuing investment.

The judges noted that Compass Travel is going from strength to strength, picking up routes from other operators and making a commercial success of tendered routes. It is expanding across a large geographical area, but is still maintaining its high standards and facilities like expansion of its real time information service will be appreciated by customers.

Top National Bus Depot sponsored by Personal Group

Winner, Bronze Award

Crawley - Metrobus

Metrobus started operating from its Crawley Depot in 2001 when the existing operator declared that operations in the town unviable. The last 15 years have seen unprecedented growth, investment in fleet, depot infrastructure and new technology. The depot has an enviable reputation for quality, investment and customer service and now houses a fleet of 145 vehicles. Currently 20 are fitted with audio next stop announcements and the aim is to have the entire fleet fitted by the end of the year.

The judges thought this was a very good operation in an area that is difficult for recruiting staff. The flexible working arrangements for staff with a young family were also noted.

Top Shire Operator sponsored by Ticketer

Winner, Silver Award

Metrobus

Metrobus registered a commercial network in Crawley in 2001 when the existing operator declared that operations in the town were unviable. The last 15 years have seen unprecedented growth, investment in fleet, depot infrastructure and new technology. The company is now an integral part of life in Sussex, Surrey and Kent, with a reputation for quality, investment and customer service. Telephones are answered 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and Metrobus aims to reply to social media questions within 10 minutes. Free wifi is available on most of the fleet and 20 vehicles have screens that show train departures when approach stops at railway stations. Free morning newspapers are provided on all buses. The company works closely with Gatwick Airport and has increased two airport routes to 24 hour operation.

Metrobus has become renowned for creating an excellent and profitable service in an area deemed to be unviable by the previous operator, and the judges were pleased to see that there has been continuous improvement and innovation while consistently running services on time and good drivers. A 24/7 telephone service is exceptional and reflects the company's commitment to customer service.

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