South of England
Environment sponsored by Volvo Bus
Winner, Gold Award
To 'planet Reading' and beyond! - Reading Buses
Building on Reading Buses' investments in bio-gas and hybrid-electric vehicles the company has now placed an order for the world's first five Scania gas double-deckers, without funding support. The company is also investing in micro-hybrids and projects to re-engineer early hybrid buses with innovative new MagTec and Vantage powertrains. However, through its 'planet Reading' strategy, the company promotes high environmental awareness in all areas of the business. Some of the initiatives include; more than 200 solar panels on the depot roof saves 26 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, there is extensive cycle parking and a cycle to work scheme, green parking bays are provided for employees who car share, there is priority parking for the top DriveWell bus drivers, two thirds of office waste is recycled, and the gas fuel comes from a carbon neutral and sustainable source.
Reading Buses' commitment to reducing its environment impact runs throughout its business. The judges noted that the company has been at the forefront of gas bus technology, whilst also investing in electric-hybrid vehicles and retro-fitting older vehicles to become more environmentally friendly, making it a worthy Gold Winner in this category.
Making Buses a Better Choice: the Peter Huntley Memorial Award
sponsored by Heathrow Airport
Winner, Silver Award
Leopard and Lion - Reading Buses
Having identified growing housing and economic activity to the south and east of Reading, Reading buses took the opportunity to expand its network beyond Reading into Wokingham and Bracknell. Former route 144 was put out to tender by Wokingham Borough Council, and having won the tender, Reading Buses re-branded the route as Leopard, utilising six new gas buses with high quality interiors and free wifi, resulting in year-on-year passenger growth of 56%. The newly re-branded Lion service, meanwhile, runs between Bracknell, Wokingham and Reading. Eight 'heavily refurbished like new' electric-hybrid vehicles have been employed, and together with an enhanced timetable running later in the evening and doubling the Sunday frequency, has increased ridership by 52% - and 231% on Sundays!
By extending its network to the surrounding area, Reading Buses can tap into potential new customers in major residential areas. The judges noted the company's consistent approach to improvement has enabled it to produce signifcant increases in passenger numbers on these two routes, which is even more impressive given the very high car ownership in the area.
Winner, Bronze Award
Two Stars in Two Months - bluestar
Over the space of two months last autumn, bluestar launched two new services to communities that that had been left without a viable local transport option, due to competitor services that had been severely reduced or withdrawn. Research showed a need for an alternative bus service to Southampton hospital, so the Bluestar 17 was introduced running from 0520 to 2330 with a peak frequency of 15 minutes, making it popular with staff as well as visitors. Meanwhile, residents of Sholing were left without public transport into Woolston and Southampton. Understanding the distrust for transport providers, Bluestar 7 utilises a team of hand-picked drivers with the best customer service record on a dedicated rota, and wearing name badges so that customers can easily become acquainted with a friendly, recognisable face. After initial passenger growth of 33% in the first three months, patronage has continued to grow at a steady 13%.
The judges cited these two routes as good examples of how making improvements and going out and selling the services can reap rewards, even in a very difficult operating area. The use of drivers dedicated to a route was noted and overall the judges thought the two services to be good examples of making buses a better choice.
Eclipse - Driving Up Expectations - First Hampshire & Dorset
The South Hampshire Bus Rapid Transit is a pioneering partnership project developed by Hampshire County Council with Solent Transport and First Bus, which links Fareham and Gosport with a dedicated busway built on the route of a disused railway. In its four years of operation, passenger journeys have grown to over two million a year and the scheme has encouraged significant modal shift with 20% of passengers being former car users, taking advantage of the shorter journey times than by car. The Eclipse services that use the busway are a shining example of a partnership working not just for passengers, but for the local economy. A KPMG/Greener Journeys study showed that for every ú1 invested in the scheme, Eclipse is delivering ú6.94 of benefits to bus users, non-users and the wider economy. This year First Bus will be investing ú3m in a fleet of 17 new high specification vehicles for the Eclipse services.
The judges liked this mature entry with a proven track record of continued passenger growth over a number of years and modal shift from the car. They were also pleased to see the continued commitment of First Bus with its investment in new vehicles.
The Award for Marketing Initiative of the Year sponsored by Passenger Transport
Winner, Silver Award, King's City - Stagecoach South
Having run buses in Winchester for almost 30 years, Stagecoach South identified passenger growth could be attained by creating a brand and identity for the local bus network that resonated with local sensibilities, appealing to both residents and visitors and making sure that the bus felt like 'a cut above' as well as making improvements to the network and timetables and thus change the perception of bus travel. King's City is the new name and new look for Winchester's local bus network with easy to read timetables and maps, online travel planning and better rail connections at Winchester station. A new fleet of new Euro6 vehicles with free wifi, USB charging points and next stop announcement are now in use with an eye catching claret and champagne livery.
"A very well done network re-launch with real passion," said the judges. Stagecoach South identified the weaknesses in its services and fixed them, along with a significant investment in a new fleet and an engaging local livery. The judges noted that the company got its staff on onboard as well as a wide range of local stakeholders and created a high profile launch event.
First Southampton Paints the City Red - First Hampshire & Dorset
Red is Southampton's civic colour and was the livery of the city's corporation buses. To continue this tradition, in 2013 First Southampton began re-introducing red buses on some of its most popular, high frequency routes. The marketing campaign used a range of channels to make the City Red the "prefer-red" public transport service in Southampton, and passenger numbers have increased substantially on the five routes that have been rebranded so far.
The judges were pleased to see the reinvigoration of the Southampton network and noted the substantial increases in passenger numbers as a result.
New Horizons Award sponsored by Institute of Road Transport Engineers
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.
Putting Passengers First sponsored by Euro Bus Expo
Winner, Gold Award
Enabling tomorrow's customers today - Reading Buses
Reading Buses has adopted a tailored focus on young people, recognising them as the commuting and leisure customers of the future. The company identified young people as being the biggest growth market for bus travel and are arguably where Reading Buses has the best opportunity to attract and retain users. Whilst always providing a strong a multi-generational offer, the company aims to convert and retain young people by providing transport that meet needs in their formative years, before their travel behaviours mature and cement, including car ownership. Clear branding and discounted ticketing (Solo), a dedicated school bus network (Silver stars) and a student-focussed University bus (Claret spritzer) have been provided and marketed through social media and interactive approaches to engage and communicate. The results are clear with 68% more Solo customers in four years and 17% more customers on claret University services.
The judges were impressed with Reading Buses' approach, clearly defining what it wanted to achieve, and proper measurement of the outcome. The company has successfully targetted the demographic that is traditionally the most difficult to please with a combination of appropriate, branded vehicles, attractive ticketing options and marketing through the channels most appropriate to the target customers. A good example of putting passengers first and a worthy Gold Winner.
Top National Bus Driver: the Chris Moyes Memorial Award
Winner, Gold Award, Dave Forrester - Southern Vectis
"What a joy to work with this young man," enthuses bus driver Dave Forrester's employer, Southern Vectis. "Not only is he the consummate professional, he is also fun to have around with never a bad word to say about anybody and never a complaint about him from our customers or his co-workers." Dave started with Southern Vectis in 2011 as a network bus driver, quickly learning all the routes across the Isle of Wight. The following year he applied to work on the prestigious seasonal open top services, and with his excellent record and enthusiastic personality, he was a great hit with tourists who also appreciated his encyclopedic knowledge of the island and its many attractions - both man made and created by nature. Dave used his layover to actively engage with passing tourists and persuaded them to travel. His hard work was demonstrated by an increase in sales when he was on duty. Dave has turned his hand to any type of driving required, stepping in to cover school bus shifts at short notice and also actively volunteering to assist at the many events for which the company provides transport during the season. For the past year, Dave has been appointed as a Relief Controller, covering control duties when not required for his primary role of driving. Not only has he reached the level of being a Relief Controller within a relatively short time period, he has done it in such a way that has earned him the respect of his colleagues.
Clearly a very popular member of the team at Southern Vectis, the judges noted Dave's willingness to go above and beyond his role, such as to increase sales on the open top services in the summer. He is dedicated to providing his passengers with a good service, no matter what type of service he is driving. And he has earned the respect of his colleagues having been voted employee of the month earlier this year.
Top Independent Operator sponsored by
Winner, Silver Award
Over the last year, Courtney Buses has continued to grow not only its fleet and operating area, but also its reputation for delivering high quality services, with friendly drivers and a modern fleet. After securing the contract for subsidised routes in Bracknell, Courtney's became the main bus operator in the area. A belief in good customer service is very strong and the company instills these principles into all staff by providing high quality training opportunities. Recent improvements have included Smartcard introduction in Maidenhead (with the intention of expanding the scheme), the fitting of telemactics across the whole of the fleet and using larger capacity vehicles to cope with increasing growth on the commercial Bracknell routes. The introduction of new vehicles with wifi and USB charging points on the Bracknell to Camberley route has seen passenger numbers significantly increase, requiring a revision and re-timing of the service to meet customer demand.
The judges noted the excellence of the operation and the 30% increase in passenger numbers, no doubt partly due to the company's focus on high standards of customer service.
Top Shire Operator sponsored by Ticketer
Winner, Gold Award
UK Bus Operator of the Year sponsored by Arthur J Gallagher & QBE Insurance
Winner, Silver Award
Reading Buses network of brightly-coloured and branded buses, together with a big focus on customer service and innovation, have made the company a real success story. It aims to be the best bus company in Britain and a role model for best practice across Europe and beyond. The company is well known for its innovative approach to engaging new customers with its strong partnerships with the university as well as being in the forefront of compressed natural gas powered bus operation alongside its electric hybrid and diesel fleet. Despite ever challenging congestion in Reading due to the re-building of town centre over the past three years, it has tried very hard to keep its passengers moving. Reading Buses continues to innovate, inspire its staff to be better, invest in environmentally friendly buses or and improve its routes - always finding new ways to delight its customers and champion bus use!
Reading Buses continues to be an excellent bus operator. The judges noted that it strives to be as good internally as externally with various benefits and encouragement for staff development. It's colour-coded network is easy for new customers to understand and the company scores well on free wifi and next audio and visual displays, both of which cover 70% of the fleet. It continues to sustain a double digit growth in passengers.
Top Shire Operator sponsored by Ticketer
Winner, Bronze Award
Oxford Bus Company
Over the past two years, Oxford Bus Company has encountered huge challenges; the loss of a long serving MD, unprecedented levels of roadworks and congestion disrupting services across its operating area, and no let up in the strength of local competition. Despite this the company has made significant strides forward, with customer satisfaction on local services growing from 86% in 2015 to 91% in 2016. Park & Ride services were measured at 92%. These results reflect several initiatives to improve the customer experience coming to fruition, as well as the efforts made by the company to make it as painless as possible for customers to deal with disruption. A real time information system went live this year which allowed the company to communicate information on disruptions much faster. The system has an open data feed supplying on-street signs and it is hoped to integrate with Google Transit. Oxford Bus Company has step changed employee and community engagement initiatives over the past 12 months, culminating in the business earning Investors in People accreditation for the first time, and numerous partnerships being established with local community groups.
Go South Coast
Bluestar, more bus and Salisbury Reds form part of Go South Coast. Bluestar operates bus services in Southampton, Winchester and the Waterside and is the main inter-urban bus operator in southern Hampshire. Newer vehicles offer passenger free wifi and USB chargers and travel can be bought online and through the company's mobile app. Bluestar has a strong relationship with the University of Southampton, offering joint-ticketing across its Unilink and Bluestar networks. It's goal is to remain the leading friendly operation throughout Southampton. more bus runs services through Bournemouth and Poole as well as: Unibus to Bournemouth University; the Purbeck Breezer which links Weymouth and Dorchester with Lulworth, Wareham and Swanage with Bournemouth and Poole; and The New Forest Tour which operates three circular open-topped sightseeing routes around different parts of the New Forest. Salisbury Reds runs services throughout Salisbury and express services to Swindon, Southampton and Borunemouth as well as The Stonehenge Tour which runs hourly (half hourly in the summer) from Salisbury to the well known ancient monument.
The judges noted various improvements across the three brands. Salisbury Reds' relationship with the house builder allowed the company to deliver six months of free bus travel to new homeowners on a new housing development, and the company also increased overall passenger numbers by 60% in a year. Bluestars 7 and 17 are new services filling gaps left by the withdrawal of the previous operator and which are producing very good passenger numbers. more bus has added USB chargers to the vehicles in its fleet that have free wifi.
Unsung Heroes Award sponsored by Backhouse Jones
UKBA Special Commendation for Outstanding Service
Chris Vest - Reading Buses
Reading Buses' Chris Vest is the company's Academy Trainer. He is responsible for educating and training new and existing staff in both a classroom and driving environment. His work ensures that Reading Buses not only selects the right candidates to employ, but also through his CPC sessions, ensures that that high standard of customer service is maintained. Working diligently behind-the-scenes, Chris takes the lead in both the writing and delivery of the company's annually refreshed Driver CPC courses, meeting business and customer needs. He is the epitomy of a cool, calm, collected, consistent and effective trainer whose efforts shape the actions and approaches of the workforce. His likeable style and knowledge is unanimously respected.
Chris touches the working lives of all Reading Buses' drivers, and the judges noted that he has a satisfaction score of 97.5%, turning around the view of training from a chore to a pleasure.
Young Manager of the Year sponsored by Chartered Institute of Logisitics & Transport
Winner, Silver Award
Dan Bassett - Reading Buses
Dan Bassett is responsible for the management of Reading Buses' day to day operations at depot level. This involves overseeing 420 drivers across the Reading and Newbury depots, 16 control room and supervisory staff, a resources supervisor and two Driver Performance Managers. The 181 bus operation consists of a mix of high-frequency town operations (including four x 24/7 services), lower frequency rural services, school buses and private contract operations, including a prestigious 12 bus operation for Vodafone. Dan is the key ingredient to making operations run smoothly. He motivates and leads his teams to ensure services are delivered in the best and most efficient way possible and works tirelessly to mobilise 417 drivers to deliver very high standards of customer service. He has delivered tangible results making services better for customers and employees alike. Under Dan's leadership reliability and punctuality have improved, a route acquisition was mobilised resulting in 51% more customers and blame worthy accidents have reduced by 32%. That's testament to his hard work and commitment to making changes to the business to make sure he's getting the best out of all his employees, with a focus on the end customer.
The judges considered that as a company that already has very high reliability and riderships levels, it would hard to improve what Reading Buses is doing already, but Dan has made tangible improvements. He is a confident and competent young man and clearly plays a key role in the management team. Not resting on his laurels, he has plenty of ideas for the future and will continue to make a difference. The judges found if very hard to decide between the top two positions.