East Anglia

East Anglia

 

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

Winner, Bronze Award - Stephensons of Essex

Stephensons is the largest independent operator in Essex, with a significant presence in Suffolk, operating from six main depots over a wide geographical region. It is the main network operator in very few of these areas making stakeholder relations challenging. However, members of the management team attend meetings of the main local bus user groups, the regular Transport Representatives Meetings held in each Essex district, and the MD is a member of the Essex Bus Strategy Board as well as Vice-Chairman of CPT Essex which meets regularly with the authority. The company has a signed a Punctuality Improvement Partnership in Suffolk, and is in the final stages of agreeing a similar document in Essex. Just under 50% of the company's operations are operated on behalf of either Suffolk or Essex County Councils, including conventional contracts but also de-minimus agreements and scholars ticket purchases. All contracts in both counties are now awarded 100% on price, but notwithstanding this challenge, the company has continued to invest heavily in vehicles, route branding, staff, technology and communication. The company's successful philosophy is to operate small depots with small teams of friendly drivers delivering reliable services, with minimal layers of bureaucracy, supervision and management, coupled with an ability to respond swiftly to opportunities where they arise.

A worthy Gold Winner of the Top Independent Operator category, Stephensons impressed by getting the basics right.

Top Independent Operator

Members of Stephenson's attractively-liveried fleet.Winner, Gold Award - Stephensons of Essex

Stephensons is the largest independent operator in Essex, with a significant presence in Suffolk, operating from six main depots over a wide geographical region. It is the main network operator in very few of these areas making stakeholder relations challenging. However, members of the management team attend meetings of the main local bus user groups, the regular Transport Representatives Meetings held in each Essex district, and the MD is a member of the Essex Bus Strategy Board as well as Vice-Chairman of CPT Essex which meets regularly with the authority. The company has a signed a Punctuality Improvement Partnership in Suffolk, and is in the final stages of agreeing a similar document in Essex. Just under 50% of the company's operations are operated on behalf of either Suffolk or Essex County Councils, including conventional contracts but also de-minimus agreements and scholars ticket purchases. All contracts in both counties are now awarded 100% on price, but notwithstanding this challenge, the company has continued to invest heavily in vehicles, route branding, staff, technology and communication. The company's successful philosophy is to operate small depots with small teams of friendly drivers delivering reliable services, with minimal layers of bureaucracy, supervision and management, coupled with an ability to respond swiftly to opportunities where they arise.

The judges noted that Stephensons is a good example of an operator that's getting the basics right and providing a good service for its customers. The company has successful picked up route where other operators have failed and the judges commented that services in Bury St Edmunds seemed to be running particularly well.

Part of Ensign's busy fleet, lined up for rail replacement services.Winner, Bronze Award - Ensign Bus Company

Ensign Bus Company is a rare independent as it operates a fully commercial network, where it sets fares, timetables and routes that fail or succeed by attracting and retaining passengers. ln a year that saw difficult operating territory become even harder with the UK's largest road improvement works on the A13/M25 junction continuing for over 18 months. Despite this, revenue improved and lost mileage was reduced, a real refection of the hard work put in by so many staff in very trying conditions. Following the success of the BCI tri-axles that entered service last year, 10 new 10.8 metre versions have been entering service this year, reflecting an investment of over ú2m in new vehicles. The network has been built in an area that historically has always had a poor bus service and has been abandoned by both nationalised and plc groups in the past. Ensign operates 24/7, 365 days a year and covers some 8,000 rail shifts, 2,000 private hires, (including 600 weddings) as well as selling over 700 buses a year. There cannot be many independents or otherwise who undertake such a wide ranging and successful collage of operations. The company prides itself on manning 24/7 telephone service allowing customers to speak to a person. "We do not, and have never, owned an answering machine," the company says!

The judges described Ensign as an operationally led operator delivering profitable services in difficult operation territory. They were pleased to see investment in new vehicles and a round-the-clock Twitter feed giving good updates on issues with congestion and travel information.

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