This is the award for operators the shire areas of the UK, covering all areas outside our major cities.
The judges in 2009 were faced with another very good set of high quality entries. A short-list of six shows how difficult it was to choose between them. In fact, only 53 points (under 10% of the total) separated the top seven entries – none deserved to be excluded.
Scores were so tight that outcome effectively to be decided by outcome of mystery traveller.
The entries again showed the importance of partnership with local authorities and other stakeholders if the reliability and punctuality is to be achieved that will grow passenger numbers and bring about modal shift.
The bar in this category has risen each year, and this year’s entries show just how good the bus service is now in many parts of the United Kingdom. More and more operators (of all ownerships) are being seen to be keen on developing markets and emulating best practice from elsewhere.
Transdev Yellow Buses
Smart Ideas from the Brighter Bus Company
A company that has come a very long way in a very short time following its purchase from the local authority by Transdev. Claiming to be the ‘brighter bus company’, Yellow Buses has become innovative, focussed and is continuing to look for smart ways to improve its customer service and grow its market in the very competitive Bournemouth area.
The structured approach to the company’s recent development, for instance in the early days by judicious buying of good second-hand low-floor buses now supplemented by eye-catching new ones, appealed strongly to the judges. They were also very impressed by the company’s proactive and comprehensive approach to customer issues, its workforce, the service network, marketing, reliability and punctuality, the need for a strong identity and involvement with the local community, and its attitude to environmental and safety values, all leading to a record of substantial growth in passengers and revenue over the last three years.
Runners Up: Stagecoach Bluebird
Stagecoach Bluebird carries around 12 million passengers per year and operates over 18 million miles annually on routes throughout east Scotland centred on Aberdeen, as well as longer distance Citylink and Megabus services. It has a record of consistent passenger growth over a number years on key routes through continued investment, close partnership working, network and route enhancement, effective marketing, innovation, and identifying opportunities within existing and new markets.
A very high level of reliability and punctuality contributes to impressive customer satisfaction levels.
Judges were especially impressed with the company’s employee development programme, its environmental initiatives, and innovative marketing, not least in the way it has approached its Bus Route Development Grant schemes and also ticket sales through salary sacrifice to businesses developing green travel plans.
Stagecoach in Fife
Stagecoach in Fife have invested heavily in improving the fleet, introducing 55 new vehicles totalling £7.7m. Customer service initiatives ensure that Stagecoach in Fife are in touch with passengers, exceeding their needs and expectations. The company's environmental concerns are a high priority, with a carbon neutral network in express services, new energy management systems and trials to improve fuel efficiency.
Stagecoach in Warwickshire
Stagecoach in Warwickshire is constantly striving to improve performance by continually identifying areas of potential growth, trialing innovative schemes, strengthening local relationships and local authority partnerships, improving customer service and staff relations and stringently maintaining its fleet of 200 vehicles.
Transdev Burnley & Pendle
This is another company that has transformed itself in recent years, firstly under the ownership of Blazefield and latterly Transdev. Its core services link Burnley, Colne and Nelson, with routes to Manchester, Accrington, Clitheroe and Keighley.
Following a major re-launch of its network under the ‘Mainline’ and ‘Starship’ brands over the last two years, and a substantial investment in new and refurbished vehicles, in difficult economic circumstances the company has grown its passenger numbers and turnover by 11% year-on-year. Average vehicle age is currently just 2.5 years, making it one of the newest fleets in the UK.
Transdev Yorkshire Coastliner
Transdev Yorkshire Coastliner continues to operate its core service between Leeds, York and the East Coast, with branches to Scarborough, Whitby, Filey and Bridlington. Over the past year, despite the challenging economic climate it has achieved growth in both patronage and revenue.
Who could be nominated?
This award was open to bus companies operating service networks wholly or mainly outside the major conurbations. Operators who are not subsidiaries of the plcs with fleets of less than 100 vehicles are recommended to enter the Independent Operator of the Year.
… and by whom?
We welcomed nominations from customers, local authorities, user groups or bus operators. Self-nomination was acceptable.
Criteria and Entry Requirements for all Operator Awards:
The short-list has been determined on the basis of the quality of the submissions, which needed to:
- Show how the operator maintains and improves customer relations. For example how it uses:
- customer satisfaction surveys
- suggestion and complaint handling procedures
- customer newsletters
- State whether it has policies for specific customer groups, for example recognising disability and diversity
- State whether the company resolved any issues by reference to the Bus Appeals Body within the last three years prior to entry. The issues and the outcome need to be described
- Provide evidence of the company’s employee relations policies, including:
- equal opportunities
- employee development programmes.
- Provide statistics on timekeeping and lost mileage
- State any Traffic Commissioners’ action in the three years prior to entry and describe the company’s responses
- Provide information to demonstrate the financial sustainability of their activities. This could come, for example, from the most recent audited accounts for the two years prior to nomination and include:
- Capital investment: amount per £1,000 turnover; changes in fleet age profile
- Commercial performance: % operating profit margin
- Movement in reserves.
- Demonstrate the company’s approach to risk assessment in all its activities including:
- a commentary on Health and Safety issues for the past year, supported by reports on any significant incidents,
- showing how the company assesses the impact of its activities on staff, passengers and the general public and has monitoring and control measures to reduce risk and the level of the residual risks.
- Describe the operator’s approach to environmental matters and social responsibility.
- Submit evidence on matters such as any partnership working, describe how the company responds to the policies of its local transport authority and how it fosters and contributes to the life of the communities it serves.
- Show how the operator contributes to sustaining and expanding the market for public transport in their area, including joint working with local authorities and integration schemes. This should be supported by statistics to confirm patronage and revenue trends, and statistical evidence of modal shift.
Shortlisted entries will be assessed by “mystery travellers” to monitor the standard of service delivery.