The award for operators the shire areas of the UK, covering all areas outside our major cities.
A company that has been transformed in recent years, and with a consistent approach to training, communication and performance, Reading Buses continues to build its reputation for success. With high levels of investment including a large fleet of hybrid buses, strong branding of routes and by forging close links with the council, the university and other stakeholders, the company is a key part of the community.
Its concentration on the vital areas of customer service, value for money, and communication with customers and staff, all of which have led to an operational record now ranking amongst the best despite the disruption caused by the railway station redevelopment, plus the charismatic leadership of its Chief Executive, attracted high praise from the judges.
The Runner Up
Metrobus has seen unprecedented growth over the last eleven years, including through comprehensive network reviews in Crawley and elsewhere, the introduction of the highly-praised ‘Fastway’ service to Gatwick Airport, and as the pioneer for the bus industry in the use of Facebook. Its network in West Sussex, Surrey and Kent has an enviable record for quality, investment and service, evidenced by a top customer satisfaction rating of 93% in the 2011 Passenger Focus Bus Passenger Survey.
Whilst not an operator which has traditionally enjoyed a high profile or has the easiest of operating areas, the judges were impressed by the way the company has quietly gone about its successful development and by its record of achieving highly sustainable operations where others before it have failed.
Part of Go South Coast, Bluestar operates urban services in Southampton and links the city with the surrounding area. It has an enviable record of investment in its fleet, technology (including wi-fi on its buses) and marketing, and a strong focus on its people including effective training.
The judges particularly liked the company’s passion for top class customer service through extensive use of social media and initiatives such as its staff communication programme, and how this is reinforced by its belief that the bus can be an exciting product. This has been reflected in the strong market growth the company has achieved in its operating area in recent years. As its strapline says, Bluestar is ‘The Brighter Way to Go’.
Oxford Bus Company
Oxford Bus Company has long been at the forefront of innovation, investment and partnership working whilst maintaining a stable, comprehensive service network operated by low emission, high quality buses at high frequencies with attractive ticketing products, and which is growing passenger numbers and attaining one of the highest Passenger Focus customer satisfaction ratings (91%) in the UK.
In 2011 the highly successful Transform Oxford scheme was introduced to offer even better network and ticketing options for customers. This initiative was one of a number that convinced the judges that Oxford Bus continues to be a highly innovative and customer-focused company.
Stagecoach South West
Despite a very challenging economic climate in the area it serves, Stagecoach South West has maintained network stability and demonstrated a real commitment to its customers by retaining the rural routes which are a lifeline for many, as well as through continued investment in new buses and consolidating its relationships with a wide range of stakeholders. This has helped the company not just to maintain but to improve already high levels of reliability and punctuality, permitting a continued growth in passenger numbers to be sustained, a record that was praised by the judges.
The 2011 Bus Operator of the Year, Thamesdown delivers very high levels of customer satisfaction (93% in the 2010 Passenger Focus Bus Passenger Survey), with reliable and punctual bus services supported by strong investment in its fleet and other measures to enhance the passenger journey experience. All routes have real-time information, 70% of passengers travel on buses with audio-visual bus stop announcements, and the use of smartcards is extremely high.
It has maintained its core values despite the severe effects of the recession on Swindon and the surrounding area. The company has strong links with the community it serves and the judges again noted its ongoing commitment to this, the environment, safety, and training.
Transdev Burnley and Pendle
Since its takeover by Blazefield in 2001, Burnley & Pendle has seen much investment in its vehicles, its staff and its services. The company has shown a commitment to serving the people of East Lancashire and beyond with the highest quality of service and performance on a daily basis, and with a passion to make bus travel the transport of choice rather than necessity.
This is all achieved in close partnership with its stakeholders and by playing a full part in the community it serves. With the area having suffered quite badly from the effects of the recession, the judges were impressed by the renewed commitment to innovative network development and its pioneering work with young people, as well as its proactive approach to staff welfare and training.
Who could be nominated?
This award was open to bus companies operating service networks wholly or mainly outside the major conurbations.
… and by whom?
We welcomed nominations from customers, local authorities, user groups or bus operators. Self-nomination is acceptable.
Criteria and Entry Requirements
The short-list was 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
- Submit evidence on matters such as any partnership working, describe how the company responds to the policies of its 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 authorities and integration schemes. This should be supported by statistics to confirm patronage and revenue trends and statistical evidence of modal shift.
- Provide statistics on timekeeping and lost mileage
- Provide evidence of the company’s employee relations policies, including:
- equal opportunities
- employee development programmes.
- State whether or not the company resolved any issues by reference to the Bus Appeals Body within the last three years prior to entry. If so, the issues and the outcome need to be described
- State whether or not there has been any Traffic Commissioner action in the three years prior to entry or whether any investigation, disciplinary hearing or known VOSA report is ongoing at the time of entry. If so, provide a full account of the matter(s).
- 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.
- Describe the operator’s approach to improving or promoting the accessibility of their product for people with mobility difficulties
Shortlisted entries will be assessed by “mystery travellers” to monitor the standard of service delivery.