Top Shire Operator

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The award for operators the shire areas of the UK, covering all areas outside our major cities.

Winner, Gold Award

Reading Buses

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.

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.

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.

Finalists

Stagecoach East Midlands

Stagecoach East Midlands runs a network of bus services across Greater Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and East Yorkshire providing connections for local communities to employment, education, healthcare and retail facilities. The company has voluntary Bus Quality Partnerships with Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, North Lincolnshire, North East Lincolnshire and Hull Councils, meeting regularly to discuss bus services, transport policies and customer feedback. It also works closely with district councils where new developments have included brand new bus stations in Grimsby and Worksop, and work with the City of Lincoln Council will see construction of a new transport interchange in Lincoln, which is scheduled to open in December 2017. In 2016/17 a package of enhanced bus priorities is being introduced in Skegness with Lincolnshire County Council.

The judges were pleased to see the company moving forward with new innovations such as its first timetables in Polish for the Shirebrook area and increased passenger satisfaction levels to 90 in North East Lincolnshire and 92% for services in Nottinghamshire.

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.

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 was acceptable.

Criteria and Entry Requirements for all Bus Operating Awards:

The short-list was determined on the basis of the quality of the submissions, which needed to:

  • Provide the full range of information requested in the Key Performance Indicators section of the entry form
  • Address as fully as possible the individual criteria headings on the form. 

It is important that all KPIs and each of the following criteria are addressed as fully as possible because the allocated marks are not transferable.

The following notes provide further guidance on the information to be provided under each of the headings:

  • Customer Relations and Performance: show how the operator maintains and improves customer relations and monitors its operations to optimise performance. For example how it uses: 
    • technology, including social media, real-time information and mobile phone apps
    • other methods of communicating with customers and potential customers including printed information
    • customer satisfaction surveys,  suggestion and complaint handling procedures and the monitoring of feedback.
  • Management of Stakeholder Relations and Partnerships: describe the company’s approach to the management of its relationships with local authorities, LEPs and other community and local business organisations. Describe the work done on partnerships with authorities and other bodies and state how it fosters and contributes to the life of the communities it serves.
    • Where operated, with the approach to and results of delivering local authority contracted local bus services should be described. 
  • Market Growth and Development: show how the operator contributes to sustaining and expanding the market for public transport in their area by
    • offering different payment methods and range of tickets including discounts for specific groups, for example young people
    • providing a range of commercial services at different times of the day and days of the week
    • introducing innovations over the preceding twelve months
    • The descriptions and examples should be supported where possible by statistics to confirm patronage  and revenue trends and by evidence of modal shift. 
  • Employee Relations and Training: provide evidence of the company’s employee relations policies and any discernable outcomes, including;
    • diversity
    • equal opportunities
    • training, including CPC progress
    • employee development programmes, such as advanced driver training and testing
    • other initiatives and/or practices that engender staff loyalty.
  • Health, Safety and Risk Management: 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.
  • Environmental and CSR Matters: describe the operator’s approach to environmental matters and social responsibility and consequential outcomes.
  • Policies on diversity and accessibility: state whether there are policies for different customer groups, for example recognising disability and diversity, and/or deprived localities and specifically describe the operator’s approach to improving or promoting the accessibility of their product for people with various types of mobility difficulty.
  • Serious Complaints and Enforcement Action: state whether or not the company was referred to the Bus Appeals Body within the last three years prior to submission of this entry. If so, the issues and the outcome need to be described. Entrants should also 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). 

Shortlisted entries will be assessed by ‘mystery travellers’ to monitor the standard of service delivery.

 

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