This is the "grand prix" of the UK Bus Awards.
Pre-eminent amongst bus operators in the UK, the UK Bus Operator of the Year, more than any other, delivers consistently excellent customer service. The company will demonstrate its success through sustained effort over the long term.The creme-de-la-creme, the winner of the UK Bus Operator of the Year will be selected from the highest-scoring contestants of the Independent Operator, Shire Operator and City Operator awards.
The Independent Operator, Shire Operator, City Operator and UK Bus Operator of the Year Awards all use the same criteria, which are described under those categories. Separate entries were not therefore sought for this category. There is no short-list and the winner is announced at our Presentation Ceremony every November.
In selecting the overall winner, named the UK Bus Operator of the Year, judges consider the different circumstances of operators of varying sizes and operating terrains: 'mystery traveller' assessments will be very important and are frequently a deciding factor.
Winner, Gold Award
Go South Coast
Go South Coast describes itself as "the company that people want to work for, travel with and use!". Go South Coast comprises: morebus, serving Bournemouth and Poole; Reds, providing services for Salisbury and Wiltshire; Bluestar in Southampton and South Hampshire; Southern Vectis covering the Isle of Wight; Thamesdown in Swindon and Damory in parts of Dorset and Hampshire. Across all brands, passenger growth has been over 13% over the last five years, demonstrating consistent growth. Significantly this has come from within the pre-existing businesses rather than acquisitions. Contactless payments are being rolled out across the networks, in addition to accepting the Key smartcard and cash. USB charging and wifi is available on most of the fleet and next stop audio announcements should cover all vehicles by the end of the year. Customers also benefit from real time information and route planning with Google Maps on smartphones, but all timetables are also available online and in print.
Already a worthy winner of Top Shire Operator, Go South Coast impressed the judges in many areas giving it the top overall position this year.
Winner, Silver Award
Brighton & Hove Bus and Coach Company
Brighton & Hove Bus and Coach Company has continued to innovate, reflecting in it's ability to buck the national trend with a 2% growth in passengers every year. The company believes that its sales and use of mTickets are probably the highest in the UK with the equivalent of half of the city's population downloading the app. Brighton & Hove led a multi-operator ticketing scheme in the city and is the only bus company in the country with a dedicated Accessibility Officer and a taxi guarantee scheme for passengers in a wheelchair who cannot board a bus for any reason. This, along with its Helping Hand customised high visibility card that tells the driver about about a passenger's specific needs, and its work with Guide Dogs UK, have been nationally recognised. Brighton & Hove has next-stop audio and visual announcements and free wifi across the entire fleet, and is just skirting 100% for USB charge points at every seat. The company is moving forward with initiatives that put people first - customers and employees - to make the bus more attractive, reduce delays and emissions, encourage bus loyalty and keep the city moving.
It's significantly improved services since last year was just one of the reasons that pushed Brighton & Hove into the Silver Winner position, having already been declared the Top City Operator this year.
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.