2017 Engineer of the Year

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This Award is designed to recognise, reward and inspire management talent in the engineering disciplines of the UK bus industry.

Results 2017

Winner, Gold Award

Paul Branigan – First Scotland East & Midland Bluebird

FirstGroup's Paul Branigan, who maintains the fleets at First Scotland East and Midland Bluebird.

In his role as Engineering Manager for First Scotland East and Midland Bluebird, Paul Branigan has set Deans Depot in Livingston on a continuous improvement programme by adopting the First Bus Wrench Award System and through delivery of a ‘5S’ strategy. The depot now operates at Wrench Award Gold standard, having passed through Bronze and Silver categories within 18 months. Paul has reduced lost mileage and the number of repeat defects, which is reflected in breakdown and recovery reduction. He has also been pivotal in improving maintenance standards, branding, vehicle cleanliness and customer comfort. Alongside this, Paul and the engineering team have become contributors to community activity through partnership with West Lothian College and other projects. The depot has also achieved ISO 9001 quality management and ISO 14001 environmental certification under his leadership.

The judges were very impressed with how Paul had turned around Dean’s Depot, and especially the way he has built up a team of staff who now all support each other and continue to make improvements. They commented that Paul is a good advocate for continual improvement which is reaping benefits.

Winner, Silver Award

Paul Hickinbottom – Arriva Midlands

Paul Hickinbottom from Arriva.

As its Engineering Manager, Paul Hickinbottom runs one of the top performing Arriva bus depots in the country, South Wigston in Leicestershire. He combines a thorough, methodical management style with an open and approachable attitude and works hard to motivate and inspire his team to perform at their best. A team player through and through, Paul sets a great example for everyone at the depot and is a believer in mentoring his staff, with one of his apprentices winning an apprentice of the year award as a result of his support. A great communicator, Paul can work closely and effectively with staff at all levels from senior manager to apprentice, and is dedicated to providing excellent customer service. He has full accountablity for a P&L in excess of ú3m.

Paul impressed the judges with his leadership skills and how he turned around a garage over a short period of time, fostering a good team atmosphere. The were particularly pleased to see how he had got the engineering and operations teams working together.

Winner, Bronze Award

Colin Close – Arriva North East

Colin Close from Arriva North East.

Described by his employer Arriva North East as Mr Sincerity, Head of Engineering Colin Close builds on his success, striving for the next opportunity, yet never blows his own trumpet. Colin manages wearing his heart on his sleeve, continuously demonstrating immense passion and enthusiasm for “right first time” within engineering and the development of his staff. He has a particular rapport and has gained the respect of his staff and peers. Colin has achieved solid continuing progress with is depots achieving two gold and five silver awards in Arriva’s Group engineering standards. Under his guidance, the depots are showing a strong and stable reduction in engineering lost miles, which has improved year on year for the past 10 years.

The judges praised Colin’s contribution to engineering over a number of years.


Peter Graybrook – Arriva Midlands

Peter Graybrook who works at Shrewsbury for Arriva Midlands.

Under Peter Graybrook’s engineering management, Shrewsbury and Oswestry have become the best performing garages across the whole of Arriva UK Bus. He has also been pivotal in the depot achieving the Investors In People Bronze award, setting the template for the Midlands. Inspiring his team to achieve their very best has been Peter’s mission at the garages he runs, and their performance has been the greatest testament to his success. Experienced and knowledgeable, Peter has the personality, focus and determination to inspire his team as a whole and mentor individuals. Everyone responds to his style of management and his award schemes are instrumental in building team spirit and driving engineering excellence. He treats his team with a Free Friday Breakfast every week that they hit their KPIs. Peter also runs a monthly KPI achievement award, putting his engineers into a cash prize draw to further encourage excellence among members of his team.

The judges commented that Peter has clearly identified what he needs to do to motivate his team, and has made a series of incremental changes that have reaped big benefits.

Kerry Cousins – Nottingham City Transport

Kerry Cousins, who helps maintain the modern fleet at Nottingham City Transport.

Nottingham City Transport’s Assistant Engineering Manager, Kerry Cousins, has made outstanding achievements and has shown dedication to his collegues, managers and employer. Not only is he an exceptional engineer and leader – rising up through the ranks from the shop floor as a Coachbuilder at NCT’s Trent Bridge depot to a managerial role in only seven years – but he also didn’t hesitate to take on the added responsibilities of his manager, Gary, when Gary suffered a severe and life-changing stroke. Kerry immediately stepped into the breach taking on procedures and duties way beyond his remit, managing and placating his team during a difficult and unsettling time, working long hours and cancelling his annual leave, demonstrating his capabilities, commitment and compassion.

The judges thought that Kerry is a very genuine and thoroughly competent engineer, and particularly impressed with efforts to bring on the next generation of engineers.

Steve Martin – National Express West Midlands

Steve Martin who manages the engineering function at Walsall for National Express West Midlands.

Steve Martin has been Engineering Manager at National Express West Midlands’ Walsall garage for nearly two years. Thanks to Steve’s management of the depot, those two years have seen a marked improvement in performance and safety. Just one of his changes was devising and organising the new fuel and shunt process, meaning Steve consulted with staff from various teams – drivers, cleaners, engineers and admin – as well as management, safety teams and unions. The smooth introduction of this new regime is testament to Steve’s open, transparent and practical approach to persuading and influencing all parties involved right from the start. This year, Steve has led his team to achieving ISO9001 accreditation and the Institute of Road Transport Engineers Workshop accreditation. These two awards highlight the standards Walsall vehicle workshop has reached, demonstrating compliance in key areas such as premises, equipment, technical and clerical staff, management, documentation, quality and appearance.

Steve impressed the judges with his budget savings in a large depot which houses coaches as well as buses.

Who could be nominated?

This Award was open to all people employed at or above the supervisory grade in the engineering function of bus operating, maintenance or manufacturing companies or organisations for a continuous period of not less than 12 months at 31 May in the year of the contest.

… and by whom?

We welcomed nominations from all eligible organisations, both of their own employees and of outstanding engineers with whom they work in partnership or as stakeholders. Self-nomination is NOT appropriate for this category. In all cases, the person nominated was required to confirm their agreement to their name being put forward.

Criteria and Entry Requirements

The judges will reach their decision on a short-list of finalists on the quality of the submissions made by the nominating organisation. Short-listed entrants were required to make a presentation to the judges and be interviewed by them.

Nominating organisations must be able to demonstrate that the nominees have shown excellence in management and leadership and that this has been recognised by them.

Nominees had to be able to demonstrate:

  • An ability to manage complex tasks, people, processes and the environment in which their organisation operates
  • Effective communication skills with both staff and colleagues
  • A commitment to mentoring or other leadership activities
  • Demonstrable ability to perform to a budget and to deliver measurable outputs and other outputs, which could include:
    • Specified vehicle availability targets
    • Specified PSV test targets
    • Avoidance of roadside prohibitions or defect notices.

Entries were required address each of the above criteria to assist with the judging process, because non-transferable marks will be allocated for each of these criteria.

Short-listed finalists were invited for a discussion with the judges. Here, they will be asked to speak for about ten minutes on a topic of their choosing relevant to their work and for which they will be able to use PowerPoint, or not, as they wish.

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