2018 Top Independent Operator

Top Independent Operator sponsored by Omnibus

Winner, Gold Award, – Ensignbus

Essex based Ensignbus is a proud independent bus operator running a fully commercial network in one of the UK’s most congested areas suffering some of the worst congestion in the country. Passenger growth, punctuality and profit have all improved in the course of the past 12 months bucking the trend of most of the UK.

Winner, Silver Award, – Prentice Coaches

Prentice of Haddington is a family owned and run multi award winning bus and coach operator based in Haddington, the county town of East Lothian in Scotland. The company was established in 1991 originally and primarily as a coach operator, but has also run bus services almost constantly since 1992. This area of the operation has expanded considerably in recent years and it now accounts for over 60% of the business, to the point where the company plays a vital role in the county’s transport infrastructure. Prentice is a forward thinking innovative company that believes in running modern eco-friendly buses, using state of the art ticketing equipment, kept in immaculate condition, and coupled with an old fashioned customer care ethos delivered by staff who take immense pride in delivering 21st century transport to their community.

Winner, Bronze Award, – Scarlet Band Bus and Coach

Established in 1921, Scarlet Band Bus and Coach is one of the oldest bus company’s still operating in the UK, and is about to enter its 98th year of operation. Still based on the original site for the business in West Cornforth, County Durham, the company has recently expanded and become the largest operator of tendered bus services for Durham County Council. This includes the Durham Park and Ride contract, where the firm’s familiar red and cream buses operate around a million miles. Still known by many customers as the ‘Blenkybus’ after founder Sid, and son Arthur, Blenkinsop who owned the company for its first 86 years, Scarlet Band prides itself on its independence and local identity. Its customers recognise the fact that it offers a quality service, arguably better than larger corporate organisations, but who is still seen as the small firm with its base deep in ex-mining County Durham. Additionally, the company re-invests profits generated into improved bus services, rather than distributing them to anonymous shareholders and multinational owners outside the UK.

Finalist, – Marshalls of Sutton-on-Trent

Established in 1989, Marshalls of Sutton-on-Trent has a proud history, but is equally a forward-looking company, which has earned an enviable reputation for service quality and provision. The vast majority of the service network is commercially operated with very little Local Authority support, in some cases having taken poorly run contracted routes and turning them into commercially viable transport corridors. Strong relationships are forged and maintained with county councils, schools, businesses and individual customers. The company maintains a strong presence on all local authority forums, including bus quality partnerships, and in industry wide organisations such as CPT and the newly forming Guild Bus Operations Forum, as part of the company’s membership of the Guild of British Coach Operators. Marshalls regularly invests in vehicle and equipment upgrades to ensure the continuing success of the business and were the first operator locally to offer wheelchair access on service buses and live vehicle tracking. Currently the company is investing heavily in new vehicles to ensure continuing compliance with ever more stringent emissions regulations both locally and nationally. Future investment is expected to see real time information and mobile ticketing systems and/or contactless payments on its services.

Finalist, – Uno Bus Northampton

Uno Bus Northampton’s main markets are students and employees of the University of Northampton. In addition, Uno is a key transport provider for all the communities within its operating area, from school children to senior citizens. It has undertaken a successful transformational plan over the last two years, including the complete replacement of the whole fleet with new, low emission buses. Customer enhancements include onboard wifi, USB charging points and the introduction of contactless payments. From its inception in 2012, it has achieved sustainable passenger growth, and it’s been a valuable addition to the local network and public transport offering in the town. The latest figures year on year show outstanding passenger growth of 19%. Needless to say the company consistently achieves excellent customer satisfaction ratings, with 2017 results scoring an outstanding 96%.