Independent, expert judging is a vital element of the 2019 UK Coach Awards, as it has been ever since they started in 2009, and its delivery is a key corporate objective for the company.
"It was a lesson we had applied from Day One in launching the UK Bus Awards in the mid 1990s," recalls Chris Cheek. "If an award scheme is to have credibility, and the prizes are to be valued, then it is vital that entries are judged fairly and objectively against the agreed criteria by independent expert judges. We carried this over to the UK Coach Awards in 2009."
Thus, the scheme recruits judges from a wide cross-section of industry professionals, consumer groups and the trade press as well as the UKCA organising team, who themselves have many years of knowledge and professional experience.
Chairman John Gilbert comments, "When I was appointed chairman of the Awards in January 2017, I was keen to observe how the judging was undertaken, so I attended both of this year's panel meetings. I can tell you that this is a very robust process and we have some excellent judges, many of which have had many years experience in our industry. We are immensely grateful to them all for the difficult jobs that they do selecting our award winners."
Panel of Judges for UK Coach Awards
Each year, the judges are drawn from a panel, which is regularly expanded and updated. Attendance at the meetings will be dependent on people's availability and time commitments. The panel currently comprises the following, all of whom have attended at least one meeting in 2016, 2017 or 2018
- Austin Birks, Chair, Bus & Coach Forum, CILT UK
- Sallyanne Davis, Bus & Coach Buyer magazine, highly experienced publishing executive
- Maurice Duckworth, retired MD of First Rail Support
- Suzie Gildon, Senior Trade Account Manager, Merlin Entertainments, experienced tourism marketing professional
- Julie Holland, Business Development & Sales Manager, VivaBlackpool, experienced tourism marketing professional formerly with Blackpool Council
- Allan Edmondson, ROSCO, formerly with Olympic Delivery Authority and also with CPT
- Stuart Jones, Bus & Coach Buyer Magazine, highly experienced trade press editor and journalist
- Mike Lambden, retired long-serving senior manager at National Express
- John Miller, Chairman, Road Operators' Safety Council (ROSCO), and senior officer with Bonded Coach Holidays, the government-approved consumer protection scheme for the Coach Holiday Industry.
- Tony Openshaw, Chorley Borough Council, experienced tourism professional formerly with the East Lancashire Partnership
- John Owen OBE, Convenor of Judges, UK Bus Awards, formerly managing director of Thamesdown Transport
- David Steele, Association of Group Travel Organisers, formerly a senior executive with London river boat operators
- Claire Walters, current CEO of Bus Users UK, representing bus and coach passengers.
... and from the UK Coach Awards team
- Jamie Cash, Director, UK Coach Awards, formerly editor of Group Travel Organiser magazine
- Steve Cresswell, Director of Sales, UK Coach Awards, experienced sales and marketing professional
- John Gilbert, Chairman, UK Coach Awards, formerly President of Eurolines, the international express operator.
How it Works
Depending on the volume of entries, the judging panels are split between the different types of category (people, technical/professional and operating), with judges invited to attend different panels depending on their expertise and experience. Judges are equipped with an online pack of the entries for the awards covered by their panel. A judging scoresheet is prepared, which matches the questions on the nomination form, and shows the marks for each question as indicated on the form.
Judges are asked to read the entries and mark them before the meeting, so that they have formed their own judgement ahead of any discussion with their fellow judges. At the meeting, the scores from each judge are compared and the relative merits of each nomination is discussed with a view to reaching a consensus as to which nominations that will go forward to the final stages. Where necessary, further work is then done in the form of "mystery shopping", "mystery travelling" or interviews before the winners of the Gold, Silver and Bronze awards are chosen.