Making Coaches a Better Choice
Like all forms of passenger transport, coach travel relies on others to help make the journeys it provides for customers as comfortable, efficient and prompt as possible.
Highway authorities, coach parking provides, terminal operators, local authorities and tourist attractions all have a role to play in making life for coach passengers as comfortable and convenient as possible.
This award is designed to recognize and reward projects, big or small, which genuinely improve life for coach operators, coach drivers and their passengers.
The judges will be looking for a scheme, project or partnership that achieved one or more of the following:
- improved the provision of an existing coach product
- improved passenger facilities for coach passengers
- provided a genuinely innovative new service
- improved services to coach passengers through new infrastructure or facilities giving faster, more comfortable and/or more reliable journeys.
Winner, Gold Award: National Express
A vehicle for change
'A vehicle for change' is a nationwide initiate by National Express to promote affordable travel for travellers with a disability. The campaign not just about making vehicles capable of carrying wheelchairs, but is a root and branch awareness campaign throughout the business creating opportunities as well as via gift-in-kind travel. National Express is working with several charities that support people with disabilities including Whizz Kidz, The Poppy Factory, The British Legion and Canine Partners. A number of training and skills workshops have been set up to help with employability as well as paid work placements within the company, such as those for war veterans at coach stations across the country.
The judges noted that National Express has done a lot of work in making all its services accessible and applauded how it has involved charities that work with service users to assess their needs. They also commented on how the company used its staff and their skills to create opportunities for employment as well as making coaches a better choice for travel.
Winner, Silver Award: First Hampshire, Dorset & Berkshire
RailAir provides frequent coach services between Reading Railway Station, the UK's second busiest railway station outside London, and Heathrow airport. The service is currently operated by First Hampshire, Dorset and Berkshire, but it has been running under various names for more than 40 years. The redevelopment of Reading railway station provided the ideal opportunity for RailAir to re-invent itself through a rebranding and refurbishment of its passenger lounge at the station and its fleet of ten coaches. The departure lounge at the station provides hot drinks, wifi and newspapers, all complimentary while travellers wait for the next service. The vehicles, meanwhile, have been upgraded to become wheelchair accessible, and include USB power sockets, free wifi, leather seating, display screen and journey announcements. Externally, the vehicles have been branded selecting a series of places in the UK from which train can be taken to Reading to connect to RailAir to Heathrow airport and beyond, such as: Cardiff to Cairo, Swindon to Sydney, Didcot to Dubai and Bristol to Bangkok. Ticketing has also been brought up to date with the option of e and m tickets as well as the standard printed variety.
The judges commented that RailAir was a good example of how to re-launch an existing product and refresh it for the 21st century to meet the needs of today's travellers. They considered it to be a worthy Silver Winner.
Specially Commended: Nantwich Town Council
Nantwich Coach Welcome Scheme
Since Nantwich Town Council took over responsibility for tourism to the Cheshire market town, it set out to target visitors arriving by coach. Working in partnership with the local Rotary club, the town's Retail Group and the local football club, the Nantwich Coach Welcome Scheme was developed. A clearly signed drop off point as been established outside the Town Hall (passengers can also use the toilets in the civic building) from which coaches can go and park free of charge at Nantwich Town Football Club. Drivers and given a meal voucher which they can spend in local food outlets. The cost of the parking and vouchers is reimbursed to the football club and other local business by the Council. The Council also supports a 'Comfort Scheme' whereby a subsidy is given to shops and premises throughout the town that make their toilets available to visitors. Coach-borne visitors additionally benefit from discount vouchers from local traders as well as leaflets and town maps and the option of a guided walk. Using the number of parking and meal vouchers redeemed, the number of coaches visiting the market town has doubled bringing increased economic prosperity to the town without incurring the parking and congestion problems if these visitors had arrived by car.
The judges were impressed with the way in which local stakeholders had got together with a vision of the economic benefits visitors could bring to the town and how arriving by coach would not bring the congestion and parking difficulties associated with the car. Very positive results and it was noted that a drop off point had been created exactly where visitors they want to be, rather than being pushed out to the edge of the town centre. In recognising that this was a very different scheme to the other finalists, the judges awarded it a Special Commendation.
Who could be nominated?
The award was open to operators, local authorities, partnerships, tourist and visitor attractions or other organisations.
… and by whom?
Nominations were welcomed from all eligible organisations, and self-nomination was acceptable.
Criteria and Entry Requirements
The award will be won by a project, or a change in practice, designed to improve accessibility for any group of people. The entry must demonstrate the improvements gained, that the project goes beyond minimum statutory requirements and that it is supported by endorsements from those who benefit most.
Entries were ranked on the basis of the submissions made, which needed to:
- Describe the problem(s) that the project was designed to solve.
- Describe the project and how it was implemented
- Explain the extent to which accessibility issues were considered
- State how the project or service was promoted
- Show how the outcome was monitored and describe any changes made as a result of the monitoring.
- Supply evidence of the results of the project (e.g. patronage or other appropriate indicators).
- State whether the results likely to be sustainable
- Describe any future plans for further development.
- Include any relevant supporting material.