Top Large Fleet Operator
The winners of our awards for coach operation will deliver consistently excellent customer service. The operators will demonstrate their success through sustained effort.
They will show that they:
- are financially sound
- maintain high operational and engineering standards
- give priority to the Health and Safety of staff and passengers through comprehensive risk management
- invest in their fleet and staff
- form effective partnerships
- identify with and respond to the communities they serve
- always strive to sustain and grow the market for coaches and coach services.
There are three categories, based on fleet size. From the winners of these three awards, the judges then decide on an overall winner, who will be named as UK Coach Operator of the Year.
Winner, Gold Award
The Kings Ferry
Originally a family business dating back to 1968 The Kings Ferry was acquired by National Express in 2007. Since then revenue has increased by 100% (approx £10m) and profitability by 400% (£1.8m). The recently introduced Trustpilot review rating ranks the company as 'Excellent', consistently scoring over 90% customer satisfaction month on month, and promises that: "No one will try harder for their customers than we do". Staff training is a key priority for The Kings Ferry and this year achieved the coveted Silver status, putting it in the top 6% of employers across 75 countries in the Investors in People scheme. The Kings Ferry also achieved five star accreditation in a British Safety Council audit, the highest ever recorded for a first time audit, as well as bringing its 100% MOT pass rate to 24 months. Last year, The Kings Ferry completed the acquisition of Clarkes of London, a family-owned coach business based in Sydenham, which strengthens the company's position within the private hire market. The Kings Ferry also added four more routes to its newly introduced commuter services from Maidstone which have shown tremendous growth. Behind the scenes, the company invested in a digital 2-way radio system between drivers and the base. As well as being able to better react to changing traffic conditions, further enhancements including targeted on-board audio announcements direct from the operations team to customers are planned.
'Outstanding' was how the panel of judges described The Kings Ferry. From marketing and profitability to staff relations and customer service, The Kings Ferry continues to excel in every area making it the industry leader.
Winner, Silver Award
Shearings is an operator of escorted tours by coach and of leisure hotels for the over 50s, offering coach holidays and hotel breaks to more than 170 destinations in the UK and Europe. With 114 years experience, Shearings is the most well-established coach business in the industry and leads the way in promoting coach tourism to wide audiences. In 2016, the company heavily invested in staff training, innovative marketing initiatives including a fully responsive website with Live Chat facility, £22m spent on 90 new coaches, and a further £5m spent on hotel refurbishment to achieve its business goals. It also continuously refreshes its product portfolio with over 50 new themed and event-based tours, the addition of a second river cruise ship and a re-defining of the Grand Tourer product including eight new intineraries.
Amongst its many favourable features, the judges picked out Shearings' focus on employing people with excellent customer service skills and then training them to drive.
Winner, Bronze Award
York Pullman Bus Company
The York Pullman Bus Company have been in business since 2008, operating over 120 vehicles and employing around 150 staff. It provides a range of services, from 67 daily school and college transport routes to bespoke private hire and the management of large movements of people for events. The business has expanded organically by developing specific partners and satisfying their requirements with excellent customer service and offering value added services. Five smaller family owned operations have been acquired in recent years in strategic geographical locations and York Pullman has sought to retain the family ethos and values of each company, its staff, brand and clients. These operations compliment the main York Pullman fleet and continue to run in their existing liveries and their traditional operating territories.
Long service rewards for staff and attention to detail were amongst the positive features picked out by the panel of judges about York Pullman. They also noted it as a company with excellent partnership working and operating a very good educational travel service.
National Express is the UK's largest scheduled coach operator, with 550 vehicles serving more than 900 destinations every day. National Express is the UK partner in the Eurolines network and also operates The Kings Ferry commuter coach service. Last year the company bought Clarkes of London, known for its luxury private hire services with corporate clients including premiership football clubs and international tour operators. Also new last year was the launch of VUER (View, Unwind, Enjoy, Relax), the UK's first coach onboard infotainment system which offers passengers free films, TV, magazines, news and WIFI on their smartphones and tablets while they travel. And at the end of the year, Tuesday 27th December saw the highest ever number of people travelling by National Express coach on a single day - with 75,000 tickets sold.
Top Large Fleet Operator
Who could be nominated?
This award is open to operators of coaches which are in the sole or majority ownership of a public limited company (plc) or holding 101 or more 'O' Licence discs.
... and by whom?
Group travel organisers and other coach industry customers who hire coaches on an occasional or regular basis are asked to nominate the coach company which has delivered the best service to their groups. Self-nomination is also acceptable.