UK Coach Operator of the Year
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 (see below for the definitions). From the winners of these three awards, the judges will decide on an overall winner, who will be UK Coach Operator of the Year. This page describes the result of that competition.
Winner, Gold Award: National Express
Established for more than 40 years, National Express is the UK's largest scheduled coach operator, with 550 vehicles serving more than 900 destinations. All vehicles feature the VUER on board entertainment system and are wheelchair accessible, alongside safety features such as Alcolock and the Lytx Drive Cam system. A new cyclist warning system that provides visual and audible warnings to cyclists when coaches are turning is being deployed across the fleet. Other developments last year include new contactless ticket machines in coach stations and on board, seat reservations on selected routes, and a new 334 south coast to Scotland route. Airport services have also been improved with 25% more services between Gatwick and London, a new A2 service between London and Luton Airport and a new 212 service linking Heathrow, Birmingham and Manchester Airports. A record 19.6m passenger journeys were made last year, up by 250,000 in 2016 and the sixth consecutive year of growth. The Kings Ferry and Clarkes of London are also part of National Express' UK Coach business.
The judges commented that National Express is one of the UK's iconic travel brands, and the entry demonstrated the company's dedication to road safety and high levels of customer service, as well as excellent working practices befitting the industry's leading operator. The brand awareness of National Express benefits the whole industry highlighting the coach as an inter city travel option.
Winner, Silver Award: Grey's of Ely
Grey's of Ely celebrated its 70th birthday last year and has three generations of knowledge and passion in the coach operating business. It employs 40 full and part time staff and believes strongly that investing in its team and brand, as well as its vehicles, is the reason why Grey's has earned such a good reputation. Last year, the company undertook an internal review, believing that the past is for reference, not residency, and common practise is to be challenged and improved. The review has produced outstanding results for the business as well as delivering benefits to its customers. Unusually, Grey's sales material has also been printed in braille, and a voice recording of its terms and conditions for people with poor eyesight and those who cannot read, is also available. The company is currently working with a local deaf charity to produce a sign language version of its vehicle safety briefing. Grey's understands that to deliver the very best value and service to its customers, it must be setting the highest standards in the industry and always striving to exceed them.
The judges commented that this well-evidenced entry showed why Grey's of Ely is a quality operator, picking out its innovative and forward thinking approach to its business, low staff turnover and apprenticeship scheme for particular praise.
Winner, Bronze Award: Woods Travel
Woods Travel has provided quality transport for over 47 years and is based in Bognor Regis, West Sussex. It has grown from offering a quality taxi service with two Ford Zodiacs in 1971, to running a fleet of 17 luxury vehicles, employing 50 staff, and taking over 6,000 people on coach holidays each year. It is a fully independent ABTA travel agency and also provides a comprehensive day excursion programme as well as a private hire service for local groups, schools and organisations. Woods believed that it's continued growth is testament to its commitment to the highest level of quality and service. Over 75% of customers have either travelled before with the company or been recommended by another customer. Woods says it is big enough to cope but small enough to care.
The judges commented that the entry shows Woods as a well established family business that has moved with the times and kept up with changing customer customer expectations, while keeping high standards of customer service.