Top Large Fleet Operator
The winners of these awards deliver consistently excellent customer service. The operators demonstrate their success through sustained effort.
They have shown 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.
As well as this award for the larger operators (with fleets of over 50 vehicles), there are two others for businesses with fleets of 20 vehicles or fewer and between 21 and 50 vehicles.
From the winners of these three awards, the judges chose an overall winner, named UK Coach Operator of the Year.
For each of the categories, customer nominations were sought from group organisers and other industry clients. Nominated operators are also invited to submit further information to the judges.The judging process also includes 'mystery shopping' of the nominated operators to test their commitment to customer service.
Winner, Gold Award: Horseman Coaches
Reading based Horseman Coaches was incorporated in 1977 with a £100 deposit on a mini-coach. Then in 1984, it acquired acquired Smiths of Reading to become the largest privately owned fleet in the south of England, peaking at 125 vehicles. Horseman has since consolidated, reducing its fleet to 60 vehicles, while increasing its profit margin. The company employs 61 full time staff and has 18 part-time employees. Horseman operates highly specified coaches on a variety of work types including home-to-school contracts, corporate shuttle services, private charter, UK and European tours and transport for members of royal families visiting or residing in the UK.
The judges were very impressed with this family-run business that they considered punches well above its weight. Although not having a high profile, everything is professionally done across a wide variety of work, making it a worthy gold winner.
Winner, Silver Award: Johnsons Coach Travel
Johnsons Coach Travel works hard on developing its brand and delivering excellent customer service from its base in Henley-in-Arden. It has close relations with its customers, and if things go wrong, as they do sometimes with any business, they are dealt with quickly and effectively, with the aim of retaining the customer and protecting the company's extremely good and hard won reputation. Johnsons treats its staff well. They are well trained and the company ensures that excellent service is always encouraged, recognised and rewarded. Johnsons has excellent relations with its suppliers, many for a very long time. They are treated with respect and are paid on time. Vehicle maintenance and drivers hours records are excellent, and the company is financially very strong, investing heavily in its coach fleet, already having 22 Euro VI coaches in the fleet.
Johnsons impressed the judges with a well written submission demonstrating how the company maintains a consistently high standard. They noted that the company is always trying something new and plays an active part in its local community.
Winner, Bronze Award: Shearings Holidays
Shearings' history can be traced back to the establishment of Webster Bros in 1903, but the company is constantly looking to the future of coach tourism, which has helped it cement its position as the UK's largest escorted tour company. Last year Shearings fully refurbished seven of its 43 hotels, and converted hotels in Bath and Harrogate to Country Living hotels. Shearings fleet comprises 135 coaches, with 35 brand new vehicles added to the fleet in 2018. In 2017 the company moved its head office to new premises offering modern facilities, but still in Wigan, staying true to its heritage.
Given the large numbers of customers carried by Shearings, the judges commented how hard it must be to maintain the quality and consistency for all its holiday makers, but Shearing has achieved it, and with a very low number of complaints.
Finalist: Belle Vue Manchester
Belle Vue Manchester has a team ethic that sets it apart. The company understands human behaviour and the part each individual plays to contribute to a quality organisation offering value, quality and reliability on every passenger journey. Although an individual can do great things, only with a team of people will impossible feats be accomplished. When everyone works towards the same common goal, a lot more can get achieved. Snowflakes are one of natures most fragile things, but look what they can do when they stick together. Teamwork makes the dream work.
Finalist: Edwards Coaches
South Wales based Edwards Coaches is a fifth generation multi-skilled family business established in 1924. It is committed to quality, continuous improvement, innovation and training. Edwards employs over 650 staff and has a fleet of 300 vehicles, including 266 coaches, 20 buses and 14 minibuses. One of the largest coach companies in Wales, it encompasses all aspects of coach operation including holidays, school transport, National Express contracts, private hire and a local bus service. Edwards is especailly proud of both its holiday programme, which transports over 80,000 clients, alongside its school bus service, which transports over 6,500 students every day. All staff are just as passionate as the directors, treating the company as their own. Many local families have several generations working alongside the Edwards family.
Finalist: National Express
Established for more than 40 years, National Express is the largest operator of scheduled coach services in the UK, operating high frequency services linking more than 900 destinations. The iconic white fleet offers the highest level of safety and customer experience from booking through to journey. Complaints were down more than seven percent last year, set alongside more than a million more passenger journeys being made, bringing the total to 20.7m. A new faster service between Manchester and Birmingham grew passenger numbers, and new late evening services to London from Bristol, Cardiff, Gloucester, Cheltenham, Nottingham and Leicester were introduced, along with early morning returns from the capital. Another landmark was the introduction of the Levante III coach, with 35 in service by the end of last year.
Finalist: Reays Coaches
Reays Coaches started operating mini coaches in the 1980s and has grown to become Cumbria's largest independent bus and coach operator. From the initial purchase of an old mini bus to run the local pub team to darts and dominoes matches, Reays now employs 165 people transporting over 1.2 million people every year across the county, the UK and Europe. The company works closely with the nuclear plant at Sellafield as its transport partner, successfully reducing the reliance on cars and promoting greener modes of transport which has relieved congestion on Cumbria's roads and reduced carbon emissions. Last year Reays transported more than 140,000 passengers on commuter services. Good transport connections have direct benefits to people, businesses, the environment and the overall economy. The ongoing collaboration with Sellafield supports innovation, productivity and Cumbria's economic growth.
Who could be nominated?
The awards were open to all operators of coaches for hire to the general public or used on tours and excursions.
... and by whom?
Group organisers and other clients who hire coaches on an occasional or regular basis were asked to nominate the coach company which has delivered the best service to their groups.