Top Express Operation

This is the Award for the operation of high quality express coach services.

Scheduled express coach services are an integral part of our transport system, alongside local bus services and the rail network. Services to airports, tourist attractions and for less-affluent people, including students, for example, can act to improve sustainable accessibility and reduce car travel in the same way as other forms of public transport.

The growth of competition in the market, together with the continued development of brands such as Green Line, Scottish Citylink, Megabus and National Express, shows that the express service sector is dynamic and plays an important part. The award is open to operators of services on their own account or who contract to others (e.g. National Express or Scottish Citylink).

The winner of this award will demonstrate delivery of consistently excellent customer service; the company will be sound financially, maintaining high operational and engineering standards, giving priority to the health and safety of passengers and staff through comprehensive risk management.

The Top Express Coach Operation demonstrates investment in fleet and operating staff, forms effective partnerships, identifies with and responds to the markets it serves and, through its quality of operation, continually strives to sustain and grow its market.

Results 2019

Winner, Gold Award: Stagecoach East Scotland

Express City Connect Network

The Express City Connect network of services operate across Fife, Perthshire, Dundee and Angus, extending into Edinburgh, Livingston, Aberdeen and Glasgow. Coaches offer leather seats and free wifi, providing a comfortable journey, ideal for commuters. Improved service frequencies in recent years have helped relieve congestion and achieve modal shift, despite road network improvement works causing disruption in the region. Continued investment and monitoring ensures effective service provision, with new journey opportunities identified to develop the network, creating sustainable growth year on year.

With a consistently good service over many years, the judges awarded the gold to the Express City Connect network, picking out its good use of park & ride sites, which achieve modal shift, and its introduction of low floor coaches which opens up long distance express travel to a new sector of passengers.

Winner, Silver Award: Scottish Citylink Coaches

Service 900 and Citylink AIR

The Scottish Citylink Central Belt Express network of services operate across Central Scotland connecting the main hubs of Glasgow and Edinburgh (service 900) and Edinburgh Airport (Citylink Air). The service operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with a frequency of up to every 15 minutes and hourly through the night. The luxury coaches, with free wifi, are relieving congestion and achieving modal shift from the car and rail. Dedicated controllers that ensure that service delivery is maintained throughout the operating day, along with continued investment and monitoring, ensures effective service provision and growth. Services ran between Glasgow and Edinburgh on Christmas Day for the first time last year, which proved to be very popular and will be extended for Christmas 2019. Overnight services are also becoming increasingly popular, and ways to enhance the service, particularly in the 0300 to 0500 timeband when early commuters are travelling and train services are not yet operational, are being considered.

In what the judges considered to be a very good submission, they were pleased to see the development and expansion of overnight services, which were clearly proving to be popular.

Winner, Bronze Award: 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 aims to offer the highest level of safety and customer experience, from booking through to the journey. Complaints were down more than 7% 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 vehicles in service by the end of last year.

The judges were impressed with the continued growth in passenger numbers and vehicle occupancy rates while reducing low utilisation mileage.

Finalist: Stagecoach South West

South West Falcon

The South West Falcon is the first dedicated 24/7 coach service to connect major locations across the South West. Its 19 daily journeys link Plymouth, Exeter, Taunton, Bristol Airport and Bristol city centre. All eight coaches feature a distinctive livery and have free wifi, power sockets, air conditioning and leather seats. The service runs hourly from early morning until late evening, moving to two-hourly overnight. Since December, passengers can also make local journeys on the service, such as between Exeter and Cullompton, or Churchill and Bristol Airport. More recently Stagecoach South West teamed up with one of Exeter's leading taxi firms to off a 10% discount for customers travelling to catch the Falcon service from Exeter. This innovative partnership, which makes coach travel easier and more appealing, has proved to be very popular.

Who could be nominated?

Individual scheduled express coach services operated by single licensed operators, either on their own account or under contract to a marketing organisation.

… and by whom?

We welcomed nominations from customers, authorities, user groups, bus operators or marketing organisations which contract in operators to run a service or network of services. Self-nomination was acceptable.

Criteria and Entry Requirements

The short-list was determined on the basis of the quality of the submissions, which needed to:

  • Provide the full range of information requested in the Key Performance Indicators section of the entry form
  • Address as fully as possible the individual criteria headings on the form.

The information requested included:

Customer Relations and Performance: show how the operator maintains and improves customer relations. For example how it uses;

  • customer satisfaction surveys
  • suggestion and complaint handling procedures
  • customer newsletters

Management of Stakeholder Relations and Partnerships: describe the company’s approach to the management of its relationships with local authorities and other community and local business organisations. Describe the work done on partnerships with authorities and other bodies and state how it fosters and contributes to the life of the communities it serves

Market Growth and Development: show how the operator contributes to sustaining and expanding the market for public transport in their area. This should be supported by statistics to confirm patronage and revenue trends and evidence of modal shift.

Employee Relations and Training: provide evidence of the company’s employee relations policies and any discernable outcomes, including;

  • diversity
  • equal opportunities
  • training, including CPC progress
  • employee development programmes, such as advanced driver training and testing
  • other initiatives and/or practices that engender staff loyalty.

Health, Safety and Risk Management: demonstrate the company’s approach to risk assessment in all its activities including;

  • a commentary on Health and Safety issues for the past year, supported by reports on any significant incidents,
  • showing how the company assesses the impact of its activities on staff, passengers and the general public and has monitoring and control measures to reduce risk and the level of the residual risks.

Environmental and CSR Matters: describe the operator’s approach to environmental matters and social responsibility and consequential outcomes.

Policies on diversity and accessibility: state whether there are policies for different customer groups, for example recognising disability and diversity, and/or deprived localities and specifically describe the operator’s approach to improving or promoting the accessibility of their product for people with various types of mobility difficulty.

Serious Complaints and Enforcement Action: state whether or not the company resolved any issues by reference to the Bus Appeals Body within the last three years prior to submission of this entry. If so, the issues and the outcome need to be described. Entrants should also state whether or not there has been any Traffic Commissioner action in the three years prior to entry or whether any investigation, disciplinary hearing or known VOSA report is ongoing at the time of entry. If so, provide a full account of the matter(s).

Shortlisted entries may be assessed by ‘mystery travellers’ to monitor the standard of service delivery.

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