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.
Winner, Gold Award: Scottish Citylink Coaches
Service 900 and Citylink Air
The Scottish Citylink central belt express network of services operates across Central Scotland. Service 900 connects the main hubs of Glasgow and Edinburgh 24 hours a day, seven days a week, up to every 15 minutes and hourly throughout the night, while Citylink Air links Glasgow with Edinburgh Airport. Coaches feature free wifi, reclining seats, onboard toilet and wheelchair access, making it an attractive alternative form of transport and achieving modal shift. Continued investment and monitoring ensure effective service provision and growth. Last year, five new coaches were added to the Citylink Air route, and eight new vehicles were put on the 900 service. The company operates e-tickets and text tickets as well as allowing customers to buy tickets onboard using contactless payments. In partnership with Edinburgh Airport, Citylink has timed its services around major shift patterns and offers airport staff discounted travel on its Air service. Likewise, it works with an office park on the outskirts of Motherwell to offer enhanced services and discounted tickets for passengers between this growing office employment site and Glasgow, Edinburgh and Edinburgh Airport.
The judges commented that it would have been easy to focus on peak times services, but 24/7 operation, and a high peak frequency, sets a new standard and helps modal shift. Good partnership working also impressed the judges.
Winner, Silver Award: Stagecoach South West
South West Falcon
Stagecoach's South West Falcon provides a direct express motorway link between Plymouth and Bristol, and the first and only public transport link from the south west to Bristol Airport. It's USP is that it is kept as swift and efficient as possible by limiting stops to key junctions along the A38/M5 corridor, avoiding city and town centres. This innovation has meant it has quickly become an essential transport link in a number of markets across the south west. It operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with wheelchair accessible coaches and is backed up by a 24 hour telephone enquiry line and Twitter feed. Customers can buy tickets online as well as from the driver. Encouraging further modal shift, free bus travel on local services in Plymouth and Exeter are included in the Falcon ticket price. The service was launched two years ago and has an expanding customer base promising even better results in the future.
The judges thought that it was a bold move to put in a 24/7 service joining up places that were not otherwise connected by public transport, and the service deserves to be a success. It is certainly very impressive on the road.
megabus.com is a budget inter city coach operator in the UK and North America and is part of the Stagecoach Group. It began its UK operations in 2003, and now operates to more than 90 destinations across the UK using over 115 vehicles and has over 400 employees. megabus.com continues to evolve and grow its network by operating services from within Stagecoach's own companies as well as with a number of external contractors. The company launched a new website in the middle of last year which has helped increase the number of transactions and increase revenue.
Finalist: Stagecoach East Scotland
Express City Connect
Now in its 11th year of operation, Stagecoach East Scotland's Express City Connect network of high specification express coaches continues to expand and improve its services. Seventy-four coaches carry over 97,000 passengers each week across the Express City Connect network. All vehicles offer free wifi, air conditioning, reclining leather seats, 240v or USB power sockets, CCTV and a wheelchair lift. The X7 Perth to Aberdeen service also has bike racks. Frequencies have been improved and new vehicles introduced helping the continued increase in passengers numbers running at 3% year on year. Ferrytoll and Halbeath Park & Ride sites continue to assist with congestion over the Queensferry Crossing by providing sustainable travel alternatives. The sites now see an average of 1,283 cars parked per day, an increase of 23% on last year.
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;
- 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.