West Midlands coach companies claim quadruple gold in national awards contest
Coach operators and their staff in the West Midlands are celebrating after being named as winners in the 2017 UK Coach Awards. The ninth annual awards were presented before an audience of 250 industry movers and shakers in a glittering ceremony at Manchester's Mercure Piccadilly Hotel on the evening of Thursday 4 May. Operators from the region scooped no fewer than four Gold Awards in the nationwide contest.
Birmingham-based National Express scooped two trophies in the Innovation and Safety Innovation categories for taking advantage of new technologies designed to entertain customers and to improve safety on vehicles. The company's VUER onboard 'infotainment' - news and entertainment - system allows customers to watch video content streamed to their own smarthphones and tablets. Meanwhole the new "DriveCam" system records any incident from harsh breaking to a collision - and automatically sends a 12 second video clip via the internet for review. This can be used as an aid to driver training and helps embed a "safety first" culture with staff.
There were two Golds as well for the family firm based in Henley-in-Arden, Johnsons Coach & Bus Travel and their Kidderminster-based subsidiary Whittles Coaches. In a unique family double, 80 year old Joan Johnson was named as Gold Award winner in the Unsung Hero category for her 60 year contribution to the business, whilst her grandson Richard won the Gold Award for Young Coach Industry Professional. Richard was singled out by the judges for his passion and enthusiasm, and for the drive he has shown since taking over as Assistant Manager at Whittles.
The awards were hosted and presented by Carol Kirkwood from BBC Breakfast, a great favourite with the coach industry.
Congratulating all the winners, UK Coach Awards chairman John Gilbert said, "Our awards are recognise and reward excellence and good practice at all levels in the industry, amongst all operators, large or small, and in all types of work from express through contracting to coach touring."Awards were presented for high quality operation, and for a range of professional disciplines such marketing, travel programmes and passenger facilities.
The biggest cheers of the night were reserved for the people awards, which provide recognition to a range of different staff categories, including both customer-facing and back office personnel. Some 200 nominations were received for this year's awards from all over the country, including coach customers, operators and attractions.
“Coaching is above all a people business,” explained John Gilbert. “Our customers demand improved quality both in terms of vehicles and staff. We cannot meet these demands without good business organisation and excellent staff, and to retain good staff, we need to recognise and reward them, and this is why I believe this event has a major part to play in recognising leading operators, business innovation, excellent managers, staff and operating crews .”