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.

Attractive posters used by Stagecoach to promote the Express City Connect network in Scotland.Winner, Gold Award: Stagecoach East Scotland

Express City Connect

Express City Connect is a network of services running across Fife and into Edinburgh, Livingston, Perth, Dundee, Aberdeen and Glasgow operated by Stagecoach. High specification air conditioned coaches with reclining leather seats, power points and wifi are being deployed across the network. Frequency across the network varies by location and ranges from hourly to as often as every five minutes at peak time. Strong partnerships have been developed with local authorities across the operating areas as well as Transport Scotland. The Ferrytoll park and ride is a good example of this, being a joint venture between Stagecoach and Fife Council aimed at to ease the growing congestion problems on the Forth Road Bridge and lead to the development of another site more beneficial to Glasgow commuters.

The judges commented on the strength of the partnerships that Stagecoach has formed with the public sector through its Express City Connect services. The network is being expanded and improved on an ongoing basis and customer feedback is prioritised. Taking these factors alongside investment in high specification vehicles have seen steadily rising passenger numbers and modal shift.

One of the attractive vehicles on the X90 service between Oxford and London.Winner, Silver Award: Oxford Bus Company

X90 Oxford-London

The X90 is a high frequency express coach service between Oxford and London, operated by the Oxford Bus Company. Once a marginal part of the company's bus network around Oxford, significantly increased passenger numbers has made the service into one of the company's key performers. Providing real time information on the location of vehicles and alerting passengers to any delays or diversions due to traffic conditions is given through the company's website and app as well as social media. The app also allows ticket purchase in advance or even as the vehicle is approaching the stop, saving time for the driver. The company has recently invested in new vehicles for the route, the design of which was influenced by its customers. Most noticeably, this meat a seat pitch that would allow the opening of a laptop computer, differentiating the service from the train, is addition to power points and wifi. The X90 route uses fully accessible coaches allowing wheelchair users to have a turn up and go service.

The judges noted the continuous improvement to the service and how it competes effectively with rail on this busy corridor. The investment in new vehicles as been rewarded with increasing passenger numbers making it a key part of the company's business.

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 results were 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.