Top Large Fleet Operator
The winners of the coach operating 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 101 vehicles), there are two others for businesses with fleets of 20 vehicles or fewer and between 21 and 100 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: The Kings Ferry
Originally established as a family business in Kent in 1968, The Kings Ferry now operates the largest commuter coach service in the UK. The company is renowned for providing a reliable, value-for-money luxury coach service with the latest in safety, comfort and technology. Since its acquisition by National Express in 2007, revenue has increased by 61% and profitability by 81%. Customer satisfaction scores are over 90% and the company has created a new commuter service into London from Maidstone this year. There is a great emphasis on staff development and engagement, and the company has recently been awarded Investors in People silver status. The Kings Ferry aims to be the market leaders in safety and has installed Alcolock in every vehicle which requires a breath sample with a zero alcohol reading from the driver before the engine can be started. It was also the first operator to score 100% on both the new and enhanced combined Guild of British Coach Operators and Coach Marque quality audit.
The judges commented on how the detailed submission for this category reflected the high standards operated within The Kings Ferry. It has worked hard to develop and extend its commuter market and achieved modal shift whilst maintaining very high standards of safety and customer satisfaction. The judges were also impressed with the company's commitment to staff development and engagement and had no hesitation in making The Kings Ferry the Gold Winner.
Winner, Silver Award: Shearings Holidays
Shearings Holidays specialises in escorted tours for the over 50s, offering a broad range of holidays to the UK, Europe and beyond. It also runs a portfolio of hotels exclusively for its coach borne clients. The company has invested heavily in its vehicles and properties and undertakes a lot of research allowing it to respond to emerging trends with new tours, themes and destinations. The success of this strategy is demonstrated by higher passengers numbers. This year, Shearings has invested in upgrading its website, through which an increasing number of bookings are coming.
The judges commented on how thoroughly Shearings researches the market before putting on new tours, ensuring they will produce a healthy level of bookings. They also noted the increasing proportion of holidays booked online and recognised the work Shearings has undertaken to support this, making it a worthy Silver Winner.
Winner, Bronze Award: York Pullman Bus Company
York Pullman Bus Company was established in 2007 with 20 vehicles and run as part of a haulage company. Since then it has grown and earned itself a reputation for quality, reliability and, as the company puts it: "providing what the customer wants when they want it, in a safe, reliable and friendly way." The company now operates 110 vehicles and employs 130 staff from several bases in North Yorkshire, having expanded by taking over a number of other companies. In each case, the York Pullman ethos of safety, quality and customer service has been successfully introduced whilst maintaining the existing brands.
The judges were impressed with the way in which York Pullman has rapidly expanded by taking over other operators whilst maintaining its high standards across the entire business. The key performance indicators are very strong and the judges noted the very low staff turnover and sickness rates.
Finalist, National Express - National Express
National Express is the UK's largest scheduled coach operator, with 500 vehicles serving over 900 towns and cities every day as well as connecting services to all the major UK airports. Established for 40 years, National Express is the UK partner in the Eurolines network and it also operates The Kings Ferry coach commuting network. National Express has led the way with innovations in accessibility, technology and safety.
Who could be nominated?
The awards are 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. Self-nomination is acceptable.