Making Coaches a Better Choice
Like all forms of passenger transport, coach travel relies on others to help make the journeys it provides for customers as comfortable, efficient and prompt as possible.
Highway authorities, coach parking provides, terminal operators, local authorities and tourist attractions all have a role to play in making life for coach passengers as comfortable and convenient as possible.
This award is designed to recognize and reward projects, big or small, which genuinely improve life for coach operators, coach drivers and their passengers.
The judges were looking for a scheme, project or partnership that achieved one or more of the following:
- improved the provision of an existing coach product
- improved passenger facilities for coach passengers
- provided a genuinely innovative new service
- improved services to coach passengers through new infrastructure or facilities giving faster, more comfortable and/or more reliable journeys.
The Results 2018
Winner, Gold Award: National Express
Development of the Caetano Levante III
Development of the next generation of National Express coach, the Caetano Levante III, began in 2015. Building on the existing relationship with the Portuguese manufacturer, National Express was able to specify something that suited the needs of its long distance passengers on its high mileage network. The seats have been upgraded to be more comfortable and incorporating better seatbelt design and an under-seat storage area, while 240v sockets have been replaced with twin USB sockets for each seat. The side radiators have been changed for an industry-first electrical underfloor heating system. This works in conjunction with underseat sensors and the air conditioning system across five separate zones helping to produce a consistent temperature throughout the passenger cabin, regardless of external factors such as the sun heating one side of the vehicle. The much larger toilet cabin has been moved to the rear off-side and is at floor level with a sliding door, making access very easy. Particular attention has been paid to removing the odour, often a cause of customer complaint. The whole module can be removed through the rear door and replaced with double seats for the vehicles' second life. The wheelchair space is larger and all vehicles have the company's VUER entertainment system, delivered to customers' own handheld devices.
Whilst also including the many safety features for which National Express has become well-known, the judges commented that the new design includes many features that will please passengers. Legroom and comfortable seats are especially important for passengers that are sat down for longer.
Winner, Silver Award: 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, at seat 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.
The judges said that Express City Connect is a good example of how ongoing improvement and expansion brings a continued increase in passenger numbers. The high specification vehicles no doubt help with the high levels of modal shift that the services achieve.
Winner, Bronze Award: Carnforth Station Heritage Centre & Leighton Hall
A Brief Encounter with Leighton Hall
Group and coach tour organisers often asked both Carnforth Station Heritage Centre and Leighton Hall where else each would recommend that the group also visit. So last year, the two Lancashire attractions teamed up to offer a joint admission and refreshment package on a trial basis across the summer. Twenty-one tours were booked bringing over 600 visitors to the two venues. It was so successful that it will become a permanent offering throughout the year, and bookings already look to be double the number that visited in 2017. At Carnforth Heritage Centre, visitors can see various exhibition areas and the famous Refreshment Rooms where the iconic film Brief Encounter was shot. Leighton Hall is the home of the famous Gillow furniture making family, and after a light lunch of soup and a sandwich or afternoon tea, guests can enjoy a guided tour of the house and well as visiting the grounds, and weather permitting, a birds of prey display. Coaches can park less than 50 yards from the entrance of both venues.
The judges thought that this was a good example of two attractions responding to what customers were asking for and working together making visiting by coach an attractive option and achieving modal shift.
Finalist: Ellen Smith Tours
Door-to-Door Coach Tours
Rochdale based Ellen Smith offers a slightly different Door-to-Door service to other coach operators. Coach tours begin at a motorway service area. Customers are collected by taxi, with their luggage handled by the specially trained driver, and are taken directly to the service area. This eliminates the need for what can be long pick up routes or using interchanges that other operators utilise. When the tour returns, taxis are waiting and passengers stay on the coach while the luggage is unloaded and the customer's name is called to transfer to their individual taxi. The system works very smoothly and has proved to be very attractive, helping the company achieve year on year growth of 8% for the past three years.
Finalist: Kirbys Coaches
Day Excursion and Theatre Experience
Kirbys Coaches believes in offering its customers a complete 'experience', in addition to coach travel from its base in Essex. The company has created 70 free parking spaces and a large waiting room, with toilets, at its depot. It not only gives a space for customers going on the same trip to meet, but provides a safe place for them to wait for taxis when trips return late into the evening. Over 9,000 customers used the free parking spaces last year, which has helped make the company's day excursions more attractive and helping achieve modal shift. Passengers joining West End Theatre trips are also given a 500ml bottle of water and 40g chocolate bar.
Finalist: Skills Holidays
Days Out: Route 2
Last years Skills Holidays introduced a Route 2 for its day trip programme in order to tap into new residential areas around Nottingham and make it easier and more convenient for passengers to join at a pick-up point more local to them. The objectives were to increase the company's passenger base by serving new areas and improve customer satisfaction by reducing the amount of travel that some customers had in order to get to their nearest pick-up point on Route 1. Although only introduced in the autumn, early indications are that the scheme has been a success.
Who could be nominated?
The award was open to operators, local authorities, partnerships, tourist and visitor attractions or other organisations.
… and by whom?
Nominations were welcomed from all eligible organisations, and self-nomination was acceptable.
Criteria and Entry Requirements
The award will be won by a project, or a change in practice, designed to improve accessibility for any group of people. The entry must demonstrate the improvements gained, that the project goes beyond minimum statutory requirements and that it is supported by endorsements from those who benefit most.
Entries were ranked on the basis of the submissions made, which needed to:
- Describe the problem(s) that the project was designed to solve.
- Describe the project and how it was implemented
- Explain the extent to which accessibility issues were considered
- State how the project or service was promoted
- Show how the outcome was monitored and describe any changes made as a result of the monitoring.
- Supply evidence of the results of the project (e.g. patronage or other appropriate indicators).
- State whether the results likely to be sustainable
- Describe any future plans for further development.
- Include any relevant supporting material.