The winners of these 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 medium operators of fleets between 21 and 100 vehicles, there are two others for businesses with fleets of 20 or fewer and over 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: Grey's of Ely
Grey's of Ely celebrated its 70th birthday last year and has three generations of knowledge and passion in the coach operating business. It employs 40 full and part time staff and believes strongly that investing in its team and brand, as well as its vehicles, is the reason why Grey's has earned such a good reputation. Last year, the company undertook an internal review, believing that the past is for reference, not residency, and common practise is to be challenged and improved. The review has produced outstanding results for the business as well as delivering benefits to its customers. Unusually, Grey's sales material has also been printed in braille, and a voice recording of its terms and conditions for people with poor eyesight and those who cannot read, is also available. The company is currently working with a local deaf charity to produce a sign language version of its vehicle safety briefing. Grey's understands that to deliver the very best value and service to its customers, it must be setting the highest standards in the industry and always striving to exceed them.
The judges commented that this well-evidenced entry showed why Grey's of Ely is a quality operator, picking out its innovative and forward thinking approach to its business, low staff turnover and apprenticeship scheme for particular praise.
Winner, Silver Award: Williams Coaches
Based in the mid-Wales town of Brecon, Williams Coaches was established in the 1950s and is now managed by the second and third generation of the Williams family. The company operates 32 coaches from a purpose built depot and employs 33 staff. Williams focuses on private coach hire, group travel and contracts, and prides itself as being the leading coach operator in its area. It has recently been accepted into the Guild of British Coach Operators and could be the first operator to receive a 100% score on its entry audit. Williams aims to deliver excellence through the steps contained in its Customer Service Charter; exceed expectations, exceed the standard, be 100% flexible and accommodating, focus on customer loyalty and always be pro-active. Most importantly, all staff are encouraged to use their initiative in any way they feel appropriate in order to make any part of the coach hire experience a positive one.
The judges said that Williams Coaches provided good evidence of it being a well run and impressive business which empowers its staff and delivers excellent customer service.
Winner, Bronze Award: Maynes Coaches
Maynes Coaches is a family owned business that has traded successfully since 1947 in north east Scotland, though it also has a base in the Orkney Islands as well as in Elgin and its head office in Buckie. The success of this company is founded on providing a high quality, high value service. Maynes employs over 40 people and has a fleet of around 30 vehicles. Over the last year, in response to customer needs for high quality smaller vehicles, new nine, 16, 29, 33 and 47 seater coaches have been purchased, in addition to three new touring coaches. The business strategy of not increasing the fleet size, but maximising profits by altering the type of fleet has once again proved to be successful. A new and more modern branding was created last year and the new livery is being rolled out across the fleet. Celebrating over 70 years in an extremely competitive industry, Maynes prides itself on high standards of customer care and the hard work and dedication of its team.
Maynes has worked very hard to be the predominant coach operator in the area, and the judges noted that its strategy to develop the oil industry market and retain its family values, has proved to be very successful.
Chorley based Alfa Travel was established in 1990 and is part of the Alfa Leisureplex Group, which comprises 21 hotels alongside its tour and coach holiday operation taking customers across the UK, Ireland and Europe. The group employs over 700 people and operates a fleet of 47 Mercedes Euro 6 coaches. In 2015 the company became employee owned as part of a succession planning from a family owned business. Last year Alfa installed free customer wifi on one of its coaches, and based on customer feedback, this facility will be installed in more coaches for the 2018 season.
Pulham and Sons (Coaches)
Pulham & Sons (Coaches) was formed in 1880, and is probably one of the longest established coach operators in the UK, still a family owned and operated company. With the fourth generation of Pulhams at the helm, the company runs a modern fleet of 72 vehicles from its purpose built depot in Bourton-on-the-Water. It employs a dedicated team of 107 full and part-time staff and boasts state of the art maintenance and commercial vehicle testing facilities. Pulhams operates a range of educational tours and excursions, UK and European tours, private hire and school transport, alongside public bus services. The company is a member of the Guild of British Coach Operators and has achieved CoachMarque accreditation.
York Pullman Bus Company
Re-launched in 2007, York Pullman is a contract/private hire operation based in the York area. It operates from three key sites, providing 86 home to school and college runs daily, which it mixes with up to 80 private hire journeys. York Pullman employs around 160 full and part time staff, some of whom have worked for the company for nearly 20 years. It offers a comprehensive range of vehicle sizes and types, including vintage and wedding vehicles, branded to their operating area with some old and trusted names going back over 90 years. York Pullman is especailly strong on student transport, and works together with three local authorities, two colleges and many schools, optimising route coverage, adjusting capacities, and offering solutions to those not eligible to travel free of charge. This has maximised the value for money achieved by these organisations as well as increasing operational efficiency, effectiveness and profitability.
Who could be nominated?
The awards were open to all operators of coaches for hire to the general public or used on tours and excurions.
... 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 was also acceptable.