Arms length municipal companies triumphed again in the UK Bus Awards on 23 November, with Nottingham City Transport named Operator of the Year for 2016 and Reading Buses runner up.
This is the fourth win for NCT — England’s largest municipal — making it the most successful top operator since the awards began in 1996. It was Operator of the Year in 2004, 2012 and 2014.
Factors behind this win included a 97% Transport Focus satisfaction rating, free WiFi across the fleet and providing extensive customer services skills training for drivers, who earn the region’s highest pay rates.
Mystery passengers, riding unannounced on a cross-section of the finalists’ services, play a key part in the judging process. Their scores determine the overall winner from the three top operators — NCT (top city operator), Reading Buses (top shire operator) and Prentice Coaches of Haddington (top independent).
Reading was the single most successful finalist, taking seven gold, silver and bronze awards. Its gas bus investment helped it win the environment award and its focus on younger people’s needs won it gold for putting passengers first. It won silver for making buses a better choice (with its Leopard and Lion routes to Wokingham and Bracknell) and bronze (Claret Spritzer students’ service) in the new horizons category rewarding innovation.
Consistently high mystery passenger scores earned Prentice Coaches its award for top independent. Bus services account for more than half of this growing familyowned business in East Lothian, which displayed forward thinking, immaculate vehicle presentation and innovation. Prentice stepped in twice at short notice to replace hitherto failing services cancelled by their previous operator, turning them around and increasing passenger numbers.
Stagecoach won top national depot (St Andrews, East Scotland) and top London garage (Leyton, East London), National Express and Centro won top local authority project for their pioneering West Midlands Bus Alliance, while NatEx Wolverhampton operations manager Stephanie Maher is young manager of the year. Transdev’s York- Leeds Cityzap service took the gold award for making buses a better choice.
Ian Morgan wins BUSES award for industry service
Winner of the service to the industry award, sponsored by Buses, is Wellglade deputy chairman Ian Morgan. He joined the National Bus Company in 1972 and as traffic manager of Trent Motor Traction was part of the team that formed Wellglade to buy it from NBC in December 1986.
Wellglade went on to acquire Barton Buses in 1989 and besides Trent Barton, owns Kinchbus, Door2Door, Notts & Derby, TM Travel and cleaning business Kleanline. It is a partner in Nottingham Trams and has a 50% share in the Centrebus-managed High Peak Buses joint venture company.
The award, presented by Buses editor Alan Millar, acknowledges Morgan’s role in making Trent Barton a beacon of high standards of product design, branding, marketing and staff training, and also his service to the wider industry, notably as president of the Confederation of Passenger Transport in 2009 and chairman since 2011. He was appointed OBE in 2015.