Coach operators and their staff throughout the country are celebrating after being named as winners in the 2017 UK Coach Awards. The ninth annual awards were presented before an audience of 250 industry movers and shakers in a glittering ceremony at Manchester's Mercure Piccadilly Hotel on the evening of Thursday 4 May.
Long-established Scottish firm Maynes Coaches was named UK Coach Operator of the Year, having scooped the title of Top Medium Fleet Operator for the second year in a row. The company is based in Buckie, Morayshire and is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year.
Winner of the Top Large Fleet Operator was The Kings Ferry, the Gillingham-based National Express subsidiary which specialises in high quality commuter services into London. Top Small Fleet Operator, for the third year in a row, was Anthony's Travel. The Runcorn-based firm also won bronze in the ROSCO Award for Innovation in Road Safety.
Stagecoach East Scotland's cross-Forth network Express City Connect was named Top Express Operation for the third year in a row, just edging ahead of another Stagecoach product, the Oxford Tube. Oxford Bus Company took Silver for its express services from the city to London, Heathrow and Gatwick. The company also took home a Gold Award in the Making Coaches a Better Choice category for its investment in new customer and staff facilities at Oxford's Gloucester Green coach station.
Holiday giant Shearings took home two Gold Awards in the Coach Marketing and Coach Travel Programme categories, whilst National Express scooped the Gold Award in the Innovation category for its Vuer in-coach entertainment system. Software business Distinctive Systems won Gold in the Safety Innovation category for its smartphone-based Driver Walk-around App.
The awards were hosted and presented by Carol Kirkwood from BBC Breakfast, a great favourite with the coach industry.
Congratulating all the winners, UK Coach Awards chairman John Gilbert said, "Our awards are recognise and reward excellence and good practice at all levels in the industry, amongst all operators, large or small, and in all types of work from express through contracting to coach touring." Awards were presented for high quality operation, and for a range of professional disciplines such marketing, web site design, travel programmes and passenger facilities.
The biggest cheers of the night were reserved for the people awards, which provide recognition to a range of different staff categories, including both customer-facing and back office personnel. Top UK Coach Touring Driver was Adrain Waine from Cotswold company Pulham and Sons, whilst the Customer Service Award went to Julie Herbet at Margate-based Carol Peters Travel. The Unsung Hero Award went to a real industry stalwart, Joan Johnson - who worked in the family firm in Henley-in-Arden for 50 years, only retiring last year. Meanwhile, her grandson Richard won Gold in the Young Coach Industry Professional category. Stuart Jones of Bus and Coach Buyer was given the award for Services to the Coach Industry, recognising his work as editor of one of the industry's premier trade journalis over a career dating back more than 30 years.
“Coaching is above all a people business,” explained John Gilbert. “Our customers demand improved quality both in terms of vehicles and staff. We cannot meet these demands without good business organisation and excellent staff, and to retain good staff, we need to recognise and reward them, and this is why I believe this event has a major part to play in recognising leading operators, business innovation, excellent managers, staff and operating crews .”