Sunday 15 February 2015

The STEVE Awards 2014

Rather belatedly, due to Christmas getting the way, as well as annual leave and other committments such as work, the inaugural STEVE awards have been presented at lavish ceremonies this week. Ok well not that lavish but still very enjoyable.

To explain why the awards exist - I am not slow to criticse companies when things go wrong, or where I think things could be improved, and on the whole they take it pretty well, even acting on my suggestions on occasions. So I thought that if I criticise then I should recognise as well, and that's where I got the idea of the awards, not for the usual categories like best route, safest driver, punctuality etc, but for categories not usualy covered, with one or two exceptions. I hope you agree with most of them, but since I do get around a bit - I've travelled on buses from the Isle of Skye to Newcastle to Maidstone this year - the decisions are based purely on my own experiences, as are my criticisms. As the blog expands, as I hope it will, then more people will be involved in the decisions.

In total there were 8 categories, of which 5 have been presented so far. You will see from the other 3 that they will be a bit more difficult to arrange. The winners were decided in Setptember, so recent developments and events haven't really had a chance to be taken into account, but certainly will this year.

The first STEVE award was actually presented in December in a cold and wet Norwich Bus Station to Robin Moore, a driver for Anglian Bus on the 7/61/62. The award was for Friendliest Driver and quite simply you will not see a driver who has so many passengers getting off with a smile on their faces. He greets every passenger, asking them if they have had a nice day, and says thank you and goodbye to each one as they get off. He also has never complained about taking me back to Halesworth normally at least twice a week when I'm the only one on the bus for miles on a set down only journey. I know I never had that patience when I was driving and that clinched it for me. I asked Dave Jordan, Commercial manager at Anglian to present Robin with his award, and I'm grateful to him for doing so.

Robin Moore (left) and Anglian Commercial Manager Dave Jordan with the STEVE Award for "Friendliest Driver"
On Wednesday two awards were presented to Ipswich Buses, the award for Cleanliness and the award for "Most Inspired Allocation" Since I moved up here from Kent 8 years ago you could have led me blindfold (as if I don't have enough eye probs already) onto a bus and I could tell you if it was an IB vehicle or not. They have a unique aroma to them that no other company has, and, interior wise I have never seen a vehicle in a bad state or looking unkempt. I went on a former IB Solo the other week and it still had that IB scent! I must add that this award was decided before the Fresh Start procedure at First Ipswich began, who would have certainly been right up there had it started a few months previously!

The second award was won back in June, when someone at Ipswich Buses had the truly inspired idea to put the open top Atlantean in normal service prior to the Summer open top tour timetable coming into operation. I did a circuit on the 11 myself, and it felt like going in a time machine. It turned out to be a huge success, and if you think it was a one off I can tell you that Managing Director, Malcolm Robson and I were discussing how the DDA regulations could be got round to get her doing it after DDA comes into effect - and there are two Summers to go before that!

Remember when it was hot? IB 9 loading up on the 5 to Ipswich Hospital
IB 9,  Engineering Manager Nigel Daniels and Managing Director  Malcolm Robson with their awards   pic (c) DW
First Ipswich won one award, which was for Friendliest Depot. Over the last 9 months Ipswich has been the centre of attention, with the refurbishment programme and transformation of the fleet. Over that time Depot Engineering Manager Barry Spurling and his team have been magnificent in the way they have made me welcome, and given news and information so freely. Barry always has time for a natter, and I have never been made to feel an inconvenience, even though I know I must be at times! The guys there are equally friendly and are always happy to have a natter. The depot is quite unique in that respect, and it will take something pretty special to wrest that award away from them this year. I have to say BorderBus are right up there too, but they would be the first to agree that the activity and pressure there is maybe not quite the same! Of course no award involving First is complete without Ubiquitous Gonzales getting his face on the page, or Chris Speed as he is officially known as, and I was delighted when he agreed to present the award to Barry Spurling

Engineering Manager First Ipswich, Barry Spurling accepts his STEVE Award from Chris Speed, First Eastern Counties Business Manager       pic (c) DW
And now the award that turned out to be quite a moving affair. I hadn't planned this award but I was influenced by two things. Firstly many people have told me that as recently as a couple of years ago getting inside First depots was nigh impossible. Some rogue enthusiasts had created an atmosphere of distrust, which affected the bona fide respectful enthusiasts out there. One man has changed that atmosphere by recognising that enthusiasts, and even some bloggers on the whole give positive publicity to First, and even criticism, such as I'm not slow to give, tends to be constructive and not the sort the public feedback is. This new attitude culminated in that memorable day at Yarmouth's Caister Rd depot in December, when the Olympian photoshoot was organised for us. We all owe a huge debt of gratitude to Chris Speed. This time last year we were a bit wary of each other, but now not only do we have a working relationship I could only have dreamed of this time last year, but we have become friends, and that means so much more.

So I decided Chris's efforts to engage with the enthusiast community should be rewarded, and I created the Manager of the Year award for him. Chris had previously told me that he was given his first job on the then Yarmouth Transport by Cliff Hussey, who rather conveniently is now Operations Manager at Ipswich and I thought it would be rather nice if Cliff presented Chris with the award. So on the pretext that I wanted Cliff there to take part in the presentation to the depot, I asked Chris to bring him down with him. Not sure Cilla could have done it any better! On behalf of all enthusiasts who have benefitted from your opening up the depot doors policy, Chris, - I thank you. There are parts of the country where it is virtually impossible to get a depot tour, and they should take you and First Eastern Counties as an example.

Chris Speed gets his STEVE award from Ipswich Operations Manager and first boss Cliff Hussey   pic (c) DW
Chris was that pleased he tweeted this pic soon after, and put it on his Facebook page too - something that I was rather proud to see.

Chris's pic of his award, which he tweeted and put on facebook.
 Now, Chris, maybe we can discuss that hybrid livery for 33423 again..........

The last three awards, still to be presented are as follows:

Company Offering Best Value For Money:  Megabus
Vehicle of the Year: Megabus Volvo B11R Plaxton Elite Interdeck
Company Receiving Most Unfair Criticism: Abelio Greater Anglia

I'd like to thank all the managers and staff involved from the various companies for accepting the awards and indeed all the companies who make an effort to accommodate us enthusiasts. It really is appreciated and I'm looking forward to the difficult task of deciding the 2015 awards


  1. Good to see these awards Steve. Bus companies are often quick to be the but of complaints and it is good to see good work recognised too. Especially that of Chris Speed - I can echo everything you say about him as he always goes that extra mile!

    1. Absolutely Roy. Thanks for the support, mate.

  2. Steve i have to give you top marks for turning things around with Ipswich buses for a start,who at one stage were very anoid with certain aspects of the enthusiast and their blogs,nice to see that this has been turned around some what,as they too were good guys.
    I couldn't agree more over the awards for First Ipswich depot,fantastic group of guys and to Chris Speed who has brought lots of pride back too,it's amazing how showing faith in your guys plus investing, can & will make a difference,Chris now the fleet at Ipswich is up to scratch,we still need new vehicles sooner,rather than much later,it's proved that by the Ipswich vehicles being smartened up,(top man by the way)passenger numbers have gone up,i know this must tell you a great deal overall.

    1. Many thanks, Jim, and I hope you are nearing full fitness again - I know you and your camera have been sorely missed.

      The problem Chris faces re new vehicles for Ipswich is that Ipswich already has the best overall fleet in FEC. Ipswich doesn't have any rattle-box Presidents, any bone crunching B7l's, the ALX400's all have decent seats etc. Yes some depots have a few newer buses - the Gemini 2's in Norwich or the Streetlites at Norwich & Yarmouth, but on the whole Ipswich is far and away the best fleet.

      Norwich desperately needs new buses and quickly - the county town of Suffolk has done much better than the County City of Norfolk - even nicking their newer single deckers. I'll be honest here and say the Ipswich fleet is good for at least 5 years - 65579 excepted of course, by which time hopefully the other depots in FEC will have been updated and then Ipswich can get some new buses - will be nice I admit. Mind you P&R will probably swap hands as usual in 3 or 4 years so we'll get new buses then!

    2. Hi Steve,i wasn't meaning right away so to speak,but,to keep the standard up,by perhaps newer rather than new,on the decker front,those B7TL's used to work 24/7 on the 66's so they must be getting tired,hence the engine failure of 32486.
      As i mentioned in previous post,all credit must to to Chris & the Ipswich team,it's making sure the standards are maintened and if staff see continued investment the pride stays,which we need to see continue,don't you agree.

  3. Just to add Steve,i'm not knocking anybody on this issue,just hoping the image continues.

  4. I think it will, Jim. The Ipswich guys are a really happy bunch who seem to take great pride in what they do - look at how they transformed 30888 for example. I don't think we need to worry about things therefor a bit. As for the deckers, they are in great nick for their age, and I'm quite surprised the engine of 32486 has been so highly publicised, but it was apparently one of those things and nothing to do with fatigue of the vehicle.