Saturday 2 January 2016

STEVE Awards 2015

Happy New Year everyone from gloomy Kent, and as the New Year's honours list has caused a bit of controversy I'll do my bit to add to the mix by announcing this year's STEVE awards, which I started last year as I thought as I am very quick to criticise operators it would only be fair to recognise the ones, and individuals who get it right. Not your usual awards categories but something a bit different.

This year has been tough. Finding positives within the transport industry has not been easy, and I can't see it gettng easier. I can't bring myself to honour operators who have made cuts, as ultimately it is the travelling public who have suffered, and rightly or wrongly I do see myself as a mouthpiece for the travelling public. So deciding on this year's awards has been a difficut process and one company has done rather well as it has bucked the trend in the face of mass cuts elsewhere.

Driver Of The Year

This year the Driver Of The Year award goes to Malcolm Pearson of BorderBus. Malcolm was unlucky not to win the award last year, but you only have to see the way people's faces light up when they see who's driving to realise this guy has something that little extra. Quite simply the public adore him and on top of that he knows how to handle a bus. Totally deserved.

Journey Of The Year

This was no contest, however, the logistics of presenting the award meant I had to find another candidate. Without a shadow of a doubt my journey of the year came in May, on the Isle of Harris, between Leverburgh and Tarbot, which was so spectacular I didn't get a single picture on it! A rollercoaster of a ride through one of the most amazing landscapes I've ever seen. Astonishing but too far to go and present an award so an alternative had to be found. Trouble is I couldn't think of another journey that had me grinning from ear to ear from start to finish. And then I remembered a journey on one of Carter's Olympians, only to discover it was in 2014 - where has this year gone! But hang on, no one said it had to be a bus journey, and a few weeks ago I was like a 6yo nose pressed against the window on the most glorious journey from Edinburgh to Aberdeen on a Scotrail Class 170 with wall to wall sunshine and amazing scenery. That I think has to be my Journey Of The Year

Dundee from the rail bridge crossing the Tay Estuary in November 2015

Best Allocation Of The Year

No contest, no contest whatsoever. Step forwatd Abelio and the Short Set. We were all sad to see the 47's go but the sheer presence and soundtrack of the 37's makes this one a no brainer. Long may they last.

37425 sits at Brundall Gardens on the first day of 37 operation

Most Successful Route Of The Year

It has not been a good year for bus routes. Cuts everywhere, especially in my neck of the woods. Anglian have axed more routes than they've got left, in particular the 62 which I used regularly, and First have halved the frequency on the 64/65. The X1 has done well, but until the route is joined back together after the Postwick roadworks are complete - if it is - then I don't consider it a whole route. The 99 has seen numbers soar since fares were slashed to a pound - a lesson for everyone there I feel - but only one route has seen two timetable changes with journeys added, and another one in the pipeline, with passenger numbers setting records month after month. Therefore the winner of Most Successful Route |Of The Year is BorderBus's 146 between Norwich and Southwold.

BB62 BUS on the 146 at St Stephen's St Norwich

The STEVE Award For Cleanliness

There were a few contenders for this award, won last year by Ipswich Buses. First's Freshstart procedure saw a huge improvement in the exterior presentation of buses in Ipswich which was then rolled out across Eastern Counties. All works fine until the wash breaks down. Also I have noticed that the front top deck windows on First's deckers are in a terrible state - as if they never get washed by broom or bus wash. This needs to improve. Anglian? Moving swiftly on. Konect are slightly better but there have still been too many times where rear number plates have been unreadable. However I clearly remember looking out of Wilko's window in St Stephen's St inNorwich and getting indignant because I hadn't been told of a new arrival at BorderBus, only to discover it wasn't a new arrival but just a very clean bus in comparison to every other bus on the road. BorderBus do not have a bus wash. They have staff who take a huge pride in the turnout of their vehicles, and so again this was a fairly easy award to decide on.

Friendliest Depot Of The Year

It must be said that First Yarmouth came close here, but once again, and sorry if this is getting repetitive, BorderBus go that extra mile. I have been lucky enough to be invited round many depots and companies this year, but only one has invited me to watch and photograph a safety inspection, including the pits, take part in a road test and a new vehicle appraisal. It's also true to say no one else has given me a lift in a Porche Carrera convertible either! It is always a pleasure to visit BorderBus and I have a feeling I might be up there a fair bit this year too.

Best Value For Money Award

This is the only award to be retained from last year, and this year I'm going to make sure I actually present it! Megabus are peerless in this department, and when in November I did Norwich - London - Edinburgh - London - Norwich for £4.50 the award was sewn up once and for all. Outstanding.

A rare Volvo B11R Plaxton Interdeck on the now withdrawn M37 at Norwich

Bus Of The Year

Those of you who read my ultimate vehicle comparison in November will probably guess that this award is not going to a new vehicle. The fact that a 7yo Gemini beat anything new on the market doesn't say a great deal for the new buses around. It would go to the Borismaster but since it is not possible to ride them outside a city setting an all round verdict cannot be reached. So I have unaminously decided to give the award to a bus that returned to the area this year, has been a shelter from the elements, and a meeting place for gatherngs of fellow anora enthusiasts. This bus is also the only bus I know to have its own Twitter account and was the star attraction at Old Buckenham this year. So the Bus Of The Year award goes to Chris Speed and Danny Beales' Great Yarmouth Transport AEC Swift WEX685M. Showbus next year guys?

WEX685M on her home seafront in typical Summer weather
Best Customer Service Award

Finally probably the most deserved award of all. This award goes to three people who several times a week have to put up with me demanding minibuses here there and everywhere at all hours. They move mountains to accommodate me and never a word of complaint or negativity. It is extremely rare I can't get what I want and without these girls my life would be so much harder. So to Kerry, Charlotte and Gemma at Suffolk Links in Leiston my heartfelt thanks, and here's to me finding more places for you to take me in 2016.

And that's just about it. My thanks to everyone in the industry from Managing Directors to drivers to fitters to anyone who has welcomed me into their world this year. To all those who contribute to the blog, to my fellow bloggers Roy, Grahame, Zak, Harry, Clive and Cameron thanks for your comradeship. To everyone who reads and comments on the blog you are why I do it. To my many readers around the world thank you and Lord knows why I'm so popular in Russia and Ukraine but it's nice you take an interest. I've also recently had a lot of views from Brunei, so if there are any Sultans wishing to invest in the blog please get in touch!

However I must single out two people who have kept me going this year. When I quit the blog in September Chris Speed broke into a ridiculously intense Health & Safety course to persuade me to keep going. That meant a helluva lot so thank you Chris. I still want those 64/65 changes we discussed implemented though!

Secondly to a gentleman who has become a true friend this year. Apart from reporting sightings, sending videos and pictures and sharing gossip, Tim Miller took me to the Norwich Running Day, the Old Buckenham Rally and the washout at Great Yarmouth. He also got me to Norwich for the 0445 Megabus to London in November and offered to drive me to Kent Christmas Day if needed. Tim it is my privilege to know you, and I hope one day to be able to repay you in more than Whoppers!

Here's to a positive, successful, expansive, happy, friendly and passenger focused 2016.


  1. "I clearly remember looking out of Wilko's window in St Stephen's St inNorwich and getting indignant because I hadn't been told of a new arrival at BorderBus, only to discover it wasn't a new arrival but just a very clean bus in comparison to every other bus on the road. BorderBus do not have a bus wash. They have staff who take a huge pride in the turnout of their vehicles, and so again this was a fairly easy award to decide on."

    Would have been nice of lynx to be recognised too. Their vehicles get cleaned mid day sometimes too (by hand!)

    This review all seems very biased... "Anglian? Moving swiftly on". Are their buses dirtier than first? Remember what routes they are on item country roads where they get dirty in 5 mins. - probably because anglian have stopped serving your area?

    Konect a little better? They wash them every day. No, not by hand, only the bendys,but not their fault they go through country roads and can't get back to Dereham every 5 mins for a wash.

    Borderbus picture you show doesn't look that clean to me..

    1. I think I've been to Kings Lynn once this year, which is why Norfolk Green haven't been mentioned either. Nor have Sanders for that matter.

      Are Anglian's buses dirtier than First? Yes. Inside and out.

      Sorry but rear numberplates on E400's and Tempos do not get obliterated within minutes of leaving the depot. Washes break down and/or freeze. That is not the operator's fault but nonetheless still results in dirty buses on the streets.

      No BB07 doesn't look that great but it was a filthy day - look at the road - and it's still cleaner than the First bus behind. Anyway that pic was for 146 purposes only not to demonstrate cleanliness.

      These awards are based solely on my opinion and experiences over the year. Feel free to start your own blog and create your own awards to redress the balance if you feel it necessary. Many thanks.

  2. Andrew Kleissner4 January 2016 at 08:22

    One other bus service which has had greatly increased service this year is the Ipswich 9/10. I know you don't much like the Citaros which were bought for it, and I suspect that the reason behind the improvement was to prevent First making a pre-emptive strike as they have done elsewhere in town. Still, it's worth a mention even if it doesn't get the prize!

  3. Wow border bus wash their buses by hand! Do you know the cost of an industrial washer? With so few buses it's more economical to do it that way. Are first/ konect goING to hand wash 100-300 buses a night? There's a big difference.

    And actually yes, the first bus behind border bus does look as clean.

    Border bus let you go to their depot - many less regulations there and they know you will give a good review. I don't think I'd get the same treatment without a well established blog...

    1. Wow such cynicism. Ok where to start.First of all the fresh start programme at First I mentioned DOES involve hand washing part of every bus every night. However there are dedicated staff there to do it and they got lavish praise from me last Jan when I saw it in action.

      All relationships have to be built up and no I very much doubt BorderBus would allow any Tom. Sick or James down the pits without knowing they could vtrust them first. I guess that applies to all walks of life.

      I repeat the pic of the BorderBus was only because itvwss showing 146 and not because it ws gleaming. I'm writing these posts by my father's hospital bedside and don't have my full catalogue at my disposal - my apologies for the inconvenience.

      Just like the Oscars, Baftas or any awards that are not decided by a public vote you will never get a unanimous agreement. However please don't insinuate I don't know about various procedures when there are extensive posts demonstrating the contrary

  4. I didn't say that border bus was dirty
    .. just you saying it's much cleaner than the first bus behind, but actually that one looks clean.

    1. There - pic changed, and a cleaner BB62 too.

  5. Andrew Kleissner5 January 2016 at 13:31

    A question about the 37s and the short set. Do they work in "head-and-tail" mode, or is it only the loco at the front which does the work?

    1. They both do the work, Andrew, if working properly, which results in a brilliant soundtrack, although 37422 was apparently slacking a bit last week. The 47's, however were different and only the lead loco did the work.

    2. I thought both 47's were wired through as well I have watched my vid again but its hard to tell with them unlike the "Angry Brigade"

    3. Nope did a tri standing one end which was quet one way and very noisy the other! The rear one only idled and did no work

  6. Well, blimey, this post doesn't appear to have gone as well as it did last year.

    Since we're all sharing though, I'll expand on a few points (quoted from above):

    ""Anglian? Moving swiftly on". Are their buses dirtier than first?"

    Hmm, well, while I agree that Anglian buses certainly aren't dirtier than First's (I know I don't have to brush the seats when I catch an Anglian bus anyway, can't say the same for First...) they ARE looking less cared for than they could be, with various dents and scratches being left for longer than you'd expect. I mean, compare an Anglian bus with a First bus that's in (one of) the new liveries (so, not the Yarmouth Presidents or B7Ls, or pretty much anything else in the old livery) and see for yourself - it's a bit of an eye opener. Whether that's down to a maintenance issue or part of the general malaise affecting Anglian though is another matter...

    "Konect a little better?"

    Well, as Steve had said and Andrew appears to have noticed with the "I know you don't much like the (Ipswich) Citaros", these awards are all based on Steve's opinion and experiences over the year which - to me, although I am a regular reader I'll admit - I saw coming a mile off, as well as what wasn't mentioned. With that in mind, just for example:

    No mention of the Ipswich Buses Citaros; Steve doesn't like them, which is why they weren't mentioned.

    Steve hasn't been on NG/Stagecoach, Sanders, Lynx or (I suspect) Konect; as a result, other than a breezy mention of the exterior of Konect vehicles, they haven't been mentioned.

    BorderBus (which seems to have been what's caught people's attention); with the greatest of respect to our host, Steve is like a nervous teenage girl on the 'night of her first time' (to put it delicately - sorry Steve!) when posting about them, so I knew quite well they'd be all over these. Amusing, yes. Warranted, well, as I'm outside their operating area and don't have an ENCTS pass it's probably going to be some time before I know for sure myself, my answer is I don't actually know. Am I going to jump up and down about it, no.

    One general thing I will add though; out of all the buses I've been on myself in the last year, while many have been clean only two (yes, two) have actually 'smelled' clean when I've caught them. The operator of both - Konect. Make of that what you will, I'm sure someone will be along to disagree with me in due course either way :D

    1. Thanks Tinker - you made me smile. I'll answer as best I can.

      First of all to clarify what I said at the start of the post "I can't bring myself to honour operators who have made cuts, as ultimately it is the travelling public who have suffered, and rightly or wrongly I do see myself as a mouthpiece for the travelling public." I'm sorry to say that ruled First, Anglian, Konect and Stagecoach Norfolk out of the picture before anything even started. Even Ipswich Buses have made cuts to other routes although as Andrew rightly said the 9/10 has seen an increase in frequency, if not capacity.

      I will do my utmost to get on Lynx this year - they seem to have their fan base and it's only fair I do.

      As for Anglian I have enough armoury regarding them and what has happened to them over the last year to get the UN interested. However out of respect to the drivers who are still doing their damndest to keep the public getting on the buses even if Go Ahead aren't, then I'm keeping it to myself for the time being. You are right about the state of the fleet, but as I said I'm keeping quiet on that at the moment.

      You say I'm like a nervous teenage girl on the "night of her first time"! I trust you have more experience in that than I do!! Joking apart though it is not a bad analogy as yes it WAS exciting to be the first blogger to be invited to observe a safety inspection. It WAS exciting to be the first to go out on a road test. It WAS exciting to be invited down the pits to take pics. It IS exciting to know every single driver by name and feel almost part of the team. It IS exciting to see a company flourish and expand rather than floundering and cutting. So am I excited about BorderBus - too bloody right I am as they provide a chink of light and positivity in a vsst tunnel of depression, cuts and total imcompetence which sums up the majority of public transport at the moment. And that, I might remind you is despite having a fleet of Presidents and E200's which are not exactly my favourites!

      I have nothing against Konect, I have not travelled on a bus that was not well presented. But at the same time they haven't set the world alight, the 2/2A have gone and the X6/6A decimated. They chose cheap E400's for the P&R instead of sticking to their original decision and getting Geminis. Plus several of their management have been sent to turn Anglian around and failed spectcularly. But if their buses smelt clean then well done to them!

  7. Andrew Kleissner7 January 2016 at 09:11

    As it happens, I had to use several buses in Ipswich yesterday. The first I rode on was one of the Citaros (not my first trip on one). Yes, it is very grey and no, you can't hear the bell. But it rode well, the seats although hard are well-shaped, and there were no rattles (unlike on the one I rode a few weeks ago, which had a loose ceiling panel). The other buses I used all had the older moquette bench-seats which I like as the material grips one's clothes, however they were not as well-shaped as on the Citaros. By the way, I think capacity has actually increased slightly on the 9/10 route, as there aren't enough Citaros to run the service and the other buses used are usually double-deckers.

  8. "I can't bring myself to honour operators who have made cuts" - Ok, I suppose Border Bus didn't make cuts, but if they did, they would no longer be a bus company. They aren't really a larger operator to cut routes. (I know they are new that's not my point), but its a little different having 50 routes and seeing 10% arent working (so that's 5 routes gone) compared to an operator which only operates a couple of routes.

    "I know all the Border Bus drivers by name". How? Maybe because there are prehaps 10? Let's expand border bus to a company with 60 buses. Will you then know them all by name? Will all buses be hand washed thoroughly daily? Will they never cut a service, just every expand?

    When companies get bigger things have to give, and unfortuntaely the highest standards can't stay when a company gets so big. Take konect now compared to 2007 for example. Julian had blue, grey and yellow permanent markers in his draw. If a bus got a minor scratch, it would be coloured in until it was sorted. Can you imagine that now?

    - He will do the same with Lynx, and can do as it's a small operator.

    I understand your point, but you cannot look at all operators from the same lenses. If you owned 1 car it is easier to maintain and keep nice than if you had 100 for example.

  9. No idea who you are but you are entitled to your opinion. This is my opinion and well, if you don't like it then it makss as much difference to me as not liking whoever gets best actor at the Oscars.

    The fact is I DO look at everything from a single lens for one very good reason. I am not here as a representitive of the industry, or even the media, but as a passenger, and passengers look at everything from a single lens - will the bus turn up, is it reliable, is it clean and comfortable and is the service still going to be here this time next month. They don't gove a toss how many vehiles a company has as long as it turns up, and the fact you are banging the Go Ahead drum so much smacks of jealousy over BorderBus's success. If Go Ahead get their act together this coming year things might be different. I'm not holding my breath all the time they get Beccles and London mixed up Donald Trump style.though.

    1. The difference is 1 company has a couple of routes. Success. Another, Anglian, which was actually making loses on routes with Mr Pursey in charge then. It isn't all management to blame. If Mr Pursey was still there, without doing cuts, he wouldn't be there now. Do you know the financial difficulty Anglian were in before Go-Ahead even took over?

    2. I have it on good authority they weren't, but even if they were Andrew Pursey was merely the manager at the time - his parents still controlled the purse strings. And I repeat, if the company was losing money and not worth buying why did Go Ahead buy it? For every bitter person like yourself who has a chip on their shoulder about the Pursey era there are many, many more who have only good memories and affection - and a lot of those are passengers.

      Perhaps you could tell me what positives Go Ahead have brought to Anglian. How many successes can you inform us of? How are any passengers any better off - btw in Feb the 61 goes to half hourly to Kessingland from every 15 mins 3 months ago. Another success story and sign of growth and optimism. Oh no sorry it isn't is it.

  10. You say the drivers used to care about anglian and not now. - I am not for a second saying that their morale is high now, but cast your mind back to 2012. To my recollection, SOME drivers were wearing white trainers, no tie, many wearing their own jackets and some wearing jeans. If they had respect for the company they worked for, they wouldn't have done this. Again, I am not trying to tar everyone with the same brush, but before Go-Ahead took over, not everything was perfect then. - Do you remember the 100's of complaints on their facebook? Yes, there still are, but as humans, we only remember the good things, and not the bad.

    All the way from 2006-2011 anglian had the worst punctuality against all bus operators in Norfolk - I'll link you to the articles from NCC if you wish.

    1. "You say the drivers used to care about anglian and not now."

      Just proves you don't actually read what I say. I have said no such thing. This is what I said, perhaps you'd care to read it properly this time.

      "However out of respect to the drivers who are still doing their damndest to keep the public getting on the buses even if Go Ahead aren't, then I'm keeping it to myself for the time being".

      Is that clear enough that I still think Anglian drivers care or do you want it in words of one syllable?

      I don't give a damn about what it was like in 2006. This is 2016 and I'm judging what I see now, not the past. So please tke your anti Pursey rhetoric elsehwre as I'll be deleting anything more in that vein from now on unless it's relevant or constructive. Regardless of the financial state of Anglian when Go Ahead took over - and why would they want to buy a financially unviable company - Go Ahead have done absolutely nothing to improve things and a lot of passengers, me included have lost services.

  11. Predictable, I suppose. What I'd rather like to see is the booby prize, perhaps for the depot that seems to make the least of its available resources. Though how would we judge? Look at it from the passenger perspective: what do we expect and what do we get? It's hard but we'd at least make the attempt to take account of the handicaps the industry suffers, from urban traffic, size, to the character of the network; resources and restructurings - at least for a short period of grace, since they ought to be managed too). Perhaps your readers could nominate, with reasons? Perhaps it might even incentivise a few to get out of the list in future?

    Certainly there do seem to be a few around where the whole seems to be rather less than the sum of the parts (a good starting criteria, perhaps), for a reason I can't quite fathom. Well, I suspect poor management, since I'm not yet convinced that vehicles, driver ability and passengers vary by that much. Perhaps in the case of one that I have to bear more often, that at times seems even dysfunctional.

    Of course, it'd be easy to mention a single name (again) but that's just too easy, and might not be fair, either!

    Let me do my list of out-of-area examples, though. Stagecoach in Cambridge would be in there, but with the justification of the most horrendous traffic outside London. First Norwich too can claim traffic; and Colchester with less justification, and restructuring, though they seem to manage the feat of more and better buses and less reliability. A feat repeated in Chelmsford, though the passengers seem to have given up too. I suspect if you can't get them to work in the morning then they're going to think twice about risking it for the rest of the day. (And if you are going to regularly change timetables/routes, it does help to let the drivers/passengers know!) Arriva do seem to sail blithely on, oblivious, though everyone there seems to do their own thing. But that's not necessarily bad. Mostly, small seems to be synonymous with better. Though not, for consolation, if you live in Harlow. (Well, somebody has to, I suppose). So really nothing is inevitable.