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|
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
|WEX685M on her home seafront in typical Summer weather|
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.