Reflections on the 2012 UK Bus Awards

Not all that long ago it seemed the ALBUM, the Association of Local Bus Company Managers, was heading for extinction. The local authority-owned bus companies, from which its members were drawn, were being sold off to fast expanding private sector groups, but today ALBUM appears as strong, or stronger, than ever and this was demonstrated when its member companies stole the show at the UK Bus Awards last week.

ALBUM is flourishing because the disposals stopped short of a strong core of operators, most notably in Edinburgh, Nottingham, Cardiff and Reading. Meanwhile, the organisation opened its doors to quality-minded independent operators like Trent Barton, Western Greyhound and Norfolk Green. The result is that the group that isn’t a “group” appears to be leading the UK bus industry.

ALBUM companies won eight of the 23 awards dished out at the UK Bus Awards in London last week, more than any other group (and more than Arriva, FirstGroup and Stagecoach combined!). These awards included top city operator (Nottingham City Transport) and top shire operator (Reading Buses), with Nottingham taking home the overall UK bus operator of the year prize and Reading finishing as runner-up. It’s the fourth time in the past five years that an ALBUM company has won the top prize: Lothian Buses (2007), Network Warrington (2008), Norfolk Green (2010) and Thamesdown Transport (2011).

It’s interesting that the closest challenger to ALBUM’s dominance was Go Ahead Group,which  won six awards. Unlike ALBUM, Go Ahead is a real group, but its success is often credited to its willingness to trust its local managers to run their businesses. Five of its companies won awards.

Meanwhile, it was encouraging to see creative thinking from FirstGroup win top honours in the environment and the ‘bus in the community’ categories.

And last but not least, Peter Hendy, Transport for London’s transport commissioner, must be congratulated for his well deserved award for services to the bus industry.


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