ALBUM’s membership provides some five thousand of the nation’s buses, and is thus close in size to one of the plc operators.
Appointed as Chairman of ALBUM at their Annual General Meeting in Glasgow last week, is Bill Hiron, Managing Director of Stephensons of Essex, the well- known independent operator.
Bill commented: “Now, more than ever, the non-aligned bus sector needs to have a strong voice with central and local government, suppliers, the Traffic Commissioners and other stakeholders. Not only is the detailed guidance to the Bus Services Act still being formulated, but we face the multiple challenges of clean-air zones, increasing congestion, new technology, local authority budget constraints, and a reduced high street footfall which create the ‘double whammy’ of increased costs alongside reduced income. ALBUM is a respected industry voice, and aside from responding to formal government consultations that affect our sector and indeed the bus industry more widely, and sharing best practice, we need to maintain our profile as the professional voice of the SME’s”.
At the AGM, Bill Hiron thanked Mark Fowles for his contribution in his year as Chairman and Mark will remain on the ALBUM Executive. The Vice-Chairman appointed at the AGM is Andrew Halliday the Managing Director of Safeguard Coaches of Guildford.
At a bus naming ceremony held at The Museum of Power in Langford tributes have been paid to two leading figures at Stephensons of Essex, Lyn Watson and Chris McCormick, who both sadly died in May 2017.
Bill Hiron, Managing Director of Stephensons of Essex, dedicated the two buses with the help of both Chris and Lyn’s family.
Speaking about Chris McCormick, Bill said: “He was an invaluable member of the team. His people skills were outstanding.”
“Chris watched every penny and was a hard taskmaster. He expected high standards, but equally, was always prepared to listen if staff had personal problems, helping where he could. He was firm, kind and fair, and continued working while receiving treatment. He dramatically improved standards at the depots he ran.”
Also at the event was Gary Raven, Managing Partner for Barrons Chartered Accountants, who paid tribute to accountancy professional Lyn Watson. Gary said that; “The bus industry was Lyn’s passion.”
“Lyn’s love of life, his social nature and his sense of humour, meant he was a great friend to a lot of people. He was an easy confidante.”
Both dedicated buses are in service most days and specially designed plaques help tell those on board about Chris and Lyn.
**Stephensons of Essex is celebrating having been crowned Top Independent Operator at the UK Bus Awards 2017 held in London today.
The company took gold, fighting off competition from across the country. They also won bronze in the Bus Operator of the Year category which recognises the ‘best in show’ from winners across the board.
The Top Independent Operator award recognises bus companies that provide an outstanding service and is truly committed to their customers and employees.
Stephensons is the largest independent bus operator in Essex and has a significant presence in Suffolk too. The company’s successful philosophy is to operate small depots with small teams of friendly drivers, delivering reliable services. They believe in minimal layers of bureaucracy, coupled with an ability to respond swiftly to opportunities where they arise.
The company also invest heavily in vehicles, route branding, their employees, technology and communication.
Mark Yexley, Chairman of the UK Bus Awards, said: “The judges were very impressed with Stephensons of Essex, they thought they set a really good example of an operator that gets the basics right and provides a good service for its customers.
“We would like to congratulate Stephensons of Essex on their achievement. Well done from everyone at the UK Bus Awards.”
** Source: UKBUSAWAARDS.ORG.UK
Local independent bus operator Stephensons of Essex and its Managing Director Bill Hiron lent a hand at the popular Danbury Open Gardens event earlier in the month in aid of Farleigh Hospice.
Now in its 18th year, the Open Gardens event sees over 20 local households proudly display their horticultural masterpieces, in gardens of all shapes and sizes. To link the various gardens, two free shuttle bus routes are operated, Danbury/Little Baddow loop, and a Danbury/Bicknacre loop.
Stephensons, for the second year, provided one of the routes using ‘Priscilla’, the company’s 1986 ‘heritage’ 16-seat Ford Transit, which started its life in Yeovil, Somerset over 30 years ago and is now in semi-retirment with Stephensons. Bill Hiron, Stephensons’ Managing Director, explained “When we were approached by the organisers of the Danbury Open Gardens event, who put on such a magnificent day in aid of Farleigh Hospice, we couldn’t say no. ‘Priscilla’ is an ideal size for the narrow lanes traversed by the shuttle bus route, and generates much interest with passengers. I was pleased to personally take charge of her for the day, and help out in aid of such a great cause”.
Mary Blackaby is a regular passenger on Stephensons 90 bus, travelling from her home in Witham to the town centre, often several times a day, as well as journeying to Maldon twice a week with her niece.
For her 100th birthday, as well as 115 cards, Mary was surprised to receive a bunch of flowers from the bus company, and a card signed by all the regular drivers. Stephensons Managing Director Bill Hiron explained: “Once our regular drivers found out Mary’s great day was approaching, the whole team at our Maldon depot were keen to celebrate. Mary is one of our most loyal customers, and remains very independent. We were delighted to help her celebrate her special day, and we even got a lovely ‘thank you’ card back, which was fabulous”
“It’s unbelievable how a whole community can come together to get something moving.” Those were the words of Gareth Brenland, of Holbrook, as he reflected on what has been achieved in the month since he announced his plans to buy a bus and convert it into a night shelter for rough sleepers in Ipswich.
Mr Brenland travelled to Haverhill to collect an out-of-service double decker that was donated by Stephensons of Essex. After hearing Mr Brenland’s vision for the bus, the firm offered it to him free of charge. “I was speechless, I didn’t know what to say,” Mr Brenland said. All the money donated by members of the public through Mr Brenland’s online appeal – which sits at more than £3,000 – will now be spent on turning the bus into a functioning shelter.
Next month Mr Brenland will open a charity shop in Upper Orwell Street, Ipswich, that will sell the bags of clothes that he has received from kind-hearted supporters since launching the project. Money made at the shop will be used on the day-to-day running of the bus hostel, and Mr Brenland said the store would double up as a drop-in centre for homeless people one day a week to get a change of clothes.
If all goes to plan, the bus will be up and running at the end of March, ready for when the Ipswich Winter Night Shelter closes. Mr Brenland, who has embarked on the venture with wife Sarah Jane and daughter Tiffany, said he never expected to receive such a warm response from the public. It really has been more than overwhelming,” he added. “I don’t think there’s a word to describe it. “It’s unbelievable how a whole community can come together to get something moving.” The bus will be named Tiffers in tribute to Mr Brenland’s 15-year-old daughter.