ALBUM appoints new Chairman
ALBUM, the organisation that represents the interests of municipal and independent bus operators, has appointed a new Chairman, following Mark Fowles of Nottingham City Transport standing down as he intended
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.
Leading figures honoured at double bus naming
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 strike Gold at UK Bus Awards.
**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
Bus company helps out at Danbury Open Day.
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".
Bus company helps celebrate 100th Birthday.
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”
Bus company donates double decker to be turned into Ipswich homeless shelter.
“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.
UPDATE: Olympian Running Day: Saturday 4th June 2016
This event is still planned for Saturday 4th June. We apologise for the delay in making advance tickets available on this website – we hope to do so soon.
Olympians will run (subject to availability) on most 14/15 Bury St Edmunds – Haverhill) and 16 Bury St Edmunds – Mildenhall – Newmarket) journeys on this day. In addition, we hope to have a ‘Special Guest’ Olympian providing short (free) tours from Bury St Edmunds Bus Station.
Subject to availability, we hope to have the following buses in service:
947 H547 VAT Leyland Olympian(Cummins)/Northern Counties 1990
724 J624 GCR Leyland Olympian (Gardner)/Alexander 1991
862 J562 HAT Leyland Olympian (Gardner)/Northern Counties 1992
And at least one each of:
808 – 810 M408-410 RVU Volvo Olympian (Cummins)/Northern Counties 1995
829 – 831 N881,959,960 FKK Volvo Olympian (Cummins)/Alexander (Belfast) 1996
The £8 Stephensons’ Day ticket will be available from drivers on the day. Alternatively, a £12 Advance Purchase option (shortly available on this website) will include a Day ticket, a bus graph/timetable showing planned workings, and a brief history of the buses we hope to be running. £1 from each Day Ticket sold will go to Stephensons’ local charity, the East Anglian Air Ambulance.
Please click on the 'February 2016' entry for the original article.
Olympian Running Day: Saturday 4th June 2016
Local Independent Bus Operator Stephensons has announced a celebration day of one of its most long-serving vehicle types to celebrate their last year in mainstream service.
The first Leyland Olympians in the UK entered service in 1981 and the last (by now a Volvo Olympian) in 2000. 10,298 were produced in total. This popular and reliable double decker has served the British (and overseas) bus industry well, and Stephensons has operated many second-hand examples over the years, with models dating from 1981 through to 1996.
Managing Director Bill Hiron explained: "These great workhorses have been trusty servants to us for over 15 years. Our buses have been both the earlier Leyland and latter Volvo chassis, with bodywork by ECW, Northern Counties and Alexander, seating ranging from 72 to 87, and engines by both Gardner and Cummins. They have operated across our whole network, from our depots at Rochford, Maldon, Boreham, Clacton and Haverhill. It seems appropriate to celebrate their passing, and at the same time raise some money for the brilliant work of the East Anglian Air Ambulance. Our buses cover millions of miles on the roads of Essex and Suffolk each year, and since the Air Ambulance plays a key role in dealing with casualties on the road network, it is only right that we support their work".
Ten Olympian buses remain in the fleet, although some of these are in reserve to cover for short notice/emergency requirements.
From 1st January 2017 the requirement for double decker buses used on scheduled services to comply with PSVAR disability regulations means that, by then, these fine workhorses will finally be withdrawn from the fleet.
To celebrate their loyal service, the bus company is organising a ‘running day’ on Saturday 4th June 2016 based on their routes in West Suffolk , from Bury St Edmunds to Haverhill (14/15) and from Bury St Edmunds to Mildenhall & Newmarket (16). There are rail stations at both Bury St Edmunds and Newmarket, and Stagecoach buses from Cambridge to Haverhill, allowing easy access from points further afield.
It is planned that some of the firm’s remaining Olympians will operate all departures on these routes on that day meaning up to five will be in service.
Normal fares will apply on the day – for those who wish to travel on several buses/routes, and break the day with refreshments at one of the many local coffee shops, cafes or pubs, our £8 Day Ticket – valid for unlimited travel – is available from bus drivers on the day. However, there will also be an advance purchase option (through the website) for £12 to include the day ticket, a bus graph showing planned workings on the day, full timetables for the two routes, and a brief history of the buses which we hope to be running.
£1 from every Day Ticket sold (whether in advance or on the day) will go to Stephensons’ local charity, the East Anglian Air Ambulance.
Further details will be available from this website from 1st April 2016.
More buses for Halstead!!!
Just two months after taking over a number of routes in the Braintree area, Essex-based Stephensons has announced an increase in frequency for residents of Halstead and Gosfield.
Already, seven new single-decker buses have entered service at Stephenson’s new Braintree depot which opened in November, and twelve additional staff have been recruited to work the majority of operations, which it has taken over following the recent closure of its depot and withdrawal of a number of routes by First Group.
Stephensons quickly stepped in to save most of the services withdrawn and Managing Director Bill Hiron explained... "Setting up the new operation all had to be done at relatively short notice, and by juggling resources from within our existing fleet. Whilst we were able to operate a 30 minute daytime frequency, as before, between Witham and Bocking via Braintree, we were only able to continue hourly to Halstead. However, I’m delighted that we are now able to operate half-hourly along the whole route from 1st February, providing a much improved service for customers in Halstead, Gosfield, and parts of Bocking. An additional brand new bus in the smart ‘Three Rivers’ brand is being delivered shortly to operate this enhanced service."
Established in the 1970s, Stephensons of Essex remains privately owned, and is the largest independent bus operator in Essex, operating 100 buses from depots in Rochford, Maldon, Boreham and Braintree in Essex, and Haverhill and Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk. The company continually invests in modern, environmentally friendly vehicles in order to provide the highest standards of passenger comfort.
Stephensons crying "Wolf!"?
'Our Bury St Edmunds Business Improvement District' recently launched the 'Wolf Trail'. The wolf has a place in the folklore of the town linked to the legend of St Edmund. 18 local artists were commissioned to produce 26 “images” of wolves with over 20 being life sized sculptures/models. These wolves are located within prominent public places and buildings around the town centre and there is a competition to find all 26 with prizes for some of those who do find them all. One of 26 pieces of wolf related art is a large book (which also houses a bird box) and has written within its pages the “Legend of St Edmund”.
Stephensons are very proud to support the scheme and are sponsoring one of the 26 unique wolf pieces. If you go searching for all of the wolves, you will be able to identity which one Stephensons is sponsoring by the plaque displayed next to it with our name. This wolf can also be viewed on the Wolf Trail website (www.ourburystedmunds.com/wolftrail). You can also access information for all Stephensons services from the link on that website back to the Stephensons one. (We can exclusively reveal one of the wolves from the collection is located within the bus station if you were thinking of hunting them all down. Can you find the other 25 though?)
The wolf trail in Bury St Edmunds town centre commenced on the 20th July and runs through to November 20th (St Edmunds Day). On the 20th November all of the 26 wolves will be auctioned off and the proceeds will to go charity.
Local Independant steps in to save service
Sir David Amess MP joined local councillors, members of the Southend Area Bus User Group, and representatives from Southend Borough Council last week to launch a new bus service in Leigh-on-Sea. Stephensons of Essex, the Essex-based independent bus company, are stepping in to replace a vital shoppers’ bus being withdrawn by a major operator. The new bus started on Friday August 21st and will run every Tuesday and Friday, with four trips each way.
Stephensons’ MD Bill Hiron explained:
“When we heard that the existing operator were dropping the 6A between Leigh and Belfairs, we decided to step in and see if we could make the route more successful, as we have done with our bus 17 between Southend, Chalkwell and Leigh. Although we won’t run as many times a day, our bus will still give plenty of opportunities to get to Leigh for shopping, to visit the Library or the Old Town. To answer regular calls for a better service from The Fairway and Belgrave Road, the bus will also continue to those areas”
At the launch, Sir David Amess praised Stephensons as ‘the best independent bus operator in the country’ and thanked them for stepping in.
Bill Hiron continued:
"This is the commercial market responding to customer needs. This sort of initiative, and indeed operators like Stephensons all across the country, are likely to lose their businesses and their livelihood as part of the current proposals for re-regulation in some parts of England, with a worse deal for customers, and a huge risk to the public purse."
Established in the early 1970s, Stephensons now operates over 90 buses across Essex and west Suffolk, providing employment for over 120 staff.
Bill Hiron Elected 2015 President of Confederation of Passenger Transport UK
The Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) UK, of which Stephensons are active members is recognised by Government as the voice of the bus and coach industry, and the focus for consultation on national and international legislation, local regulations, operational practices and engineering standards.
Members range from the largest multi-national transport operators, to the smallest family business.
Bill Hiron, Managing Director of Stephensons of Essex, said "I'm delighted to have been elected CPT President for 2015, a role I take on officially in January. This is an honour for me, but also an indication of the standing of Stephensons and our team within the industry and with our stakeholders."
Local company invests over £1/2m in new buses
Highly successful Essex-based operator Stephensons has continued its programme of regular investment in high-quality new vehicles with a further trio just delivered from Alexander Dennis, representing a total spend in excess of £500m.
Adding to similar vehicles already in stock, this year’s pair of new 75-seater Enviro400 bodied Scania N230UDs are to an enhanced specification, offering high-backed seats for rail replacement work, which is regularly undertaken across Essex and beyond.
Completing the new trio is a single Enviro200 Dart midibus, which brings the tally of new buses bought to 21 since 2010. With 25% of the fleet renewed in just four years, the latest arrivals further reduce the age profile of this increasingly modern fleet to 10.2 years overall (or just 8.7 years, excluding vehicles used solely on schools work).
Managing Director Bill Hiron said “these buses further increase the reach of new, step-free DDA-compliant vehicles to ‘clean and green’ Euro5 standard, across our fleet”.
He added “A proportion of our business is schools related, so may involve operation only at peak times for 190 days a year. Therefore high quality used vehicles, suitably refurbished, are part of our strategy”. Scania low-floor chassis are a feature here also, as step-entrance double-deckers are progressively phased out.
The double-deckers are to be based at the depot at Rochford, near Southend and will be used on a mix of local bus, schools and rail replacement work. The Enviro Dart is for Boreham depot, near Chelmsford, to serve mid and north Essex.
As with all other deliveries, moquette seats continue to feature as standard across the Stephensons fleet, as this has been proven to give customers a more comfortable, welcoming and quieter environment.
Stephensons is the largest independent operator in Essex, with a fleet of 89 vehicles in its bright and fresh green and white livery, operating from depots across Essex as well as Suffolk.
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