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Stagecoach East Scotland wins top award despite repeated cancellations – but was one of only three entries

Stagecoach has been under fire by passengers after receiving an award. Image: Heather Fowlie / DC Thomson.

Bus operator Stagecoach East Scotland has won a top industry award despite repeated cancellations.

The operator – which has come under fire recently for repeatedly cancelling its X7 service, which serves the coastal communities between Aberdeen and Dundee – was one of just three entries for the Top Shire Operator in the UK Bus Awards.

Bosses took home the silver accolade.

But passengers have expressed their disbelief at the judges’ decision at a time when services are often cancelled due to “staff shortages”. 

The UK Bus Awards has a team of judges involved and has been handing out bus gongs for 25 years.

Passenger: ‘It sickens me they have received an award’

Stagecoach tweeted the news earlier, but were not met by many congratulatory messages from disgruntled passengers.

Graeme Morgan commented: “What a load of rubbish, clearly the panel knows nothing about bus operations.”

Stuart Walker wrote: “Outrageous. I contacted the chair of these awards pointing out the dreadful unreliable service, and they still gave you an award. If this is their idea of a good bus company, dread to think what the others are like.”

Another passenger, Catherine Ball, told the Press and Journal: “It sickens me that Stagecoach has received any award at all.

“Beggers belief how the UK Bus Awards granted this award.”

Kenny MacLeod is one of the passengers who has been impacted by the cancellations.

Kenny MacLeod’s daughter is missing out on her education. Image: Kenny MacLeod.

His 17-year-old daughter travels from Kinneff to Aberdeen for college, but due to the cancellations – which were often announced at 3am – missed two weeks of classes and an assessment.

He said: “I find the award a joke considering the amount of cancellations that happen on a daily basis.

“I like many others waited at the bus stop on many occasions for a bus that Stagecoach had no intention of providing.”

Stagecoach: ‘Award recognises hard work’

A spokeswoman for Stagecoach East Scotland said: “This award recognises the hard work of our staff across the company, throughout what has been another very challenging year.

“As we’ve highlighted before, we’re very sorry for the inconvenience caused to customers over the last six months as a result of staff shortages and delayed journeys.”

Stagecoach has been under pressure after repeated cancellations. Image: David Whittaker-Smith.

The company says its cancellations are due to an ongoing skills shortage across the UK.

This week the company and the DVLA blamed each other for the ongoing shortage of bus drivers in the UK.

The Stagecoach spokeswoman added: “Judging for the award includes mystery shopping exercises, which highlighted the high standards of the journeys that were observed, and the overall customer service provided.”

UK Bus Awards: ‘Significantly fewer entries this year’

The UK Bus Awards team said they received “significantly fewer entries this year”, which they say reflects the challenges the bus industry is facing.

Only three operators entered the Top Shire Category this year, including Blackpool Transport, Stagecoach East, and Stagecoach East Scotland.

Not long now!#BusWinners22 #MadeIt #UKBA

Posted by UK BUS AWARDS on Tuesday, 15 November 2022

Since the company operates on a gold, silver and bronze award basis, the three operators were all in the running.

But after the mystery travelling reports came in, the judges decided not to have a bronze winner in this category this time.

This means by default the gold winner was Blackpool Transport and the silver winner was Stagecoach East Scotland.

Award involved ‘rigorous and expansive independent mystery traveller audit’

A UK Bus Awards spokesman said: “We understand the frustrations of passengers. Bus industry challenges are not limited to Stagecoach East Scotland – it is a UK-wide issue.

“Stagecoach East Scotland was subjected to a rigorous and expansive independent mystery traveller audit across its patch. This process was undertaken in late September and early October 2022 and included journeys on a number of different services.

“The journeys sampled ran largely as advertised, buses were clean and they were appropriate to the routes they were used on in terms of seat comfort and spacing.”

Stagecoach North Scotland’s Portree depot won silver in the top national bus depot category, behind St Andrews.