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NCT in good health after bitter medicine Difficult decisions had to be taken to turn an under-achiever into ‘UK Bus Operator of the Year’

A fleet that delivers for our customers A well maintained fleet with a low average fleet age has played a central role in NCT’s success

Attention to training pays NCT dividends Training and development has played a key role in fostering cultural change at NCT


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Fleet investment at the heart of NCT’s success

NCT has a long relationship with Sweden’s Scania









NCT demonstrates the suitability of ADL’s Enviro200

Training plays key role in NCT’s cultural change

Technology is revolutionising service delivery

Two partners working for a decade on CCTV solution





Social media offers major opportunities for NCT

135 years of history for council-owned operator

Designed, produced and published by Passenger Transport Publishing Ltd Managing Editor & Publisher Robert Jack Deputy Editor Andrew Garnett Associate Editor James Dark Telephone: 020 7749 6909 Email: © Passenger Transport Publishing Ltd 2013

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NCT in good health after bitter medicine

Difficult decisions had to be taken to transform Nottingham City Transport from under-achiever to ‘UK Bus Operator of the Year’ Mark Fowles got a hostile reception on his first day at Nottingham City Transport June 6, 1994. By 9.30am, the company’s new deputy managing director had been visited in his office by a string of his new colleagues. Their message was “we never wanted you here”. Fowles had been appointed primarily to help local authority-owned NCT win the contract to operate Line One of the planned Nottingham Express Transit light rail system. His new colleagues did everything they could to restrict him to that task, and keep him away from the core bus business. The last thing he perceived they wanted was fresh thinking. Yet freshness was exactly what was needed for a company which ran an ageing fleet of vehicles with brown interiors and carpet on the roofs. The company even had a programme for de-fleaing its buses, but there was no plan for business development or investment. England’s largest remaining municipal bus company had failed to evolve. Its response to the uncertain times that followed privatisation and deregulation in the mid-1980s had been to change as little as possible. So it was no surprise that the appointment of an “outsider” as deputy MD was perceived as a threat. “The philosophy of the company [at that time] can be summed up by one statement that was forever drilled into me when I came here: ‘we try not to make the wrong decision’,” says Fowles. “That just sums the whole thing up. It wasn’t about trying to do things right. It was about trying to avoid blame, and trying to avoid doing things wrong.” Fowles was given the opportunity to change the philosophy when he was appointed interim managing director in September 2000. Change was essential every year, the company was losing passengers and losing money on its operations - around £1m annually. The only thing that kept it afloat

was a trade in vehicles. Double deckers were converted to open top buses for tour company Guide Friday and then exported to cities around the world. Fowles recalls a visit to a friend in Vancouver, Canada, in the mid-1990s. “I came out of the hotel one morning and coming towards me was a Nottingham City Transport bus with Beeston on the front and the number,” he says. “For three minutes I stood there thinking ‘where the hell am I?’’’ “Our buses were all over the world, because that’s what we used to do. But we lost money on operations.” Fowles and his colleagues set about making the company more efficient. When he took charge of the business, it operated 13 million miles a year with more than 450 buses and 980 drivers. Today 12 million miles are operated by 335 vehicles and 825 drivers, many services operating on a 7/8-minute frequency. Steps were meanwhile taken to standardise NCT’s fleet, which had an average age of 12.5 years. Among the first 40 buses sold by Fowles, there were 39 different vehicle types. “They had one of everything,” he says. “We bought demonstrators. If there was one spare, we would have it.” However, the most high profile change came in September 2001, the month that Fowles took over as MD, when the company launched ‘Go2’, its new, tram-style, high frequency network on the city’s core corridors. Route numbers were rationalised and crosscity services were split in two in order to make services more reliable. Go2 buses were repainted in colours that identified them as

“It wasn’t about doing things right. It was about trying to avoid blame”

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NCT’s management team. Left to right: David Astill, Gary Mason, Nicola Tidy, Mark Fowles, Mick Leafe and Rob Hicklin

belonging to a particular route. It was a radical overhaul that required Fowles and his team to have complete faith that they were doing the right thing for the business, rather than ‘trying not to make the wrong decision’. The result was mayhem. Despite a massive communication effort that saw over a million leaflets distributed over six months, and a two-stage consultation with passengers, the changes seemed to confuse everybody. Passengers and staff alike were not used to change, and they didn’t like it. It took eight or nine weeks for the furore to die down. But during that time, Fowles found himself in the firing line. He was grilled by the leader of Nottingham City Council every Friday evening and prodded by little old ladies with umbrellas in the street. The Nottingham Evening Post ran a picture of him on its front page - with his hair cut to look like devil horns. A local radio breakfast show used their fleet of people carriers with the intention of picking up frustrated bus

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users on the Ilkeston Road corridor. But there was no-one there because the new network had finally bedded in, and the issue soon dropped off the radar. The benefits of this overhaul, however, have endured. Soon after the launch, passenger numbers started to grow after 50 years of unrelenting decline. And while it was not accepted at first, the new colour-coded network has been embraced up by the public. By 2004, for example, literature in the city’s Queen’s Medical Centre was advising patients to travel there on an “orange” bus. “When you get people using that sort of terminology and language, you know that you are beginning to penetrate the market. The message is beginning to get across,” says Fowles. Patronage growth on the Go2 network has enabled increased service frequencies. Of the 14 Go2 routes, 11 now have a service frequency of every seven minutes or better at peak times. The past decade has seen NCT’s overall patronage rise by 1-2% every year.



The price of a single stage short hop fare. An Adult Single is £1.70. These prices have not changed since June 2011


Million passenger journeys in 2012/13 (up 0.5% on the equivalent figure for the previous year)


Years - the average age of NCT’s fleet, with the company buying 73 new buses in 2013/2014

Percentage of NCT passengers ‘satisfied’, according to the Bus Passenger Survey from Passenger Focus (March 2013)

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The willingness of Fowles and his team to drive through change has turned a loss-making company that was in perpetual decline into a growing business capable to delivering annual profits of nearly £5m (on turnover of over £50m) and a social dividend. The company’s transformation has been recognised at the UK Bus Awards, with NCT winning the coveted ‘UK Bus Operator of the Year’ title in 2004 and 2012. Passengers have also given the company a thumbs up. The Bus Passenger Survey published by Passenger Focus earlier this year found that 92% of NCT passengers were satified with the overall service. This was the second highest score of the 28 operators covered by the survey (only Go Ahead’s Oxford Bus Company achieved a higher rating). However, no operator scored higher in terms of satisfaction with value for money. NCT’s fare structure is simple and prices have not changed since June 2011. An Adult Single is £1.70 and a short hop fare is £1. The city’s 60,000 students can purchase a 30-week term-time ticket for £199 (£6.63 per week). These prices, combined with a frequent network and a fleet with an average age of six years, have helped to ensure that more than two thirds (70%) of NCT’s fare-paying customers are satisfied with the value for money provided by their ticket. The low fares and the extensive network are part of the company’s ‘social dividend’. Its status as one of the UK’s few remaining municipally-owned bus companies mean that Fowles is not under the same pressures to deliver profits as managers working for the major transport plcs which dominate the UK bus sector. In May 2000, French group Transdev took an 18% stake in NCT as part of a new partnership formed for the operation of Nottingham’s new tram system, which opened in March 2004. But the council has no plans to sell off any more of the company, and why would they? “We could make very easily make a 15-18% profit margin, but we wouldn’t have the network here that we’ve got,” says Fowles. “I’ve worked in the purely private sector and I’ve managed for profit, and that was all I managed for. Here I manage for social inclusion, political satisfaction and profit.” While there are benefits of not being driven solely by profits, Fowles is not convinced that 04 | 10 May 2013 NCTsupp-p02-05 4

having a broader range of objectives makes life any easier. He likens his job to standing on a piece of plyboard, balancing on a ball - you move the weight one way and you disturb the balance.” Amid all the progress since 2001, the one major setback for NCT was the loss of the contract to operate Nottingham Express Transit in December 2011. The system, which is being extended to include two new lines, is now operated by a consortium which includes local rival Trent Barton. “It was a huge blow you can’t say it wasn’t - both to our ego and to our finances,” says Fowles. The tram contract contributed about £1m a year to NCT’s profits, but the company simply had to move on. “The philosophy that we adopted was that we’ve been a bus company for the past 100-odd years, we’re going to be a bus company for the next 100-odd years, we’ve just got to make damn sure that the offer we present to the travelling public is as good if not better than the tram system,” Fowles says. Even with three lines, most Nottingham residents don’t live on a tram route. With 68 routes, NCT has a much wider coverage. Some of these shadow the tram, but Fowles makes no apologies for that. “If we didn’t do it, someone else would step in,” he maintains. Having already lost the profits from Line One, the addition of two new tram routes will place further pressure on NCT’s finances. “It is going to be tough for us. There is no doubt about that,” says Fowles. “You only put tram lines on heavily patronised routes - and you’ve put the first three on what is effectively our three best corridors.” But he says that experience has shown that the company can bounce back. Before Line One opened in 2004, 50 million journeys a year were made on NCT’s buses. The tram took almost seven million away. However, by 2011/12 patronage had reached 51.7 million - higher than before the tram opened. The result was that the entire market for public transport had grown, and Fowles claims that this is NCT’s objective. Trent Barton, which operates a number of

“The blue bus” is one of 14 services on NCT’s high frequency GO2 network

bus services in Nottingham and is part of the consortium which now runs the tram, shares this objective. Trent Barton is widely regarded as one of the UK’s best bus companies and was named ‘UK Bus Operator of the Year’ in 1999, 2001 and 2003. There is rivalry between the two, but the competition is mature. “We know that we wouldn’t go and put a bus one minute in front of them,” Fowles explains. “If there was a 20-minute frequency and we were competing on a corridor, ours would be on the opposite 20 minutes to their 20 minutes. I’m sure they would give you a very similar comment. “We compete on the quality of the product and the offer that we make to the public, and

“I’ve worked in the private sector and I’ve managed for profit, and that was all I managed for. Here I manage for social inclusion, political satisfaction and profit”

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WHO’S WHO AT NCT MARK FOWLES Managing Director Fowles trained as an electronics engineer before returning to university to study environmental sciences. He worked briefly as an analytical chemist with the Ministry of Agriculture before joining National Bus’s senior management training scheme in November 1984. He trained with The West Riding Group based in Wakefield where he held various management roles. In 1991, he took over the management of the group’s Yorkshire Woollen bus company, but he left in June 1994 to become deputy MD at NCT. He took over as MD in September 2001. ROB HICKLIN Finance Director Nottingham “born and bred”, Hicklin joined NCT in April 1999 from Arriva Midlands North, where he had been finance manager. MICK LEAFE HR Director Leafe, another local boy, joined NCT in September 2001. He was previously an HR and employment law advisor at HBS Partnership.

that’s it. If you’re doing that you should be growing the market.” This approach has helped Nottingham become a showcase for public transport in the UK, and NCT’s future appears secure. Fowles’s new colleagues may not have been delighted to see him when he joined the company 19 years ago, but he can rightly say that he, and the team he assembled around him, took the radical actions needed to save the company. So what advice does Fowles have for other bus industry managers who seek to transform the culture of their companies? “First of all, it has to come from the top down,” he says. “You have to have somebody who believes it 100%. And then you don’t have to tell people, you have to convince people that it’s the right thing to do. It’s no good just issuing an edict ... You have to get them to buy-in to the philosophy. “You’ve just got to sit in the canteen and travel on the buses and speak to the drivers,

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and, if somebody says ‘I don’t believe in this’, you tell them why you do. “You’ve got to confront the doubters.” For example, some drivers were alarmed when the company halved the cost of a family ticket to £4 at evenings, weekends and holidays. “You’re losing money. That’s our wages,” they said. Fowles and his team have responded by showing them how the price reduction is growing overall revenue, because the £8 day ticket had been twice the price of parking in the city centre. By and large, the transformation at NCT has been achieved with many of the managers who were at the company in the 1990s, or before. But having changed the mindset of the company, Fowles and his colleagues are keen to keep the process moving. “You have to put a huge amount of energy in to unfreeze that culture - so the last thing you want to allow it to do is to set,” says Fowles. “You have to keep changing it.”

NICOLA TIDY Marketing Director Tidy has been with NCT since March 2001. She previously spent 15 years working in the wine trade, and worked as a manager for Boots. DAVID ASTILL Commercial Manager Astill joined in September 2007. He was previously commercial manager for First Potteries. GARY MASON Engineering Director The most recent addition to the senior team, having joined NCT in March 2012. Mason was previously general manager at Veolia Transport UK and prior to that he was general manager/fleet and technical manager at National Express.

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A fleet that delivers for our customers A well maintained fleet with a low average fleet age has played a central role in Nottingham City Transport’s success

Nottingham City Transport has grown its business over the last decade with a priority being placed on the quality of the Gary Mason product being supplied to NCT the customer. This has been achieved in part by maintaining the fleet to a very high standard with a low average age. The vehicle replacement plan aims to replace full size buses after 12 years and midibuses after 11 years which has resulted in a current fleet average age of just over six years. In a year’s time (taking into account that all the existing vehicles will of course, be a year older) that average age will have reduced to just over 06 | 10 May 2013 NCTsupp-p06-07 6

five years as a result of the planned vehicle purchases and disposals between now and March 2014. The NCT fleet of approximately 340 buses is made up of 250 ‘big’ buses (double decks and full sized single decks) and 90 midibuses. All of the commercially operated fleet is now DDA compliant and the remaining handful of older, low floor midibuses that operate on local

“The focus for the fleet profile has been reliability, low engineering costs and uniformity”

authority tendered services are planned to be withdrawn from service early in 2014. The focus for the fleet profile has been reliability, low engineering costs and uniformity. This has been achieved by working in partnership with its key suppliers - all the big bus fleet is based on Scania chassis and a further 40 double decks are on order from Scania and will have ADL Enviro400 bodies. The midibus fleet is currently predominantly Optare Solos with 10 ADL Enviro200s and four Optare Solos having been added to the fleet already this year and a further 23 Enviro200s planned by the year end. Over 10 years ago an investigation was carried out looking at ‘whole life costs’ which

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resulted in Scania being selected as the preferred supplier for large vehicles. With strict adherence to maintenance schedules combined with the objective to replace the vehicles after they reach their 12th birthday, we do not expect to need to replace any engines during the vehicle’s life. Similarly, we have seen hardly any requirement to overhaul the ZF transmissions and the only major unit costs incurred have been on rear axle overhauls on the older buses. We expect the lighter midibuses to be more prone to wear and tear but even so, the ‘small bus’ fleet has proven to be very reliable with major unit costs contained by the more economical overhaul costs associated with the Allison transmission and a low failure rate seen on both the Cummins and Mercedes powered vehicles. The focus of the engineering team is customer service and that necessitates giving the operational division of the business the buses that it needs to maintain the high levels of customer satisfaction achieved for our passengers. Not only do we maintain a young fleet, we also give the buses a mid-life refurbishment to keep them looking fresh and to respond to changes in customer demands. For instance, we recently identified an increase in buggy usage on one of our high frequency services. Within less than eight weeks, we reconfigured the seating layout to double the buggy space available on all nine vehicles and additionally fully refurbished a further two of these buses. This was accomplished through NCT’s vehicle refurbishment team based at the Trent Bridge depot, which has retained in-house the necessary skills and flexibility to respond at very short notice. We also have a very high degree of route branding which is a constant source of conflict between engineering and the commercial team. This greatly reduces flexibility and makes fleet allocation each and every day a challenge. This is not helped by the space and layout restrictions at the main Parliament Street garage (a former tram depot) which is home to some 220 full sized buses. The congested parking layout and subsequent lack of overnight access means that very little scheduled maintenance can be done at night, putting increased pressure on the spare fleet during the day. Despite this, there is no doubt that the route branding is an effective marketing tool - it provides both

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than 12 months is indicative of the standards being achieved! As ever, fleet cleanliness requires a balance between achieving a high standard and controlling costs. After various iterations, we now think we have got it about right. Each bus is swept and mopped every day and after two weeks it is given a more intensive clean. Every four weeks, in conjunction with the vehicle inspection programme, the bus is given a deep clean. Our objective is to keep our buses looking good and smelling fresh, but without the need to resort to artificial chemical air fresheners. The next big project will involve a multidisciplined team to introduce telematics across the fleet. We realise we have lagged the field in this area, but for very good reasons. Firstly, the focus has been on the vehicle replacement plan to get the fleet profile correct to meet customer needs for the foreseeable future. Secondly, there has been a significant emphasis on the real-time and ticketing systems but as these come together in the second half of 2013, it gives us the opportunity to introduce a telematics system that will identify the driver from the ticket machine and only necessitate logging on once. The objectives will be to further enhance the customer experience with a smoother ride, provide improved fuel efficiency and reduce maintenance spend.

“There is no doubt that the route branding is an effective marketing tool” local identity and allows passengers to recognise a particular service from hundreds of metres away, long before the destination display is visible! So the argument between engineering and operations of just how many buses need to be route branded is set to continue for many years to come. Fleet standards and cleanliness have been given a great deal of attention over the last year. Indeed, the whole engineering function has been restructured to provide greater focus on customer service with engineering managers being dedicated to either servicing and maintenance or the depot support activities. A 100% MOT pass rate over more

GARY MASON has been Engineering Director at Nottingham City Transport since March 2012


TYPE Solo (Local Link) Solo (Sky Blue) Solo SR ADL Enviro200 OmniTown Versa OmniCity Ethanol Tri-axle Articulated Trident OmniDekka TOTAL OmniCity (Training) GRAND TOTAL

GOTHAM PVR SPARE 5 1 3 0 6 0 0 3 17 0 31 4

TRENT BRIDGE PVR SPARE 16 6 3 1 34 2 10 0 5 2 68 11

PARLIAMENT ST PVR SPARE 17 3 34 5 3 0 140 17 194 25

TOTAL 28 4 36 10 7 20 37 3 3 6 3 174 331 4 335

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NCT has long been a committed Scania customer

A strong Swedish connection NCT has a long relationship with Scania and with a new vehicle order this is set to continue

Nottingham City Transport has long been a customer of Swedish manufacturer Scania and it is an association that dates back more than 30 years. Around a decade ago an examination was made of ‘whole life costs’ of products from a range of manufacturers which identified Scania as the most suitable. As a result the vast majority of ‘big bus’ orders from the councilowned operator have been placed with Scania and most of the manufacturers most recent products feature somewhere in the fleet. That relationship looks set to continue with recent vehicle orders. The vast majority of new double deckers in recent years have featured Scania chassis with bodywork by East Lancs and its successor Optare. The

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council-owned firm is the largest operator of the Scania OmniDekka in the UK and first introduced the model into its fleet in 2003. Today they account for almost half of the 340-strong vehicle fleet and other Scania types also feature strongly, including the OmniCity

“Scania’s well-proven vehicles have been serving the travelling public in Nottingham for more than 10 years” Gary Mason, NCT

and OmniTown single deck models. But with Optare ending double deck production following the closure of its Blackburn plant, and plans for a new double deck model not yet wholly confirmed, NCT has maintained its partnership with Scania, but moved to Falkirkbased manufacturer Alexander Dennis for its latest order. This calls for 40 Enviro400 double deckers that will be built on Scania’s N230UD chassis, a combination that follows recent orders for this vehicle type from Stagecoach and Go Ahead fleets. Deliveries will commence in December 2013 and it is anticipated that the vehicles will be introduced into the Nottingham fleet at a rate of five per 10 May 2013 | 09

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MORE ONLINE For further information about Scania visit

The 40 new double deckers will feature ADL Enviro 400 bodywork on Scania’s N230UD chassis

week with the final vehicles being received just before the end of February. Gary Mason, NCT’s engineering director, says that he’s delighted to be continuing a long-standing relationship with the Swedish manufacturer. “Scania’s well-proven vehicles have been serving the travelling public in Nottingham for more than 10 years now,” he says. “From an engineering perspective, maintaining our relationship gives continuity backed by the excellent technical support service that comes as part of the Scania package.” The 40 double-deckers comprise a combination of fleet replacements and fleet additions. While the majority will operate out of Parliament Street in Nottingham’s city centre, the new fleet will be spread around NCT’s operating area in order to serve a number of routes. They will feature Scania’s 230 horsepower, Euro 5, nine-litre DC9 30 engines coupled to ZF 5HP504C Ecomat fully automatic gearboxes. The vehicles will seat a total of 75 passengers with 28 seats on the lower deck and 47 in the upper saloon. All of the seats will be finished in two-colour E-leather and optional interior equipment includes under-seat mood lighting. In an unusual move the vehicles will feature full height bodywork, rather than the low height bodywork that has been a feature of Enviro400 vehicles for Stagecoach and Go Ahead’s provincial operations. “The big groups tend to favour low height bodywork so that they can move them from operating location to operating location and not have 10 | 10 May 2013 NCTsupp-p08-11 10

to worry about things like low bridges,” explains Mason. “Luckily we don’t have any bridge issues in Nottingham and the low height means that a tall person really has to stoop down in the upper saloon, so the full height version has obvious advantages for our passengers.” Although the vehicles are the first Scania double deckers to feature ADL bodywork in the fleet, recent deliveries of ADL Enviro 200 midibuses mean that the manufacturer isn’t an unknown quantity. Mason says that relationships are now well established and the introduction of the vehicles is likely to be extremely smooth. Meanwhile, with 40 new vehicles entering the fleet, this will have a significantly positive effect on the average fleet age, reducing its to around 5.1 years. “Our target average fleet age is six years, so this order with Scania will bring the average fleet age well below that,” Mason adds. The order cements the long-standing relationship between NCT and Scania and it seems likely that this will continue in the future. “We’re really seeking reliability,” concludes Mason. “It’s what our passengers expect and the Scania product really does what it says on the tin.”

“Our target average fleet age is six years, so this order with Scania will bring the average fleet age well below that”

NCT apprenticeships are backed by strong industry links

SCANIA BACKS NCT APPRENTICESHIPS Training and development of staff is essential for any business and Nottingham City Transport has prided itself in recent years by offering apprenticeship places for young people interested in a career in automotive engineering. Since the operator commenced its apprenticeship scheme, all of the company’s trainees have progressed on to full-time jobs with NCT once they have completed their training. On-the-job training is to the highest standard thanks to excellent links that have been forged with Swedish bus manufacturer Scania and Tile Hill College in Coventry. This ensures that apprentices are taught the most up-to-date industry practices. This ensures that the success rate is high, with each gaining vital qualifications and hands-on experience. “Our apprentices are vital members of the whole team here at NCT and we find we get just as much back from them in terms of fresh ideas and suggestions, as they do from us and our industry training,” adds NCT’s marketing manager Anthony Carver-Smith.

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10 new ADL Enviro200 midi buses now operate on Nottingham City Transport’s Purple Line 87 and 88 routes

ADL: focused on ALBUM

ADL’s Enviro200 isn’t just for large fleets, it’s also an option for the small and medium sized fleets that make up the membership of ALBUM, as demonstrated by Nottingham City Transport Since the beginning of March, Nottingham City Transport’s Purple Line 87 and 88 routes have been upgraded with the introduction of 10 new ADL Enviro200 midi buses, the first of this type for NCT. They were selected following an intensive evaluation exercise of all manufacturers carried out by NCT. NCT joins a long list of operators who have selected the Enviro200 which is a familiar sight in communities across the UK, and increasingly in global markets. Its highly versatile design makes it suitable for all routes from urban and city centres to rural environments, and it’s increasingly recognised as the UK’s standard midi bus. Nicola Tidy, NCT’s marketing and 12 | 10 May 2013 NCTsupp-p12-13 12

communications director commented: “The Enviro200 received excellent reviews in road trials and was the successful proposal in a competitive tendering process”. ADL’s key account manager Frank McGhee worked with NCT throughout the acquisition process, commenting: “With the Enviro200

“Our sales team are focused today on selling Enviro200s to small and medium operators” Frank McGhee, ADL

we’ve almost been a victim of our own success ... from the day it was launched it has sold well to the large group fleets such as Stagecoach and FirstGroup. Such has been the success with these fleets that a market perception developed that ADL was only interested in the big fleets and not interested in the small or medium sized fleets that make up such a large proportion of the UK bus scene. “Nothing could be further from the truth. While we remain very successful with the big groups, we are equally interested in developing good relationships with small and medium fleets, and indeed the majority of our sales team are focused today on selling Enviro200s to small and medium operators. That’s why we

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MORE ONLINE For further information about Alexander Dennis visit

are so delighted with the NCT order, which we see as a breakthrough into a highly prestigious and trend-setting fleet at the forefront of contemporary bus operations. The fact that we won the NCT order in the face of intense competition is even more of a testimony to the suitability of Enviro200 for regional fleets. This is one of the reasons why we are a major sponsor of this year’s ALBUM conference, seeing it as a terrific opportunity to reach out to ALBUM members who are exactly the sort of customers we enjoy doing business with”. Once NCT was convinced that Enviro200 was the right bus for their fleet, ADL worked very closely with the customer to hone the specification to the exact needs of the two routes they would be operating on. The Enviro200 is available in a wide choice of optional specifications, with a range of overall lengths from 8.9 metres, for routes where manoeuvrability is at a premium, to 11.3 metres where the emphasis is on high passenger capacity. Mechanically there’s a choice of four or six cylinder Cummins engines and no fewer than five optional transmissions from Allison or Voith, and interior options are limited only by the imagination of the customer. NCT selected the single door 10.2-metre Enviro, in this instance fitted with 33 Lazzerini Practico high back seats in two-tone E-Leather with extra padding and edge piping. NCT’s vehicles also feature roof-mounted driver’s air-conditioning, full CCTV and INIT real-time passenger information system. They are powered by Cummins ISBe four cylinder 160PS engines matched to Allison S2100 five speed automatic transmissions.

Iconic best-selling midi bus Enviro200 has become something of an icon for the UK bus industry, tracing its roots back to the late 1980s when Dennis (a business now fully integrated into the ADL family) introduced the first modern midi bus, the Dart, which was uniquely positioned between a minibus and full-size single deck. A process of continuous development and innovation led to the launch of the Enviro200 in the mid-2000s, a design that itself has been refined, most noticeably with a new interior and upgraded body features in 2011 that coincided with the introduction of European Community Whole Vehicle Type Approval. Such has been the success of Enviro200

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and its predecessors that it has already passed the milestone of becoming Britain’s all-time best selling bus, with no sign of its popularity slowing down. It is a permanent fixture at the top of the midi bus sales charts, outselling all competitors combined every year since 2009.

Overseas success story Enviro200 is also making a real impact overseas, experiencing great success in export markets. Many of these have traditionally operated with large, 18-tonne single deck vehicles but now recognise the advantages of moving to more efficient, highly manoeuvrable midi buses that use less fuel, are easier to maintain and are hugely popular with passengers. In 2012, ADL formed a strategic alliance with New Flyer Industries Inc, North America’s leading manufacturer of heavy-duty transit buses. Together, they have established a joint venture designed to target the medium-duty, low floor bus sector in North America and to transform the USA and Canada with a range of lightweight, fuel efficient products based on the Enviro200 range. Colin Robertson, ADL’s chief executive officer, said: “Transit authorities are being squeezed on all fronts as the global economy tightens and the impact of the recession continues relentlessly. Our Enviro200 midi bus is a world-beater, leading the field in markets as far apart as Britain and New Zealand. It is lightweight, highly manoeuvrable, enjoys unrivalled fuel efficiency and has incomparable whole life costs.” ADL chief executive Colin Robertson

He added: “There is potential demand for around 1,000 Enviro200s per annum in North America where we will introduce the “son of Enviro200”, designed and built specifically to meet the needs of operators in Canada and the USA, many of whom have made it clear that the transport landscape in the USA and Canada is ready for change.” Prototype North American Enviro200s have undergone stringent test programmes and the first production-ready vehicle is being launched at a major trade conference in Indianapolis, which runs concurrently with ALBUM. The joint venture with New Flyer follows hot on the heels of Enviro200’s 2011 breakthrough in New Zealand, where Auckland’s NZ Bus initially bought 120 Enviro200s. This had greater significance than being just a substantial order from the country’s leading bus operator, as Colin Robertson explains: “We worked closely with NZ Bus for many months to ensure that we met the objectives of their long term fleet replacement programme in Auckland and Wellington, which aims to provide a new era of environment-friendly, cost-effective buses all of which will be Enviro200s. “In truth, this is much more than just an important contract. It is the start of a significant business relationship that has the potential to see us deliver a further 200-300 buses into New Zealand in the next three to four years - and to use the location as a springboard into other territories, notably Australia. Our aim is not simply to supply buses to New Zealand but to become an active player in the country’s manufacturing sector, just as we have done in North America and Hong Kong. “On this occasion we are partnering with Kiwi Bus Builders, located on New Zealand’s North Island, using a new, state-of-the-art facility which is using body kits sourced from our UK facilities. Given time, we will progressively source more and more parts locally, which will intensify opportunities for a New Zealand supplier base”.

NCT orders ADL double decks Returning to the UK and ADL’s burgeoning relationship with NCT, Colin Robertson commented: “Not only have NCT chosen Enviro200, we are delighted that they have now ordered an additional 40 highly customised Enviro400 double decks. These vehicles will be delivered progressively from December.” 10 May 2013 | 13

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Careful attention to training has significantly reduced staff turnover

Attention to training pays NCT dividends

Training and development has played a key role over the last decade in fostering cultural change at Nottingham City Transport Training and development is increasingly important for any business and many transport operators have found that the quality of initial training can have a direct effect on the retention of staff in the long term. This has been the case at Nottingham City Transport where a significant change in the training regime has yielded significant benefits that go beyond cost savings. The result is an award winning training function that has played a significant part in fostering cultural change across the company and led to significant improvements in customer service. “We’re pushing at an open door here,” says Mike Lee, NCT’s training and development manager. “When I speak to other training managers, I realise how fortunate I am here because management here appreciate the value that good training can offer. A lot of people seem to struggle to get that sort of endorsement from the senior level that we take for granted here. With that sort of 14 | 10 May 2013 NCTsupp-p14-15 14

backing we’re also constantly thinking about how we can improve the quality of our training as it’s not just seen as a box ticking exercise.” It’s a big change from the way that training was treated by the company historically. With no coherent training policy and most training delivered around getting new drivers through their PCV test, the function was also largely achieved on an ad-hoc basis. However, senior management recognised that there was a need to revamp the training function and place it on a more professional footing. The results have paid dividends for NCT. The company’s core training capabilities are, of course, built around the needs of training new driving staff. Lee says that very careful

“Management here appreciate the value that good training can offer”

attention has been paid to this stage of the training programme in order to mitigate the chance of any new starter leaving either during or just after completing their training. “We’ve improved the attrition rate in training, not in service, from one in three to one in 14,” he adds. “Back in 2006/07 it cost us around £3,500 to train a driver and typically they would leave not less than half way through their training programme. For various reasons, many were just not suitable candidates. We were recruiting a lot of people at that time as staff turnover back then was incredibly high. It doesn’t take much to work out that it was costing us a lot of money.” This led to a rethink of the training strategy that aimed to improve the quality of not only the training that staff were receiving, but also in the quality of candidates that were accepted for employment. Instead of trying to teach staff customer service after their initial employment, all prospective employees are now screened using psychometric testing to see if they have the right customer service attributes for the job. After gaining employment and passing their PCV driving test, the training continues with a ‘driving apprenticeship’ that covers the first year or so of their employment. Lee describes the process as “water dripping on a pebble” where the customer service ethos is drummed into members of staff subtly at every opportunity. With completion of their apprenticeship, which includes a customer service NVQ, the average staff member’s training doesn’t stop there. Aside from periodic CPC training, the operator has also developed the ‘i-Guide’ scheme where driving instructors go out on the road and review how drivers are performing behind the wheel whilst in service. This not only examines their driving standards, but their levels of customer service too. “There are a range of options available that depends on what has been observed,” explains Lee. “This can start with ‘terminus talks’, where the instructor has a quick, informal word, at the end of the route, to remedial training, where they almost go through a selection process again, if something is really wrong.” The results speak for themselves. Several years ago NCT would be recruiting more than 120 drivers each year just in order to stand still as staff turnover was high. Today that has more than halved to around 50 leavers each

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year. This new core of highly trained staff is also having a positive effect on existing members of staff, with some of the new starters’ enthusiasm for the job rubbing off. Indeed research by Loughborough University has discovered that more than 85% of staff are satisfied with their job and the way that they are treated by the company. But it’s not just driving staff who have benefitted from dedicated staff training and development. “More than 90% of our management have actually got a formal qualification in either management or health and safety and very often both,” says Lee. “That’s a fairly hefty coverage by any standards.” NCT has also developed its own foundation degree in business management, which is operated in partnership with West Nottinghamshire College and is validated by Leeds Metropolitan University. HR director Mick Leafe believes that NCT is the first bus operator in the country to have taken the step of creating a specialised and dedicated degree for management staff. “I recognised that management training needed some real attention,” he reveals.

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NCT has a dedicated fleet of modern training vehicles

“We identified 30 managers who would be key to the business over the next five years, and we put them through the foundation degree over a 12 to 18-month period. A majority had not had any sort of formal education for many years, but they appreciated it and it gave them new skills. The feedback has been really positive.” The degree programme, plus other training courses for management had another, more

important spin off in that it assisted in changing the culture of the management tier. “Before we created any sort of formal training, operations never spoke to engineering and it has really helped break down those walls,” says Leafe. “People have really begun to understand other people’s roles and problems and, more importantly, begun to get to know each other. It just showed how fundamental training was to changing the culture of the business.”

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MORE ONLINE For further information about INIT visit

The AVLC control system bring radio and data communications together

Real time benefits from control system

NCT is using sophisticated technology from INIT not only to improve bus service reliability, but also to boost customer service Market research undertaken by Nottingham City Transport has consistently identified that bus users rank frequency, reliability, information and value for money as key aspects for them in a high quality bus service. With such clear passenger priorities, it’s perhaps understandable that bus operators like NCT are turning to new technology in order to deliver many of these passenger needs. Back in 2009, NCT took the decision to procure an Automatic Vehicle Location and Control system from German-based technology firm INIT. The decision was driven by NCT which felt that it needed a suitable management tool that would allow proactive despatching of drivers and buses as well as enhancing service quality. INIT’s system allows multiple virtual AVLC systems combined with an integrated voice over radio capability that has been provided by communications specialist Tait. The system is being utilised by other local 16 | 10 May 2013 NCTsupp-p16 16

operators and also acts as a virtual Real Time Passenger Information management client for Nottingham City Council. The objectives of the project were straightforward. For NCT it was seeking an integrated AVLC system that would allow their control team to call any vehicle out on the road through the system. Meanwhile, for drivers, the operator was seeking to integrate both radio and AVLC functions within one single display screen, rather than having multiple displays within the cab area. A further objective was to send real time data to the Nottingham City Council RTPI client that would update real time screens and displays at bus stops across the city. This data is also used to feed service information to the NCT website and also on NCT’s apps for the iPhone and Android mobile phone platforms. The solution provided by INIT uses on-board technology - based around the COPILOTpc solution - to seamlessly

integrate a driver display terminal in the cab (INIT’s TOUCHit solution) and passenger information displays within the saloon (either LED displays or INIT’s TFT PIDvisio display that integrates next stop information with CCTV imagery and advertising). The Tait-supplied radio system not only keeps the driver in touch with the control team, but also streams data over the dedicated PMR data channel. This is separate to the voice channel and enables continuous service of the voice channel without interruption. In NCT’s impressive control room, INIT’s MOBILE-ITCS system allows controllers to monitor the status of the NCT network as a whole and also to keep an eye on performance of not just individual routes or corridors, but vehicles too. This means that they can take action by reacting to a problem instantly to ensure service regulation and quality are maintained. The success of the system can be measured in the outcomes of the project. The biggest beneficiaries have been the bus users of Nottingham, who now have real time information displays at more than 800 bus stops, plus through smartphone apps, the operator’s website and next stop information on vehicles. The company is using the data feeds to not only ensure regulatory compliance, but also by taking this information and putting it into scheduling software that creates vehicle schedules that reflect real world, rather than theoretical, traffic conditions. Indeed on one route in the city, this has already seen early running eliminated as it was found that too much running time was allocated to one part of the route, ensuring compliance with the Traffic Commissioner’s ‘window of tolerance’. Passengers also appreciate the new system. Research by NCT has found that 27% of its customers use the bus stop displays, 28% the NCT website and a further 5% use their smartphone app to access real time running information. Overall this accounts for 60% of NCT passengers.

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A decade in partnership

Actia has been working with NCT since 2003 to develop an industry-leading CCTV system

When Actia began working with Nottingham City Transport to evaluate their brand new “BOP” digital CCTV recorder back in 2003, this was a new venture for both parties. Over the last decade, the system has seen a number of revisions and improvements, and BOP is now used across the fleet to underpin NCT’s strategy for protecting its operation, vehicles, drivers and passengers. Unlike many other providers offering third party recorders, Actia design and manufacture their own CCTV recorders and have therefore been able to offer NCT the opportunity to influence system features and functionality over time. “We partnered with Actia from the very beginning,” explains NCT CCTV co-ordinator Dave Tucker, “and were able to specify various requirements early on, which was ideal for us.”

Now 10 years on, NCT has one of the most advanced and comprehensive CCTV systems - not only in terms of on-vehicle specification, but also in their back-office control centre and data management processes. A reliable system, high capture rate and efficient infrastructure are key to managing the high number of incidents monitored by NCT every year nearly 4,000 in 2012 alone. Today the operator specifies BOP HD - Actia’s 25 frames per second D1 H.264 DVR. “28 days recording is a necessity for us, and BOP HD provides this at a continuous high frame rate, although this is dependent upon the daily usage,” confirms Tucker. “We live in a claim culture so it is important we have footage available for as long as possible after the event. The in-cab alarm system (which we requested in the beginning)

“We are now able to deliver a CCTV system which has really been defined by a bus operator for bus operators” Mike Oliver, Sales Manager for Fleets & Services, Actia

Above: BOP HD installed on Optare Solo Left: BOP Review & Export Software Below: Actia’s BOP HD DVR

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is also essential in protecting incident footage from overwriting.” BOP has a proven record for NCT and is frequently used as evidence in cases of vandalism, antisocial behaviour, RTCs, and sometimes exaggerated or fraudulent insurance claims. Vandalism and driver assaults have reduced significantly since installing CCTV systems. Evidence of RTCs and other non-company related incidents are regularly requested by police and footage from BOP has played a part in supporting the city’s ‘Respect for Transport’ campaign and the operator’s ‘Quit the Spit’ initiative. The system is also present on NCT’s ‘Trojan’ Bus, which is used to target areas where smashed windows and other acts of vandalism are particularly problematic. Actia design their own Reviewer Software, and responding to feedback from NCT, developed a user friendly, powerful interface to look back on recorded footage. The Reviewer now provides an advanced user interface for viewing up to 16 cameras simultaneously, synched with audio recordings, GPS fix and vehicle data from the multiplex system, such as the status of brakes, doors, indicators and speed. It also incorporates export capability (both video and camera snapshot), to ensure the system can be used effectively as evidence when an incident has occurred. With a large number of Optare Solos and Versas, and the recent introduction of Alexander Dennis Enviro200s, a large proportion of NCT’s fleet is equipped with Actia MultiBUS. The multiplex system has provided the core power management for more than 16,000 vehicles over the last decade or so, and will soon see the introduction of a next generation solution for greater functionality and features. Many of NCT’s 350-strong fleet have been fitted with CCTV in the factory, and benefit from Actia’s integrated approach. BOP was specified on the new Enviro200s, together with the introduction of the first integrated CCTV switchpack controls for ADL. This designed-in feature has been in use on NCT’s many Optares since 2008. Integration with the multiplex system,

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MORE ONLINE For further information about Actia visit

switchpack and in-dash TFT makes for greater functionality and less clutter in the driver area. Actia’s latest Eco-Fleet® telematics technology is being considered by the operator. The system may be used to target a 100% CCTV incident capture rate, by remotely identifying camera faults or components requiring attention such as the hard drive. This would ensure maximum uptime of the system, and avoid the discovery of a faulty camera after an incident. Actia are already in discussions with NCT regarding the inclusion of driver behaviour monitoring and other telematics features, as well as potential integration with third party systems for data collection and management. When it comes to vehicle maintenance as a whole, NCT, like many operators around the country, already use Actia’s Multi-AID® diagnostics for fault-finding on equipment connected to the multiplex system. Recent developments mean that Actia’s telematics and remote diagnostics may be integrated into the operator’s maintenance procedures to maximise vehicle-in-service time. From remote monitoring of basic fault codes, to

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the unique Multi-AID® Remote, which offers a live two-way link between the depot and the vehicle (even if the vehicle is located many miles from the depot), the operator can maximise what may be a limited engineering resource. Such advancements offer a real potential to reduce the costs associated with downtime, so the right engineer is called out just once, and with the right parts. “Thanks to our long-standing relationship with NCT, Actia has developed a clear understanding of the business and operational needs of major fleet operators,” explains Actia sales manager for fleets and services, Mike Oliver. “NCT’s requirement for enhancements and specific features means we are now able to deliver a CCTV system which has really been defined by a bus operator for bus operators, complete with the benefits of integration with our multiplex system. We are pleased to be working with NCT to explore further possibilities for integration - including working with third party suppliers. We continue to look for ways to improve our solution to fulfil NCT’s operational requirements and futureproof their investment in Actia.”

Actia’s Integrated Switchpack Controls

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Growth agenda for social media NCT is one of many bus operators to grasp the benefits of social media to boost information

The growth of social media has given bus operators a new and effective means of communicating with their customers and municipal firm Nottingham City Transport is just one of many in the UK to recognise the opportunities offered by the medium. NCT entered the social media world in 2009 and it quickly became an important part of the company’s communication toolkit. Initially the operator expected it to be used as another way to distribute existing marketing material to new audiences. However, snow and bad weather in early 2010 demonstrated and secured its role in keeping customers informed about the status of the NCT network and any problems or issues that were being experienced. Facebook and Twitter are NCT’s core social media channels, with around 30,000 customers following the company. Whilst the use of Facebook and Twitter are not unique to the operator, the success of NCT’s approach and how it helps make buses a better choice in Nottingham is the company’s £3m AVL/GPS system that tracks the location of the operator’s fleet. There’s also a commitment by staff to proactively use this information to keep customers informed about the status of the network. The control system includes a bulletin board, accessible throughout NCT, that allows control staff to post information about disruptions such as breakdowns, road closures, diversions and a myriad of other details that are picked up by the marketing department. This information is then disseminated to Nottingham’s bus users, allowing them to quickly hear about problems and interact with the operator by asking questions or passing on comments. Sometimes passengers will also act as the eyes and ears for NCT and provide on-the-ground information before it has even been reported to control staff! “We’ve really embraced social media,” says Anthony Carver-Smith, the operator’s marketing manager. “It’s an incredible tool for keeping our customers informed, but the real benefit of it to bus operators is how embedded it is in people’s lives,” he adds. “Around 77% 20 | 10 May 2013 NCTsupp-p20 20

of the UK population accesses social media channels on a regular basis and as a university city with a growing youth market, social media meets the communication needs of many of Nottingham’s bus users. Facebook and Twitter are already regarded as an accepted way of life for people to keep up-to-date with friends and family, and this is an extension of that. We’re keeping our customers informed by using a channel that they feel comfortable with. We haven’t had to create a new bespoke way of communicating with our customers, we haven’t had to spend time and money developing something, it’s just there to access seamlessly as part of their life.” Although social media activity was originally designed to push out information from the company to customers, it has increasingly been used to engage and interact with them. “Many people won’t complain because they feel it’s too time-consuming a process,” says Carver-Smith. “Social media overcomes those barriers.” Such comments are also feeding into NCT’s quality management as all Facebook and Twitter activity is monitored and a record of any issues raised is kept, allowing the company to identify areas which require some

“We’re keeping our customers informed by using a channel that they feel comfortable with” Anthony Carver-Smith

form of improvement. Indeed, around 25% of all feedback to the company now originates from social media and this proportion is increasing as it becomes ever more important in people’s day-to-day lives. There are also other forms of digital communication, with regular customer newsletters emailed out to a database of around 10,000 customers, letting them know about network news, special offers and other important information. Meanwhile, online ‘Meet the Manager’ sessions have been lauched with an online ‘chatroom’style environment that allows bus users to pose questions or burning issues to the management team. The operator has collaborated with Nottingham City Council and the University of Nottingham on a project that aims to stimulate use of social media by older members of society. Additionally social media remains a useful tool for pushing out information, particularly during times of disruption or poor weather. These events also drive the greatest social media growth for NCT. “When you look at the stats for the growth of our social media accounts, there’s always a huge spike whenever there’s snow,” says Carver-Smith. “Despite all the marketing and promotion of the fact that we’re on Facebook and Twitter, by far the most effective tool in getting people to ‘like’ or ‘follow’ us is bad weather. That’s a fact of life, but it’s a terrific tool for getting the message out there of what is and isn’t running. It gets us close to the customer and that’s a good thing.”

NOTTINGHAM CITY TRANSPORT: SOCIAL MEDIA AND WEB STATS Aspect Facebook fans Facebook page views (year-on-year) Twitter followers E-newsletter subscriptions App downloads RTPI requests Website visits (year-on-year)

November 2012 18,835 15,854,930 4,016 8,928 27,905 225,105 4,751,767

April 2013 22,182 17,902,111 7,330 10,612 30,192 292,143 5,103,612

Change +17.8% +12.9% +82.5% +18.9% +8.2% +29.8% +7.4%

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A horse tram stands outside St Peter’s Church in around 1890

An operator in the making for 135 years

From horse trams to the latest low floor bus, Nottingham City Transport and its predecessors have a history going back to 1878 There are not many bus operators in Britain that can trace their history back more than 130 years, but Nottingham City Transport is one of them. The company’s roots go back to 1877 when a group of local businessmen made an application to the Board of Trade to construct and operate a tramway in Nottingham and its suburbs. This was authorised by the Nottingham & District Tramways Order of 1877 which allowed the company to construct and operate a tramway (worked by animal power only) in the city and the suburbs of Lenton, Basford and Radford. The tramway duly opened on September 17, 1878, with two routes: from St Peter’s Church to Trent Bridge via Carrington Street and Arkwright Street and to London Road via Carrington Street and Station Street. In the summer of 1879 a third route opened, quickly followed by a fourth and a short extension linking two of the routes in 1881. In 1895, the Nottingham & District Tramway carried 5.7 million passengers and operated the seven-mile long tram network with 38 cars. Meanwhile, the company had also introduced 22 | 10 May 2013 NCTsupp-p22 22

14 omnibuses and, to provide traction for the trams and horsebuses, the company had 290 horses on its books! 1897 saw Nottingham Corporation acquire the tramway system, and they applied for powers to introduce electric traction in 1899, with the switch being made in 1901. By the end of 1902 there were 105 electric trams in service with further network expansion taking place in 1907, 1910 and 1915. Following a visit to the City of Birmingham in 1924, and a troublesome trial of motorbuses in 1906, the city decided to oust its tramcars in favour of trolleybuses. However, in the event, after the reintroduction of motorbuses in 1920 and a significant order for this type of vehicle in 1929, buses replaced trams on many of the corridors, restricting the trolleybus fleet to just a few corridors. After the Second World War, the last new trolleybuses were introduced in 1952 and the network was slowly turned over to motorbus operations by the end of that decade. In 1961 the gradual abandonment of the trolleybus system was approved by the city council, a move that was accomplished by July 1966.

With the gradual withdrawal of the trolleybus fleet, the motorbus fleet was expanded once again. 1963 saw the introduction of high capacity rear-engined double deckers built to a standardised design that aimed to create efficiencies by standardising parts between vehicles built by different manufacturers. In late 1968 the West Bridgford municipal bus undertaking was absorbed and one-person operation was gradually introduced until, by 1977, 92% of services operated without a conductor. The last crew-operated routes were withdrawn from the Clifton area in November 1985. But big changes were also afoot for the City of Nottingham Transport Department. The 1985 Transport Act required the city council to create a separate, arms-length company. This saw Nottingham City Transport emerge as a separate company, wholly-owned by the council, and commence operations on October 26, 1986. Expansion has been accomplished by a series of takeovers. In November 1988, the Ilkeston operations of Stevensons Bus Services were acquired, followed by the operations of the South Notts Bus Company in March 1991. In August 1997, the company acquired Pathfinder, a Newark-based operator that gave NCT a presence in the north of Nottinghamshire. In September 2001 the Go2 and Network brands were introduced, with services on Go2 corridors boasting a minimum 10-minute frequency during daytimes. The city council retained 100% ownership until May of that year when French-owned transport group Transdev, a member along with NCT in the Arrow consortium that had been selected to operate the city’s new light rail system, gained an 18% minority stake. Recent years have seen a host of innovations, from involvement in the operation of trams once again with the NET light rail system, to experiments with alternative fuels, innovative ticketing initiatives and numerous awards wins, including the prestigious honour of being named UK Bus Operator of the Year at the UK Bus Awards, not just once, but twice in both 2004 and 2012. Also at the UK Bus Awards, NCT also took away the City Operator of the Year Award and its social media activity was named runner-up in the Making Buses A Better Choice category.

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