The annual Light Rail Awards took place in London on 1st October 2014 with many of the UK’s systems winning on the night. Probably the most prestigious award is the “Operator of the Year” and this went to National Express West Midlands for their running of Midland Metro during the past 12 months but there were also awards for Blackpool, Edinburgh, Manchester Metrolink and Nottingham Express Transit.
The Operator of the Year award in 2013 had been won by RATP for all of their worldwide light rail operations, including Metrolink, but in 2014 it has headed further south with National Express West Midlands taking the honours for the first time for their running of the short but expanding Midland Metro line.
Speaking about the award, Peter Coates, Managing Director of National Express West Midlands, commented: “To win this award alongside delivering a major extension is a great result and a credit to the hard work of all our staff who ensure our trams are clean, reliable and safe. This award is proof we are on the right track and we will be working with passenger groups, Centro and local councillors to help deliver further improvements.”
Elsewhere “Supplier of the Year” was awarded to CAF (builders of the new trams for Edinburgh and Midland Metro) whilst the introduction of the new trams on Midland Metro won “Project of the Year”.
Two of the more controversial light rail systems in the UK also went away with awards with both Edinburgh Trams and Manchester Metrolink being recognised. Edinburgh won the judges “Special Award” for the way they had managed to turn the project around and for Manchester Metrolink it was the “Most Improved System” prize. It would be fair to say that both of these awards have been met with consternation on the internet with both enjoying more than their fair share of criticism over the past 12 months (and beyond).
The judges gave their “Special Award” to Edinburgh, and more specifically Council Chief Executive, Sue Bruce, and Transport Convener, Lesley Hinds, because of the way they managed to bring the project in on the revised schedule and budget and despite of all of the high profile problems. The judges commented: “This formidable duo came into one of the most high-profile – for all the wrong reasons – and toughest tramway projects late in the game. Through strong leadership, they have turned it around – and into a success.”
Nottingham Express Transit also won four awards on the night including “Best Customer Initiative” which was awarded for their “successful off Tram Ticketing initiative” – another award which is likely to be more than a little controversial.
Blackpool Transport was named “Employee Team of the Year” for the behind the scenes effort of staff involved in making the “service as great as it can be”. This award normally goes to teams at Transport for London and is seen as a major coup for the team behind the successful upgraded tramway in Blackpool. Bob Mason, Director of Delivery at Blackpool Transport, said: “We are proud to be winners of such a prestigious award. The team at Starr Gate, with support from our Head Office at Rigby Road, have done extremely well and the award is testament to their hard work”.
The last word goes to Nicholas Owen, newsreader and host of the evening, who, speaking about Blackpool Transport’s award win, said: “Running a system that mixes up 80-year-old trams and the latest start-of-the-art Bombardier Flexity 2s isn’t exactly something I’d like to do. This tight-knit team of just over 100 drivers and conductors are at the top of their game – highly trained and highly motivated. Passengers respect what they do, and absenteeism is half the national average. Business over the last couple of years is also up 50% by the way and this system ranked first in many of the categories of the inaugural Passenger Focus Tram Passenger Survey.”
* It almost seems that these awards are the awards that no-one cares about as it is always very difficult to find information about who has won which award! The above and the awards we have been able to find mention of, if you know of any further awards on the night please let us know!