A bus operator serving Southampton has been crowned best in the country.

Bluestar scooped three accolades at this year’s UK Bus Awards, with the firm confirmed as the nation’s best.

Managing director Andrew Wickham said the awards were "thoroughly deserved" by the team at Bluestar and Unilink.

He said: “We’re absolutely thrilled to receive these prestigious awards.

“It is the third time we have won this accolade - with awards also in 2017 and 2018 - and only two other companies have ever achieved this.

“It is wonderful recognition for the talents of all my colleagues here - from our skilful engineers to the managers who ensure everything runs smoothly, the cleaners who keep our buses looking good, and of course our drivers who are the daily contact point for our passengers.”

Daily Echo: Bluestar has been named UK Bus Operator of the YearBluestar has been named UK Bus Operator of the Year (Image: Bluestar)

The award comes after First Bus departed from Southampton earlier this year, making room for Bluestar to step in.

It was the end of a 144-year era as City Red buses left the city in February after First Bus announced in 2022 that it would be ceasing operations.

Bluestar has been criticised by passengers following the takeover due to delays and cancellations.

But Mr Wickham said the award was a nod to the "mammoth mobilisation of new routes across the region".

He added: “To be named top operator is an incredible achievement, and I am very, very proud of each and every one of my colleagues.”

As well as assessing buses and drivers, the judges look at operators’ mobile apps, customer services and public relations.

They also carry out mystery journeys across bus networks.

“From introducing brand new additions to our fleet to helping reduce congestion and improving air quality, we won’t stop looking for ways to further enhance Bluestar’s reputation in Southampton, across the UK and beyond.”

The UK Bus Awards scheme was founded in 1996. It was designed to develop further the Bus Good Practice Awards - which were set up by the Association of Metropolitan Authorities in 1991.

Bluestar also scooped the title of Top Shire Operator at the awards.

The news follows hot on the heels of Bluestar’s recent success in the RouteOne Awards - where its parent firm was named Large Bus Operator of the Year.