Our new bus services..

Yesterday was perhaps the most challenging day ever for The Big Lemon. On Saturday we had been running one route, the 52. On Monday we added the 47, 57, 16, 16A, 66, 56, and 56E.

What’s more, because of circumstances beyond our control, we had less than two weeks to get everything in place. That has meant, amongst many other things, recruiting ten new drivers, and sourcing buses to run the routes.

So don’t be surprised if you see some London double deckers around Brighton for a few weeks until we can get some new yellow buses out on the road! Please look out for the bus service number and destination on the front of the buses.

The short time we have had to get ready also means that Brighton and Hove Buses have not had the chance to put the new timetables up at bus stops across the city, so many people understandably will not have been aware of the new times and even routes which came into force.

On top of everything yesterday, we, along with all other bus companies, faced massive delays because of the closure of North Street for road works. This meant a good deal of late running which is not acceptable. If the road works continue to cause delays, we may have to turn buses round before their terminus, as Brighton and Hove Buses sometimes do. If we have to do this, we will use social media to try to keep people informed.

I am very grateful for the patience of our passengers as we bed down in these very challenging circumstances. I am also grateful to our drivers and the rest of our team who have worked long hours over the last week to get the show on the road.

Our website www.thebiglemon.com has all the new timetables.

The Big Lemon just got BIGGER!

The Big Lemon just got bigger!

In a fantastic result, The Big Lemon has won almost all the bus routes being tendered by Brighton and Hove Council. This means as well as the 52, local residents will soon be able to catch a Big Lemon bus on routes 16, 47, 56, 57 and 66.

This is a great vote of confidence from the council and is the result of 10 years’ hard work by Tom Druitt and the team, the wonderful friendliness of our drivers, and the environmental and passenger-centred vision we put forward in our bid.

The new services are due to begin on 17th September and there is now a huge amount to do to get ready. We need to recruit lots of drivers and train them.  We need to get lots more buses, get them painted and equipped with everything from ticket machines to GPS equipment. We need to carve out lots more depot space.  And the rest.

The contract with the council is for four years, with an option for them to extend it for a further four years. So for the first time this gives us a significant guaranteed income stream for years into the future, which in turn puts us in a good position to think about expanding further.

As for the buses, we are naturally keen to ensure we extend our fleet of electric buses. Not only is this the right thing to do for the environment, our first two solar powered buses are now out on Route 52, and proving hugely popular with passengers. They are a great advert for bus travel generally.  They will be joined in due course by three brand new electric buses, funding for which is partly coming from the Department for Transport.

So great news, and a really exciting time for us. There is no doubt that the future is bright, the future is lemon.

 

Norman Baker, MD


Join the team!

Join the award winning Big Lemon team: winners of The Award for Best Place to Work in Brighton & Hove at the Brighton & Hove Business Awards in 2016.

We’re a small family-like business that has many employee benefits:

  • a workplace pension scheme
  • full uniform
  • staff bus pass valid on the whole city network
  • staff fund & social activities
  • free lunches
  • have a say on how the company is run
  • more tea that you could ever desire
  • relaxed family feel working environment
  • Transport Benevolent Fund membership

Salary: £11.10 per hour starting salary, rising to £11.50 after 3 months

Hours: 39 hour per week – overtime available

Please download a Driver Application Form and email it to us here.

Want to Invest in the UK’s greenest bus company?

More routes = more buses!  We are putting together an investment offer which we will launch in October and to get in touch if you want to be the first to hear about it!

The Big Lemon in Pictures…..

Follow us on Instagram (thebiglem0n) and tag us in your #thebiglemon adventures.  We love our customers and we’d love to see your smiling faces on our buses and coaches!

And last but not least we’re very proud to supporting and transporting Brighton & Hove Business Awards finalists to Stanmer House for the awards ceremony on 14th September.  Good luck everyone!

 

 

We’re hiring PCV Bus Drivers – immediate start….

The Big Lemon has a reputation for a friendly personal service and we always look for the most cheerful friendly drivers to drive our buses!

We have vacancies for full time drivers, and some part-time drivers, on local bus services. Drivers ideally must be over 25 years of age with two years driving experience. A manual PCV licence is essential.

Salary: £11.10 per hour starting salary, rising to £11.50 after 3 months

Hours: 39 hour per week – overtime available

We offer a workplace pension scheme, full uniform, staff bus pass valid on the whole network, free lunches and the chance to be part of a great team that won the The Award for Best Place to Work in Brighton & Hove at the Brighton & Hove Business Awards in 2016.

We have opportunities for immediate start – if you’re interested please download a Driver Application Form and email it to kelly@thebiglemon.com or call us on 01273681681.

Our now Coach Services Manager explains in a nutshell why it’s great to work here:

A trip down memory lane – ten key milestones in our first ten years

On this day, ten years ago, we launched our first bus service! To celebrate, we’ve put together ten highlights of the last ten years…


2007: We launched the UK’s first bus service powered solely by recycled cooking oil from local restaurants.

2008: A thirteen year old boy came to the depot with his dad, and said he’d seen the buses and read about us in the paper. He said he would like to buy a share in the business with pocket money he’d saved, and also help out in the depot. He helped Tom wash the buses at the weekends, and also helped out in the office after school. Fast forward to 2017 and he’s our Coach Hire Manager, and, having recently passed his Certificate of Professional Competence in International Passenger Transport, the most highly qualified transport professional in the organisation.

2009: We bought our first coach, a Volvo B10m Plaxton Paramount, and launched the UK’s first waste oil-powered coach hire service. We also won our first award, the Dandelion Award for sustainable business, at a ceremony in London.

2010: We doubled the size of our bus service operation almost overnight, launched a waste cooking oil collection service and elected one of our driving team to the Board of Directors to ensure that our drivers are represented at all levels of decision-making.

2011: We launched our Sunday Walks, and won the EU’s Ethiconomy Award at a ceremony in Italy.

2012: We won our first local authority contract, to run the 52 bus. In the five years since we have built strong relationships with the communities along the route, held 11 public meetings, extended the route into the city centre, introduced multi-operator smart-ticketing (in association with the other local operators, the Department for Transport and the City Council) and increased ridership by 59%.

2013: We launched The Big Orange (a coach that was already orange so we saved the money on yellow paint and branded it The Big Orange!) and the Little Lemon wedding car service, using an ex-London taxi. The Big Orange was ultimately painted yellow as we professionalised and improved our cash-flow, and The Little Lemon is now selling beer in Belgium.

2014: We opened our own on-site maintenance facility for the first time, improving our operational capability and also offering vehicle maintenance as a service to other businesses.

2015: The turning point for our finances as we finally paid off the last of our historical debt, greatly improved our cash position, and ended the year with a healthy surplus that enabled us to pay a dividend for the first time and launch our Staff Fund. This fund is 10% of our annual profit which is managed by a staff committee elected by our drivers and is available for staff welfare, team social activities and personal development.

2016: We set our sights on electric bus technology and raised £250,000 to fund the conversion of two buses from diesel to electric. We also raised £25,000 through a crowdfunding campaign and funding from the M&S Energy Awards for solar panels on the roof of our bus depot. We won nine local and national awards including awards for recycling, innovation, and Best Workplace, Brighton & Hove Business of the Year and UK Environmental Social Enterprise of the Year.

2017: This year we published our national strategy going forward to 2030, recruited Norman Baker as Managing Director in Brighton & Hove, and made history again by launching the UK’s first solar-powered bus, powered from electricity generated on the roof of our depot. We have also been shortlisted for three more awards including the National Transport Awards’ Contribution to Sustainable Transport Award and just a week ago heard that we have been successful in our bid to the Department for Transport for £500,000 towards three brand new zero-emissions electric buses to make Brighton & Hove an even cleaner, greener city and build a working model for community sustainable transport across the country.


It’s been a blast, thank you for being part of our story! Here’s to the next ten years…

Tom, Norman and the team

We’re 10 years old today!

So The Big Lemon is 10 on 1 September 2017.  And we’ve come a long way since the idea for a truly sustainable, community based bus and coach company lit up like a light bulb in the head of our founder and CEO, Tom Druitt all those years ago.

I wasn’t around in Brighton when it all started but I bet there were plenty of people at the time who were patronisingly dismissive of the whole idea and regarded it as a flight of fancy that would vanish as soon as it arrived.

How wrong they were.

Ten years on, and The Big Lemon has never been stronger. Over those ten years we have built a reputation for being at the cutting edge of environmental innovation, and for great passenger service.  People like us and want to use our services, which is a great testament to all those who have been involved in building the company, not least our drivers who are the public face of The Big Lemon.

Ten years on and we are still innovating and ahead of the game. This year we have introduced the first solar-powered electric bus in the UK and have since added another such bus and an electric minibus. Our solar panels not only power our buses, but our offices too, and have enough power left to export to the grid. Our conversion of diesel vehicles into electric ones is also a first for the UK, and we are working with the Sheffield company Magtec on this frontier-pushing project.

Our first solar powered electric bus launch in                 April 2017.

Ten years on and we are looking to expand the bus routes we offer in the Brighton area and have delivered a set of creative and seductive proposals to Brighton and Hove Council to make this a reality.

Ten years on and our finances have never been healthier, with record profits last year, demonstrating that doing the right thing by the environment and by our passengers makes sound economic sense.

Ten years on and we have accumulated a cabinet full of awards for what we do, and are currently  shortlisted for three more as I write, including two highly prestigious national awards.

So I’d like to say thank you and well done to those who have got us this far. But we are also conscious that this is not the time to rest on our laurels. We have big ambitions to grow and we are already scoping out and pacing the route ahead.

How are we doing? Passenger survey results show 100% satisfaction with The Big Lemon’s drivers

Our main aim at The Big Lemon is to make sure everyone who has a ‘Big Lemon experience’ has a good one. We endeavour to make a positive impact on our community, to give our team a fulfilling and enjoyable job, and of course to give our passengers the best possible experience on the bus.

Every year we do a straw poll of our 52 passengers to see how we’re doing, and here are the results for 2017:

Our 2016 results:
Big Lemon bus 52 survey results 2016

We’d like to thank our passengers for their very positive feedback and we have taken on board the feedback to improve the experience, especially with regard to the vehicles. We have invested a huge amount this year in the quality of our vehicles and are pleased to say that the new electric bus is very quiet, very smooth and has a fully re-fitted interior with very comfortable seating.

We’d also like to acknowledge the commitment and dedication of our team to provide a friendly personal service to our passengers – incredible result to get 100% top marks for our drivers!

Stop Press!

Come and see us in Brighton’s Churchill Square today where our MD Norman Baker will be showcasing our electric bus and chatting to members of the public about bus services as part of Catch the Bus Week

Meet “Om Shanti” the UK’s first solar powered electric bus!

Our new solar-powered bus got a tremendous reception when we had our official launch on Friday 28th April, at our depot in East Brighton:

Om Shanti
*Om Shanti* in the depot on launch day

We were joined by a great number of friends and supporters, and local elected representatives, including the city’s mayor, Pete West:

Our amazing supporters, sponsors, partners, Caroline Lucas MP, Pete West the Mayor of Brighton & Hove with the city’s first zero emissions bus powered by sunshine!

The media were there in force too, and we were especially pleased to have ITV Meridian along, whose coverage can be accessed here.

Big lemon makes History
We made history in The Argus

The specialist press was also present, and here you can see the extensive piece published by Bus And Coach Buyer.

There was a chance for everyone who turned up to have a ride on the bus and everyone seemed impressed. The interior has been tastefully refurbished and is unrecognisable from the vehicle as it had been. As for the drive, people expecting a milk float (as some still do from electric vehicles) were surprised  by both the smooth ride and the impressive acceleration.

The bus is now undergoing trials and awaiting formal clearance to operate as a passenger-carrying vehicle.

There was also a chance to be shot up in the air in a cherry-picker to see the new solar panels that are on the depot roof and that power our new buses, and to have a tour of the depot led by our CEO Tom Druitt.

IMAG6034_1
The solar panels on the depot roof from the cherry picker

The bus used to be a regular diesel bus, and has been converted to a 133 kWh electric bus by Magtec in Sheffield. It is powered by a 21kW solar array on the roof of the bus depot, installed by Brighton Energy Coop and part-funded by Viper IT Solutions, Infinity Foods and Buddies Cafe as part of our M&S Energy crowdfunding campaign last autumn.

Tom & Pete West Placque Unveil
Pete West, the Mayor of Brighton & Hove and Tom Druitt and our Solar Bus Roof sponsor placque

The party was held at Dotties Cafe, a wonderful social enterprise cafe in East Brighton Park, with fabulous food kindly provided by Higgidy Pies and lemon based cakes and vegan curry from Real Junk Food Project, a fantastic collection of craft beers from Crafted Crate, “Lemony lemonade” from Karma Cola and local award-winning gin from Brighton Gin. Thanks guys, what a treat!