Happy New Year from all of us at The Big Lemon!

We’d like to wish all our passengers, customers and friends a very happy New Year!  The last year has been our best so far and we’d like to share a few highlights.

Here’s the 60 second whistle-stop tour:


January: We set our aims for the year:

  1. To benchmark our performance in each area and set up a system for measuring our performance
  2. To use the system to improve our performance in each area over the year
  3. To become the best workplace in Brighton & Hove
  4. To go for growth.
  5. To start operating services with electric buses.

February: We set out our electric bus plans and raised £250,000 for investment in electric buses. We now have two in a factory in Sheffield having their finishing touches done; we will take delivery of these in the New Year.  In February we also went on a team fun day out, digger-racing in Kent.

March: In March we had a big Team day, where we shared our hopes and dreams, both as individuals and for The Big Lemon. The same evening we had our AGM, where it was agreed to invest 80% of our surplus from 2015 in our electric bus plans and in the company’s growth, and split the remaining 20% between a staff fund for our team, and our very first dividend payment for our shareholders.

April: We held two public meetings, in Ovingdean and Woodingdean, to meet our passengers and the wider community to find out how our Service 52 was going and what residents needed most in the future. We also did surveys on all three of our services, and found high satisfaction levels on all services, with highest marks (93% in one survey!) going to our drivers for their friendly, personal service.  Our main area for improvement was found to be the lack of technology giving passengers real-time service information, something we are addressing with our new electric buses.  In April we also won a “Best Recycler” Award from Paper Round for our 82% recycling rate, up from 64% the year before.

May: The May bank holiday weekend saw us kick off our festival season, with Beltane Fire Festival just outside Lewes. We were also honoured to be the subject of Patcham Junior School’s float in Brighton & Hove’s Children’s Parade.

June:  In June we started two new bus services for a large employer in Hove, providing their staff with a shuttle bus between Hove Station and the office, and also a daily coach shuttle between their offices in Hove and Surrey.  We also won two awards at the inaugural Brighton & Hove Independent Business Awards, for Innovation and Green Business.

The children of Patcham Junior School made a Big Lemon bus for the Brighton & Hove Children’s Parade

July: We took over the lease on our depot on 1 July from our landlord (who retired), giving us much more freedom to do things like… put solar panels on the roof (more on this later!)  But before we could anything with the depot we had to get rid of two scrapped cars and two shipping containers’ worth of rubbish!

August: We bought another coach in August, taking our coach fleet from three to seven in less than six months. These coaches worked pretty much non-stop all summer, on weddings, parties, school trips, day trips, music festival coaches and transport for language school students.

September: We won a hat-trick at the Brighton & Hove Business Awards this year, winning the Green Business Award, Best Place to Work, and Business of the Year. Probably the proudest moment in our story so far.

At the Brighton & Hove Business Awards The Big Lemon won awards for Green Business, Best Workplace and Business of the Year!

October: Our Solar Bus campaign with Brighton Energy Coop  won the regional contest for the M&S Energy Awards, with 1473 votes and 171 crowd-fund backers raising a total of £13,325. Together with £12,500 from M&S Energy this campaign raised £25,825 to put 128 solar panels on the roof of our depot to power our new electric buses. We’re massively grateful to everyone who helped, and especially to Sussex Backup, Infinity Foods and Buddies Cafe for their very generous financial support. Incredibly, we also won the Transport category at the 2016 P.E.A. Awards.

November: This year undoubtedly has been the best yet for so many reasons, but what put the cherry on top was recognition at the UK Social Enterprise Awards in London, where we were named Environmental Social Enterprise of the Year.

December: What a year – thank you for being part of it! To finish, here are some stats:

  • over 270,000 passengers carried on five bus services
  • 624 private coach hires, not including regular hires, festival coaches or our subsidised trips for community organisations; an average of 52/month or 1.7 per day
  • 1133 people taken to 12 different music festivals
  • 84 local walkers taken on 7 Sunday Walks
  • 97,700 litres of biodiesel used, diverting 112 tonnes of cooking fat from the waste stream
  • 218,416 miles driven by a total of 16 different buses and coaches
  • 220 tonnes COsaved from the atmosphere (from using biodiesel instead of diesel)
Seasons Greetings and Happy New Year to all our passengers and friends – Cheers!

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