Sittingbourne based Chalkwell Coaches has appointed former Metropolitan Police traffic officer, Alasdair Thain, as a driving assessor. Since his appointment, the company claims there has been an improvement in driving standards. It has noticed fewer incidents, reduced maintenance costs due to greater driver awareness and a better level of candidate applying for positions. His role is to take drivers out and give them an hour long assessment on different types of roads. Following his retirement after 31 years in the police force, Alisdair worked for Kent County Council, assessing its drivers and training them to HGV and PCV standard. While he was at the council, he met Andy Bates, now Chalkwell’s Operations Manager. The two of them put together a plan to solve accident problems involving public service vehicles and minibuses. After working for the council, Alisdair decided to retire for a second time, but was persuaded by Chalkwell to work for them on a part time basis.
Alasdair said, ‘Although a candidate may already hold a PCV licence it doesn’t necessarily mean they will meet Chalkwell’s standards. Feedback I am getting from prospective employees and drivers is this is something they haven’t come across before. As a former Kent County Council HGV and PCV instructor I am looking at Chalkwell’s drivers as an examiner rather than a supervisor in the industry. Everyone will have their driving assessed once a year. If there is anything I am not happy about I will offer advice and assess drivers in three months or six months to ensure they are improving. Coupled with that, if anyone has an accident which is blameworthy and are culpable they will come out for a bus accident assessment. That involves going back to the scene of the accident, talking through what happened and forming an opinion on how the problem may have occurred, working on the problem for half an hour before, provided they take everything on board, seeing them again in six months. Hopefully, I shall then see that whatever the problem was has been corrected. I shall also carry out end of probation driver test assessments.’
The biggest transport operation Chalkwell has ever been responsible for running was successfully completed recently. It involved carrying a total of 6,500 people in a once-in-four year’s international event. The occasion was an international jamboree for 5,500 Scouts and Guides, as well as a support team of 1,000. At one time during the event, held at the Kent County Showground, Chalkwell had 18 vehicles in operation on the job.
Transport Manager, Darren Mitchell, said, ‘It was a massive undertaking and on the whole it ran as smooth as clockwork. Everyone was full of praise for the fantastic job performed by the drivers throughout the jamboree. In particular, a group of 24 guides from Barnsley who were involved in making a large number of cakes and wanted to visit the bakery in London with whom they had worked. The driver who took them also gave them a guided tour of the sights and the guides were talking about their experience for days afterwards. They said he was amazing and they couldn’t speak highly enough of him.’
Chalkwell is celebrating 20 years of offering commuter services from Sittingbourne to London. It was in July 1993 that the Sittingbourne based operator began providing an alternative choice of commuting to London with three coaches. In 2000, it extended the area it covered to include Rainham. Four and a half years’ ago it commenced running services from Maidstone. The latter had previously been provided by New Enterprise, a subsidiary of Arriva, who chose to re-focus their activities. Today, its London commuter services from Sittingbourne and Rainham involve six vehicles, whilst its routes out of Maidstone and Kings Hill have increased to a PVR of seven. A 06.25 commuter service from Kings Hill via Leybourne is Chalkwell’s latest expansion.
Chalkwell MD, Clive Eglinton, said, ‘Over the last 20 years it has been a great privilege to carry customers to and from London. I believe our commuter services remain exceptionally good value for money with a comprehensive choice of services. We are looking forward to continuing to provide a first class service for the next 20 years and beyond.’
Chalkwell of Sittingbourne claims its new commuter service between Kings Hill, Leybourne, West Malling and London has ‘got off to a promising start’. The operator now runs a total of 13 regular commuter services a day to the capital. Passenger numbers during the first week of the new journey were ‘very encouraging’, with customers giving positive feedback. The company is offering commuters from Kings Hill as well as Sittingbourne, Medway and Maidstone a ‘try before you buy’ offer for two free day return tickets during the month of July. The development of a new service was brought forward following a recent announcement regarding expected parking restrictions affecting a council owned car park on the A20, which is used by some of its regular customers.