Supporting the Community

Supporting the Community

Oxford Bus Group operates in many different estates, villages, towns and cities and we have an impact on them all. We are proud to say we give consistently give back to the people we serve and the environment. 

We support a variety of charities and other good causes, helping to build a stronger local community through partnerships, challenges and fundraising activities.

Below, we've listed some of our recent community-focused projects.

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PROJECT 01: ‘Brand the Bus!’ Competition

‘Brand the Bus!’ Competition

In 2018, Oxford Bus Group launched a ‘Brand the Bus!’ competition. The competition offers local good causes and charities the chance to have an Oxford Bus Company bus emblazoned with their branding. People can then vote for their favourite good cause to win this unique opportunity.

The competition was created as part of Oxford Bus Group’s commitment to be socially responsible and encourage the community to recommend organisations to support, rather than selecting a chosen beneficiary. We have also acted upon feedback from several local charities informing us of the powerful impact a branded bus could have on their organisations and the people they serve. Even when the pandemic significantly affected the business, the Company decided to continue with the annual competition as we understood just how important it is to our communities.

We are really proud that the competition has become a valued local annual event.
In early 2022, we announced the winners of the fourth edition of the ‘Brand the Bus!’ competition, Restore Oxford, who are due to have their vehicle completed with branded vinyls in May 2022. 

Restore supports people in taking control of their recovery from mental health challenges, developing skills, and leading meaningful lives. It offers recovery groups, training and employment coaching to make this possible.

Lucy Didcock, Community Fundraiser at Restore, said: “We are so thrilled to have been selected as the overall winner of the ‘Brand the Bus!’ competition. There are so many worthy charities in Oxfordshire and we are proud to have stood amongst them. A huge thank you to the Oxford Bus Company for organising this brilliant competition. We can’t wait to spread our message further and wider.

“We have more people than ever needing our support and branding an Oxford Bus will enable us to reach further into communities, spreading the word about the wonderful work we do at Restore and raising vital funds to reduce our long waiting list. Ultimately, this win will help more adults in Oxfordshire on their journey towards mental health recovery. We can’t thank Oxford Bus Company enough.”

GirlGuiding Oxford, Home-Start Oxford and Blue Skye Thinking have all had double-decker buses decked out in their branding after winning previous rounds of the competition. Furthermore, in 2021, we also decided to award the runner-up for the competition, Abingdon Riding for the Disabled, who received a bus rear advertisement space.

Overall, the competition has reached 118 entries and 24,000 public votes.
Below are testimonials from our previous competition winners along with the photos of their branded vehicles.

GirlGuiding Oxfordshire
Winners of the 2018-2019 edition of the ‘Brand the Bus!’ competition.

GirlGuiding-Oxfordshire

“We’re so grateful to Oxford Bus Company for this amazing opportunity to raise the profile of Girlguiding in Oxfordshire, and we can't wait for people to see the wonderful bus design.” - Angela Peel, County Commissioner of GirlGuiding Oxfordshire

“Girlguiding offers all girls aged 5 to 18 a safe environment to learn skills, make friends and have fun. We pride ourselves on offering our members 'mountain top moments' - those moments of accomplishment which they will remember forever - and seeing this bus come to fruition is one of those moments for us as leaders. We hope that the bus will encourage more girls to come and try Rainbows, Brownies, Guides and Rangers, and perhaps more adults to put themselves forward as volunteers.” - Ros Letellier, who submitted the entry for Girlguiding Oxfordshire

Home-Start Oxfordshire
Winners of the 2019-2020 edition of the ‘Brand the Bus!’ competition.
Home-Start-Oxfordshire

“The three Oxfordshire Home-Starts are completely delighted about this wonderful news. Our own branded bus will be a perfect vehicle for us to raise awareness about our vital work helping families with young children through their challenging times. The bus will help us recruit more volunteers and raise funds, and that means we’ll be able to reach many more of the Oxfordshire families who are asking for our help. Thank you, Oxford Bus Company, and everyone who voted for us.” 
- Katharine Barber, Home-Start Oxfordshire Chief Executive

Blue Skye Thinking
Winners of the 2020-2021 edition of the ‘Brand the Bus!’ competition.

Blue-Skye-Thinking

“As a small local charity, we cannot thank the Oxford Bus Company enough to have chosen to support us in tackling the number one fatal cancer disease in young people.
We are so excited to finally share the #BigBlueDreamBus with the community. We are focusing our bus design on never giving up on your dreams and hope people will spot the bus, take a photo and share on social media to generate valuable funds for Blue Skye Thinking. Generous, local businesses will be sponsoring £5 per photo shared, bringing the whole of the Oxfordshire community together for one common goal.” - Sally Hall, Director of Blue Skye Thinking

Abingdon RDA
Runner-up of the 2020-2021 edition of the ‘Brand the Bus!’ competition.

Abingdon RDA

“We are all so grateful to Oxford Bus Company for running the Brand the Bus competition and selecting our charity to be on the back of one of its double-decker. The publicity this will bring for the charity will be second to none, and we look forward to using the bus to raise awareness of what we do within the charity.” 
- Alice Summersbee, of Abingdon Riding for the Disabled Association

Restore Oxford
Winners of the 2021-2022 edition of the ‘Brand the Bus!’ competition (branded bus coming May 2022).

Restore-Oxfordshire

“We are so thrilled to have been selected as the overall winner of the Brand the Bus competition. There are so many worthy charities in Oxfordshire and we are proud to have stood amongst them. A huge thank you to the Oxford Bus Company for organising this brilliant competition. We can’t wait to spread our message further and wider.
We have more people than ever needing our support and branding an Oxford Bus will enable us to reach further into communities, spreading the word about the wonderful work we do at Restore and raising vital funds to reduce our long waiting list. Ultimately, this win will help more adults in Oxfordshire on their journey towards mental health recovery. We can’t thank Oxford Bus Company enough.” - Lucy Didcock, Community Fundraiser at Restore

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PROJECT 02: Christmas Light Bus

Christmas Light Bus

In 2020, City Sightseeing Oxford bus filled with starry lights toured Oxford as part of the annual Christmas Lights Festival. The bus was filled with stained-glass window designs by students from City of Oxford College with street artist Mani, and it also played Christmas tunes with support from JACKfm. The tour bus brought so much joy to the community during the incredibly challenging time of Christmas 2020, when restrictions prevented many families from seeing loved ones. 

Thanks to an overwhelmingly positive public response to the event, Oxford Bus Group (with support from local partners) operated further tours in December 2020 and November/December 2021 to bring Christmas cheer to local communities. 

In 2020, we also partnered with KEEN Oxford, Yellow Submarine and Mencap charities and JACKfm to deliver over 200 presents to a number of disabled children and young adults in and around Oxford. Areas visited by the bus included Oxford city centre, Cowley, Iffley, Headington, Wood Farm, Blackbird Leys, Horspath, Risinghurst, Marston, Radley, Kennington, Wootton, Cumnor, Botley and Cutteslowe.

Based on multiple comments from the community (during the first event in November), timings and locations of the bus were published online and promoted via regular online channels. This was possible due to UK being out of lockdown during the time of the second event. 

The events in 2020 helped us increase our Facebook account following by 2.6% (334 people) primarily thanks to Facebook live events, which enabled those who were shielding at the time (due to COVID-19) or those unable to step outside to enjoy the Christmas Light Bus. 

The most recent event in 2021 gave residents a say in where the bus should visit via an online vote, resulting in Oxford Bus Company creating a special route, visiting local areas including Blackbird Leys, Rose Hill, Littlemore, Kennington, Radley, Abingdon, Culham, Sutton Courtenay, Milton, Drayton, Abingdon, Oxford and Wood Farm. 

To date, the Christmas Light Bus videos on Facebook were watched just over 104,000 times, generating a range of positive conversations with the local community. 

Phil Southall, Oxford Bus Company Managing Director said: “The Christmas Lights Bus tour has been a wonderful experience for everyone involved. It helped spread so much joy during a challenging time for us all and it was lovely to see the reaction from the communities we visited.”

Watch the Oxford’s Christmas Light Festival 2021 video, featuring the Christmas Light Bus: https://vimeo.com/682898999 

Testimonials (on the Christmas Light Bus as part of Oxford’s Christmas Light Festival):

“The Oxford Christmas Light Festival has once again proved to be a resounding success. Its purpose is to bring communities together, share creativity and celebrate the city. There’s no doubt that those aims were met in abundance. Let’s build on this winning formula for future years and look forward to Oxford’s Christmas Light Festival 2022.” - Councillor Mary Clarkson, Oxford City Council Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure and Tourism

“It is wonderful to see what can happen when cultural partners and communities are at the heart of organising a major city-wide event. Setting Oxford’s Christmas Light Festival in local neighbourhoods and seeing the number of people who took part from those communities around the city is precisely what the festival is about. The sheer quality of the weekend, and the engagement it had, shows how vital cultural events are to community cohesion, health and growth.” - Paula Redway, Oxford City Council Culture and Community Development Manager

“Such a lovely event. Thank you so much for doing this and bringing some light into the community.” - Anonymous member of the public

“Catered for real life people from every background coming together to enjoy the start of Christmas - magical!” - Anonymous member of the public

"This is brilliant, thank you so much! Please repeat!!!!” - Anonymous member of the public

“Thank you for giving us something special to look forward to seeing.” - Anonymous member of the public

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PROJECT 03: £60,000 for Barnardo’s

£60,000 for Barnardo's

Our colleagues at Oxford Bus Company have donated almost £60,000 to children’s charity Barnardo’s.

The £58,280 sum was raised via a payroll donation scheme and the charity’s tax-efficient workplace lottery scheme, the Winners Club. The charity is using the money to help deliver its charitable work in the community.

Barnardo’s supports nearly 300,000 children, young people, parents and carers across the UK. In September 2021, Anne Bailey, Relationship Co-ordinator at Barnardo’s, visited our Cowley House depot in Oxford to thank the team for its support and sign up more donors.

This is a fantastic achievement by our colleagues, past and present, and has helped make a real difference to so many people. We’re so proud of our team and their on-going commitment to giving back to our community in so many ways.

“Barnardo’s is extremely thankful to everyone at Oxford Bus Company for their long-standing support. Over the last 30 years, Oxford Bus Company has raised over £58,000 for our work.

At Barnardo’s we believe in children - no matter who they are, what they have done or what they have been through. With the support of Oxford Bus Company, we have been and continue to be able to reach out to children and young people who desperately need our support whether they have been abused, are homeless or have a disability. We look forward to continuing our relationship with Oxford Bus Company for many years to come.” - Anne Bailey, Relationship Co-ordinator, Barnardo’s

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PROJECT 4: City Honey

City Honey

At Oxford Bus Group, we always look for ways to improve our social responsibility and in 2017, a beehive was installed at the Oxford Bus Company’s Cowley House depot in Oxford.

Bees are essential to the environment. It is often said that bees are responsible for one out of every three bites of food we eat as most of our crops require pollination by insects.

In 2021, the beehive was thriving, with in excess of 100 finest honey jars produced - more than four times as much as we saw in the previous year. 

The City Honey is available to purchase in the reception of Cowley House for £4 per jar, and each year, the proceeds go to a charity of our choice.  

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PROJECT 05: Support during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Supporting key workers during the pandemic

During the pandemic, at Oxford Bus Group we took the role in supporting the nation’s key worker heroes very seriously.

Despite many challenges, we continued to operate throughout the pandemic and provided customers with the ability to request timetable changes if the emergency timetables introduced during the pandemic didn’t meet their essential needs. Several journeys were added as a result of customer feedback, and many of these have been made a fixture of regular timetables when the lockdown restrictions were eased.

Vaccination centre services

Support during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Photo (above): It’s time to get vaccinated - Luke Marion, Finance and Commercial Director, Kevan Flanagan, Service Delivery and Private Hire Manager, Andrew Morison, Head of Customer Experience presenting the new destination for the city3A service.

Together with Stagecoach Oxfordshire, we amended our bus services in February 2021 to provide crucial daily links to the new mass COVID-19 vaccination centre at the Kassam Stadium, enabling communities to reach it more easily. 

The revised timetables provided direct half-hourly service to the vaccination centre in Grenoble Road, Oxford, via the Oxford Bus Company city3A and Stagecoach 3A services. The services were also extended at both ends to serve Oxford Rail station as well as the City Centre and extend to Cowley Centre from Oxford Science Park via Greater Leys and Blackbird Leys, to further improve connectivity to the vaccination centre and reach further communities.

With the Kassam Stadium designated as a key vaccination hub in Oxfordshire, enabling as many as 8,000 to 10,000 vaccination weekly, we reacted quickly to ensure improved connectivity to the centre.

The services were made possible thanks to support from the government’s COVID-19 Bus Services Support Grant (CBSSG). Working in partnership Oxford Bus Company, Stagecoach and Oxfordshire County Council secured funding support to make the services economically viable.

“Getting vaccinated is a top priority for all of us to help defeat the pandemic and so we as a council are glad to support it with this bus service to the stadium. Residents can be confident that travel by bus to the stadium is safe and will allow you to make your appointment in good time without adding congestion to the roads.”
- Councillor Yvonne Constance, Cabinet Member for Transport at Oxfordshire County Council.

Mobile COVID-19 testing buses in Norfolk

Mobile COVID-19 testing buses in Norfolk

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Oxford Bus Company was helping other areas tackle the pandemic across the country via specially converted buses. 

Four of our converted buses were deployed to support communities in Norfolk. The service is part of Project MOVE, a scheme created to support the NHS and local authorities by giving vaccines and tests via converted buses. It was made possible via a partnership between design company 40two and Oxford Bus Company.

The mobile treatment bays on buses have been made available to local authorities across the UK. Norfolk County Council commissioned four vehicles and they went into operation after the successful use of a demonstration vehicle. Norfolk County Council used the four vehicles to provide observed lateral flow device tests for asymptomatic people.

It helped identify the one in three people who may have had the virus without any symptoms so they can avoid passing COVID-19 to family, friends and colleagues.
Each bus had the capacity to undertake up to 100 observed rapid tests a day. Observed tests meant that people swabbed themselves under the guidance of a trained operator who then processes the test, reads the result and records it.

We were proud to be using Oxford buses to help communities receive the support they need.

Norfolk County Council were the first local authority to commission the vehicles. Our buses can also be used for other purposes if required including administering vaccines.

“We’ve been humbled by the positive support we’ve received from Oxford Bus Company and Norfolk County Council. It is great to see the vehicles on the road so they can begin delivering services directly to the public. It’s been a pleasure working together and we’re already looking forward to the next project.” - David Brown, a Partner at 40two and Project MOVE’s Managing Director.

Free face covering exemption cards

Free face covering exemption cards

When wearing a face covering on public transport was a legal requirement, Oxford Bus Group produced free cards to help passengers who are exempt from wearing them.
The cards that stated ‘please be supportive, I’m exempt from wearing a face covering’ were introduced to help those passengers who cannot wear one, but might find it difficult to communicate easily with the driver.

The government’s list of exemptions included disabled people, children under 11 and people with certain health conditions. The cards were made available to print off or download via the Company’s website and customers could show them on smartphones, or as a printed version.

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PROJECT 06: At The Bus Project

At The Bus Project

In September 2021, Oxfordshire based charity At The Bus launched its inaugural converted art therapy bus that will tour the county providing mental wellbeing support to youngsters.

The charity which is based at the Cherwell School uses art as a therapy intervention to support children and young people who experience a variety of life challenges. The double-decker bus, provided by the Oxford Bus Group in support of the charity was then converted at the bus depot. Provision of the bus means the charity will be able to provide key therapeutic services to children and young people in partnership with schools in Oxfordshire to enhance mental wellbeing, alleviate anxiety, develop resilience, self-esteem and independence.

It is fantastic to see the bus out and about to facilitate this valuable work. The vision and work of At The Bus really resonated with us and we were delighted to help bring the concept to fruition to enable the charity to deliver vital services in our communities.

At The Bus students work in small groups led by experienced facilitators trained in the Beattie Method, a creative therapeutic intervention that supports mental wellbeing. The double decker offers a calm, safe space within a school site for students to access. It is hoped the service will expand nationwide in the future.

“This is a much-needed resource, and we are looking forward to working with children across the county. The mental wellbeing of our young people is in crisis and At The Bus will make a real difference to support their wellbeing and education. We are incredibly grateful to the generosity and charitable goodwill of Oxford Bus Company who have gone above and beyond to help make this a reality.” - Dr Juli Beattie, Founder of At The Bus

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PROJECT 07: 12 Days of Christmas Campaign

12 Days of Christmas Campaign

In December 2021, Oxford Bus Group’s Thames Travel and Oxford Bus Company ran a "12 Days of Christmas" campaign to help support local businesses in Oxford City.
The campaign which will run from December 13th to Christmas Eve featured a special offer each day from a city centre business in partnership with the bus operators. Visitors to the city were able to obtain a special offer at a different business each day by showing a valid Oxford Bus Company or Thames Travel bus ticket. This included the park&ride service.

The 12 Days of Christmas was designed to help boost a wider campaign to encourage people to visit Oxford in the run-up to Christmas in celebrate and support local businesses amid the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The campaign included discounts from local retailers and venues, including: Rainbow and Spoon boutique, Teardrop Bar and Cellar Door, The Handle Bar Café and Kitchen, The Oxford Wine Company, Fairtrade at St. Michaels, Modern Art Oxford, Laird Hatters, Y.O.U Underwear, The Project PT, Queen’s Lane Coffee House and City Sightseeing Oxford.

The campaign allowed Oxford Bus Group to generate new connections with local businesses and enabled future partnerships to become more easily organised.  

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PROJECT 08: Free City Sightseeing Oxford tours for local residents

Free City Sightseeing Oxford tours for local residents

In summer 2020, Oxford residents were offered the opportunity to reconnect with the city thanks to a special offer from Oxford Bus Group’s City Sightseeing Oxford in support of the Oxford Mail and Oxford City Council’s #RediscoverOxford campaign.

The campaign aimed to revive visitor numbers to the city centre, simultaneously supporting a large number of local businesses following government-imposed lockdowns. 
Aside from Oxford residents being provided with free open top bus tours, under-12s were also able to get a free ticket by taking part in the ‘Oxford - My Treasure Island’ art competition.

We were proud to take part in this important Rediscover Oxford campaign. The tourism industry is a vital part of Oxfordshire’s economy and it was encouraging to see key stakeholders pulling together for the overall good of the city.

Oxford is a beautiful historic city and our open-top bus tours are a fantastic value for money way to see the sights and rediscover Oxford. At the time of the campaign, several COVID-19 restrictions were still in place which meant we paid extra attention to enhancing our cleaning regimes on our fleet after each trip and put social distancing measures in place to ensure our passengers were safe to travel.

“Sitting upstairs on a double-decker bus is certainly the best way of seeing Oxford. Most of the time I’m on my bike, which is too low a vantage point to see much of the beautiful and ornate stonework throughout the city centre.

There is so much to see in Oxford city centre. Even for someone who has lived here for years, there are still so many hidden treasures to discover – and the Oxford City Sightseeing tour is a great way to start that discovery.

I’m delighted that we’ve been able to team up with Oxford Bus Company and the Oxford Mail to provide this free offer, and I would encourage Oxford residents to take advantage of it.” - Councillor Mary Clarkson, Cabinet Member for City Centre, Covered Market and Culture

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PROJECT 09: Earth Day

Earth Day

Oxford Bus Company, Thames Travel and Carousel Buses ran a campaign asking motorists to consider a minor change in their travel habits to make a major difference to the planet on Earth Day in April 2021.

In order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality for the local community, we asked car commuters to consider leaving their vehicles at home just twice a month for the rest of the year and switch their journey to bus, rail or bicycle.

Motorists typically make around 600 car journeys annually. Switching just one in every 25 of these journeys to a bus - equivalent to a couple of trips a month - would reduce the UK’s carbon dioxide emissions by two million tonnes per year.

This is in line with the UK government target for a reduction in 68% greenhouse gases by the end of the decade, and the Climate Change Committee’s recommendation of shifting from private cars to buses.

Saving two million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions is equivalent to the environmental gain that would be made by switching every single one of the UK’s buses from diesel to zero emission energy sources, such as electricity or hydrogen.

During the time of this campaign, Phil Southall, Oxford Bus Company and Thames Travel Managing Director said, “Earth Day encourages us to think how we, as individuals, can reduce our negative impact on the world. Taking public transport is not only a great environmental option; it is the ethical option. If everyone switched to the bus a couple of times a month, we could collectively rebuild our communities and avoid a car-based recovery from the pandemic. It would help improve air quality in our communities and reduce congestion.”

We continue to provide our community with important messages regarding environmental impact of driving private cards, which account for 55% of greenhouse gas emissions. Buses account for just 3% of emissions, and one double-decker bus has the potential to take as many as 75 cars off the road.

In 2020, we invested £2.4m in eleven new ultra-low emission vehicles. More than two-thirds of our fleet now meet the Euro VI emissions standard, helping improve air quality in Oxfordshire.

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PROJECT 10: Chocolate Boost to a Local Food Bank

Chocolate Boost to a Local Food Bank

In April 2021, Oxford Bus Group made a sweet delivery or 120 tins of Quality Street chocolate treats to a local food bank.

The chocolatey stash was left over from treats purchased by Company to say thanks to the key workers at Oxford Bus Company. To inspire others, it was decided to drop off the chocolates at the Oxford Food Hub, enabling others to enjoy them. 

And to share the goodwill across the City, we also placed a few tins in our Visitor Information Point at Queen’s Lane and Travel Shop at Gloucester Green for customers to enjoy.

Phil Southall, Oxford Bus Company Managing Director, said: “We initially shared chocolates with colleagues as a thank you following what had been a very challenging year. We had quite a lot left, and colleagues thought it would be a nice gesture to share them with our passengers and Oxford Food Hub. We’re pleased to say they’ve been very well received.”

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PROJECT 11: Bus Drivers Complete Gruelling Challenge for Sobell House

Bus Drivers Complete Gruelling Challenge for Sobell House

Photo: Guy Powell, Niki Yerburgh (Sobell House), Mark Temple and Phil Southall.

Oxford Bus Group’s bus driver colleagues, Mark Temple and Guy Powell, swapped their driving cabs for the open road to fundraise for Sobell House in November 2021. Our colleagues cycled, ran and walked a huge 54 miles from Warwick Castle to Oxford Castle in support of the hospice.

And as if that wasn’t enough, they then completed a half marathon around the usual Oxford half marathon course after arriving in Oxford. The charity fundraisers were joined by colleagues on parts of the route who ran, walked or cycled shorter distances to also help the fundraising effort.

The gruelling activity raised £945 for the charity, which was then match-funded by Oxford Bus Group to take the total to a fantastic £1,890. Oxford Bus Group pledged to support the campaign as part of our commitment to the charity as members of the Sobell House 40 Club.

Mark decided to raise funds for Sobell House because his father plus his wife’s grandmother passed away there. It comes after he completed 50 marathons in a year between May 2018 and May 2019 in between his driving shifts raising nearly £5,000 for the charity.

Based at the Churchill Hospital the charity is jointly funded by the NHS and Sobell House Hospice Charity. It offers specialist palliative care to those facing life threatening illness, death and bereavement in Oxfordshire.

We were extremely proud of our colleagues, Mark and Guy, and all of those that supported them on this fantastic achievement. This was an ambitious challenge which they completed with great spirit and commitment. As a company with strong community values, we were proud to be able to provide match-funding to support the charity’s work.