BUS travel has been coming back into fashion in Dorset.

Simplified routes, free Wi-Fi, USB charging points and night buses back from town have all fuelled a big rise in passenger numbers on Morebus.

The turnaround has helped earn its Poole-based parent company Go South Coast the title of the UK’s Large Bus Company of the Year at the RouteOne Bus Awards, while managing director Andrew Wickham was named best manager.

Mr Wickham, 51, is a self-confessed “bus anorak” with 30 years of experience in the industry. He was operations director in 2004 when Go Ahead launched the M1 and M2 services which began a new era in bus travel locally.

“It’s not about a war against the motorist or anything like that but I think it’s about people making sensible choices and we want people to find buses convenient,” he said.

“Young people are not quite as car-orientated as young people used to be.”

The awards and the upturn in business have come despite two major challenges – council cuts and congestion.

Mr Wickham says the award is partly recognition for the work the company has done in mitigating the cuts in subsidy from local councils.

“We do get a lot of money from Borough of Poole but a lot of that’s been cut. We’ve made great effort to try and maintain a level of service in the face of those cuts,” he said.

“This is hundreds of thousands of pounds that’s disappeared over the years. We can’t pretend the world hasn’t changed and keep going at quite the same levels. When those services didn’t receive support, we kept most of it going.”

The other big challenge to the company is the sheer volume of traffic.

“One of the main business barriers we have in the conurbation is congestion across the conurbation,” he said.

“It will get much worse over the next few years if we all choose to do nothing. There are things that can happen. That might mean a little less road space for motorists and it might mean the odd parking space disappearing here and there. It could be politically unpopular. We do need people to be brave and make the right decisions for the long term.

“This isn’t about penalising people for using the car. I use the car. It’s not a crime. But maybe just making some choices around the edge sometimes and what’s the best, most economical form of transport.”

Mr Wickham, 51 and based in Wimborne, was operations director at Wilts and Dorset when Go Ahead bought 30 buses and launched the M1 and M2 services in 2004.

After promotion to managing director at Go Ahead in Plymouth, he returned to Dorset in 2011.

Passenger numbers had risen dramatically, and Bournemouth and Poole were later declared the two UK towns where public transport use had risen the most.

But the MD insists the credit belongs to his team of 450 at Morebus and 1,900 at Go South Coast.

“For both these awards, it isn’t about me. It’s about the great team we’ve got in Bournemouth and Poole and cross the company that are making this stuff happen every day. I’m absolutely indebted to my team and what they do every day, sometimes in quite challenging circumstances.”