Author: Niki Giordanelli

DfT – New BSOG Guidance Issued

Bus on snowy street

From the outset of the coronavirus pandemic the Department for Transport made a commitment to operators that BSOG would continue to be paid at pre-Covid levels. They have now issued guidance as to how operators should complete their claim forms on a “no better, no worse” basis.

The guidance covers the two main elements of the claim:-

    • Eligible Kilometres – Operators should continue to report the actual live and dead kilometres run over the claim year. Where services have been affected by the Covid pandemic from 23 March 2020 the mileage should be estimated for the remainder of the year on the basis of the pre-Covid actual kilometres. This includes those services that have either been reduced or cancelled. The additional kilometres, that would have otherwise operated, should be presented on a supplementary page.

For users of the EPM Traffic system the BSOG Estimate function can be used to forecast the mileage that would have operated using pre-Covid operations.

    • Fuel Consumption Factor – Following the initial lockdown in April there was a noticeable improvement in operators fuel efficiency with our clients reporting average increases in fleet mpg’s of around 25%. This was largely attributable to fewer cars being on the roads and is certainly a great argument for reducing congestion levels in our towns & cities. However, due to the underlying calculation of BSOG entitlement, such an improvement in fuel efficiency is detrimental to the value, which would make operators “worse off” during the lockdown period.

We informed the Department of this issue, which they have now addressed in the guidance. Section 3 of the PSV311 will require actual kilometres and fuel issues to be calculated over the claim period. However, due to the irregular kilometres per litre (kpl) that will be reported, the DfT are allowing operators to base the fuel consumption element of the claim over a pre-Covid period. This approach will ensure a realistic kpl factor is used in the evaluation.

Due to the additional requirements and the impact of the pandemic the Department are extending the statutory deadline of 3 months from the end of the claim period to 4 months. Should operators fail to submit by the extended deadline the claim will be rejected.

EPM are the leading experts in the certification of BSOG claims, ensuring that all claims they certify are accurate, compliant and maximised. If you would like to discuss how we can help you with your claim, then get in touch.

If you’d like to read the DfT BSOG guidance, you can find it here.

DfT Concessionary Fares Reimbursement Guidance 2021/22

Consultant calculating concessionary reimbursement

The DfT have published their core concessionary fares reimbursement guidance and calculator for the 2021/22 scheme year. As expected, there are no material changes to the existing guidance and calculator, with all existing principles remaining unchanged. The core guidance and calculator is expected to be published on gov.uk within the next few days.

Due to the ongoing funding mechanisms in place, the DfT have also published supplementary guidance this year. Within this, they have requested that LTAs continue to pay concessionary fares reimbursement at pre-Covid levels in order to protect bus services. They have indicated that a transition plan is to be contained within the forthcoming National Bus Strategy.

Without prescribing a specific approach to calculating pre-Covid reimbursement levels, the DfT have instead set out six principles that LTA’s might want to consider e.g. seasonality of services and general trends in concessionary journeys over recent years. It is likely that a number of LTAs will revisit their calculations to ensure that all principles have been considered, which in turn could see a reduction in the reimbursement for operators.

The supplementary guidance can be found here: Supplementary-Concessionary-Travel-Reimbursement-Guidance.pdf.

If you have any questions or concerns around your reimbursement, including your ‘pre-Covid’ payment levels, EPM’s experienced consultancy team are here to help. Contact us to discuss your requirements.

 

How to deliver 4,000 Zero Emission Buses by 2025?

bus driving through nice landscape

LowCVP considers the funding options

As part of the National Bus Strategy the Government have pledged to have 4,000 zero emission buses in operation by the end of 2025. With numbers currently just under the 700 mark, there is a long way to go and a significant amount of investment required in both the vehicles and infrastructure.

The LowCVP have recently published their paper setting out the funding options that they believe the Government should consider. Each option has been scored by their members as to the effectiveness in accelerating the adoption of zero emission buses.

The paper looks at existing funding streams – ULEB bids, incentivising through additional BSOG as well as alternative options going forward, such as vouchers, grants, etc. They also consider the impact of COVID-19 on the industry and how that could change future funding in the short term to boost operator appetite for greener buses and protect manufacturing jobs in the UK.

It is clear from the paper that members view the LCEB BSOG incentive as being an effective tool in delivering the Government’s target. However, the current scheme in England was introduced over 10 years ago and certainly needs updating to provide more generous payments to those operators with the cleanest vehicles, rather than the current flat rate. The paper suggests a graded pence per kilometre low carbon scheme such as that introduced in Scotland in April 2019, a view we at EPM agree with.

Whatever funding mechanism is put in place it is clear that the DfT will need to act fast and dig deep if they are to hit their target!

EPM are the leading experts in the certification of BSOG claims, ensuring that all claims they certify are accurate, compliant and maximised. If you would like to discuss how we can help you with your claim, then get in touch.

If you’d like to read the full LowCVP report, you can find it here.

NAO signals a new direction for bus travel

bus driving over tower bridge

In a wide-ranging report published on 2nd October 2020, the National Audit Office (NAO) provided a series of recommendations that signal a new direction of travel for bus operations in the UK.

The report echoes the widely held view that good quality bus services are vital for local economies, can help ease congestion, and support better connected communities. It also sees an important role for buses in addressing air quality issues and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

However, despite the best intentions of everyone involved in the delivery of bus services, the statistics from the last 10 years do not make good reading.  None of this will be a surprise to the bus community, but the scale of some of the trends are both eye catching and alarming.

  • 10% decline in bus patronage
  • 18% fare increase in real terms
  • 38% drop in financial support from local authorities
  • 54% drop in miles travelled on local authority supported services

The drop in financial support from local authorities is unsurprising, considering their budget reductions for non ring fenced services.  But it does mean the decline in bus travel has disproportionately impacted those routes which are important for rural or disadvantaged users.

To address the situation, the NAO makes recommendations that will chime with everyone who wants to see a brighter future for buses.

  • A new bus strategy that gives a clear, consistent vision of the future of bus travel
  • Support for local authorities to make long-term plans for their own local needs
  • Enough funding, for both local authorities and operators, to deliver the bus strategy
  • Reform of funding mechanisms to align with the objectives of the bus strategy
  • Good quality data to monitor progress and measure success
  • Collaboration and transparency to enhance accountability for improving buses

One thing is clear – change is coming, and it should be good news for buses!

Covid-19 has been painful for all sectors of society and has had a dramatic impact on the bus sector.  But it can also be a catalyst for the change that clearly was already needed, helping to sweep away fears and obstacles that have prevented progress in the past.

The government has demonstrated its commitment to the bus industry with financial support during the dark times and is promising significant additional investment in the industry over the coming years.  A first ‘National Bus Strategy’ will be published by the end of the year, along with £5 billion of funding for ‘buses, walking and cycling outside London’ over the next five years.

Whilst the long term trend of declining patronage is concerning, there are beacons of hope in areas that have already reversed this trend.  These present clear examples to learn from and follow.

All these pieces – a new vision, new funding and new ideas – provide a platform to build a better bus industry for passengers, operators, local authorities and government.

What does the future look like?

Local government and bus operators had to rapidly come together during the early stages of the pandemic, to identify and address the urgent needs of all concerned.  Despite facing unprecedented challenges and an uncertain future, the sector pulled together to find a way through.

It’s no coincidence that it’s this type of close collaboration that has enabled some areas to reverse the trend of declining bus patronage in recent years.  By working together, local authorities and bus operators benefit from the virtuous circle of reduced congestion, faster bus journeys, more attractive bus services and better economics for all concerned.

These kinds of new and effective working relationships, with greater collaboration between local transport authorities and bus operators, look sure to be a fundamental part of the future for bus operations.

And with increased public funding of bus services, along with government investment in the bus network, there will inevitably be a requirement for increased transparency and accountability to ensure the public purse achieves the best possible value.

Are you ready for the new direction?

Now is the time to seize the opportunity for change, whilst traffic congestion is low and demand is rebuilding in new ways.  But to make the most of this opportunity you need access to data on all aspects of bus operations, and you need tools to provide the critical insights from that data to ensure you make the right decisions.

Looking further forward, new collaborative ways of working will be essential to building a better future for bus services.  Achieving this will depend on having the right data and tools to provide insights and transparency.

EPM are experts in the field of management systems, data and analytics in the bus sector.  Our consultants will ensure your systems and data are ready for the future, drop us a line at epm@epm-bus.com if you’d like to arrange a meeting.

And if you’d like to read the full NAO report, you can find it here.

CBSSG Restart scheme extended

bus stop

An additional £27.3m per week for operators

As operators look to increase service levels ahead of schools returning in September the DfT have announced that the Covid-19 Bus Service Support Grant (CBSSG) Restart scheme is to be extended.

In their press release the Department have guaranteed payments of up to £218.4m over the next eight weeks, with rolling funding of up to £27.3m per week afterwards. This additional funding will continue until it is no longer needed.

The press release can be viewed here – DfT CBSSG press release 08/08/20

In a separate letter to operators ahead of the press release the Department set out conditions to the scheme extension, including:

  • Whilst receiving CBSSG, operators should not make a profit
  • Service levels should increase to 100% of pre-Covid levels for September
  • Operators need to consult with Local Authorities on service level requirements
  • Bus timetable changes must be communicated to passengers

Revised terms and conditions will be issued shortly, however the Department noted that they will for the most part stay the same.

Finally the DfT also confirmed their commitment to pay BSOG at pre-Covid levels and reiterated that LTA’s continue to make payments to operators for tendered services, concessionary travel and home to school transport at pre-pandemic amounts.

The letter to operators can be found on the link below.

August 10, 2020

DfT CBSSG Restart Letter to Operators 07/08/20

 Download Document

If you have any questions on the announcements made by the DfT or on the BSOG / CBSSG schemes in general, please contact via email or on 01527 556940.

CBSSG Restart – details of extra £254m funding available for the bus industry

calculations

Following the announcement earlier this week that the DfT would provide an additional £254m to assist operators in increasing service levels over the coming months, details of the scheme have now been published.

In summary:

  • CBSSG Restart replaces the existing CBSSG scheme and will be backdated to 12 May.
  • It is available to operators of commercial eligible local services.
  • Operators who didn’t claim under the original CBSSG scheme can receive funding under CBSSG Restart. New claimants must register by 7 June.
  • Payments will be made every four weeks and the scheme will initially be in place for 12 weeks, although this could be extended.
  • Operators will have to supply details of live commercial kilometres operated and passenger numbers every four weeks. This information is readily available for those operators using the EPM Depot Performance System (DPS).
  • An open book reconciliation process will take place every 12 weeks and at the end of the scheme to ensure that operators have not made an operating profit from the scheme.
  • A template will be provided in due course for operators to claim separately for restart costs, PPE, safe operation costs, etc.

As the first CBBSG scheme draws to a close on 8 June the DfT have also provided details of the open book reconciliation exercise that will take place in June to close off this scheme. This includes a list of specific revenue and costs items that should be included / excluded.

Full details of the guidance issued by the DfT covering the above points can be found here:

May 28, 2020

DfT-CBSSG-Restart.pdf

 Download Document

May 28, 2020

TCs-Appendix-1-Reconciliation-Submission-Form-1.xlsx

 Download Document

May 28, 2020

TCs-Appendix-2-Reconciliation-Worked-Example-1-1.xlsx

 Download Document

If you have any questions on the CBSSG Restart scheme, then please get in touch via email or on 01527 556940. Additionally, the EPM Support Team are available to assist users of DPS in providing the data returns as required by the DfT.

DfT BSOG Payments – COVID-19

british pound

The Department for Transport has provided some welcome news for the bus industry confirming that they will pay BSOG on eligible services that were not operated due to COVID-19. To provide operators with much needed cashflow they have also confirmed that BSOG estimate payments will continue to be made on the basis that operations had continued as planned, without any reduction for service changes.

Department for transportation logo

Details of the full announcement can be found below.

Many operators will be currently processing their eligible kilometres based on revised schedules reflecting their reduced operations. As part of the certification audit EPM will ensure that the necessary amendments are made so that the mileage claimed reflects what would have operated in the absence of the COVID-19 outbreak. This will be a relatively simple exercise for users of the EPM Traffic system – the weekly mileages can be rolled forward using the previous schedule that was in place. For other operators we will advise on the best course of action prior to the certification audit.

If you have any questions on the announcement made by the DfT or on the BSOG scheme in general please contact us on 01527 556940 or via email.

March 26, 2020

BSOG-letter-to-operators-COVID-19-Final

 Download Document

Helping drivers return to work with the Depot Performance System (DPS)

bus driver with covid mask

Following the easing of restrictions, operators are now planning for the phased return to work of their driving staff and the mobilisation of their fleets. However, with the majority of drivers having been furloughed, returning to work after in some cases lengthy layoffs, presents operators with a number of challenges. We explore how the Depot Performance System (DPS) can help drivers return to work quickly and easily.

Onboarding drivers

Where staff are returning to driving duties after a number of weeks off the road, there will be an inherent risk of vehicle related accidents.

Accidents have many negative consequences for operators, however the impact on vehicle availability at a time where more vehicles are required to carry fewer passengers and their impact on costs stand out at this time.

The safety of driving staff is also paramount to ensure that they are trained on new working practises, particularly those around social distancing measures and driver Health and Safety. In addition to this, drivers effectively communicating with customers regarding social distancing will be an important factor to maintain customer service levels.

Utilising data available in DPS

The wealth of data in DPS can be utilised by operators to assist with these challenges.

The ticketing data within ETM Analysis can be used to identify when a driver last worked and their recent route knowledge. This can then be used to form the following workflow in the EPM Operational Performance Module:

Compliance checks – any anniversary dates (such as licence checks, training courses, medical reminders) can be reviewed via an automated report, to identify any compliance issues.

Driver assessments – a new assessment type can be configured for returning drivers, to ensure that all drivers have been through this process prior to going back into service with a vehicle.

Return to work interview – return to work interviews can be added, which would cover changes in working practices and effective customer communications.

EPM support

The EPM support desk continues to operate on a business as usual basis, to provide operators with support and assistance and can be contacted via epm@epm-bus.com or on 01527 556 940.

If you feel that EPM are able to assist in any way to meet the current challenges facing operators, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Managing social distancing with the Depot Performance System (DPS)

Social distancing on bus

With the UK government set to put in place a roadmap to ease restrictions and lift some travel bans, operators concerns will be in respect of the safety of their staff, with considerable challenges around PPE and vehicle sanitisation. However, as passenger numbers do increase, managing social distancing on board vehicles will also present a significant challenge. We explore how the Depot Performance System (DPS) can help.

The social distancing challenge

For bus operators there is no reservation system to book online (this may be the solution for train) and as such it is not possible to manage demand in advance. Deploying inspectors to vehicles to monitor passenger numbers is unlikely to be a viable solution, due to the cost and staffing levels required.

There will also be an impact on customer service, as some passengers may have to be refused travel, due to safe capacity limits.

Utilising data available in DPS

The wealth of data in DPS can be used by operators to help meet this challenge, which could exist for a number of months.

On the day

Users of the Bus Incident Reporting Screen (BIRS) can record driver communications where their vehicle is at capacity using a ‘bus at capacity’ incident code and reacting to demand where possible. BIRS incidents can also provide visibility of capacity issues on the network for customer services to notify passengers, for example via operator app’s or social media.

Retrospective review

The data recorded in BIRS then allows for a retrospective review to enable operators to gauge capacity requirements. This data can be utilised alongside ticketing data, to review passengers carried on a journey referenced to the vehicles safe seating capacity. Similarly, where operators have configured a specific button push for the driver to register a ‘bus at capacity’ this data can be analysed.

Monitoring customer complaints for ‘full bus’/‘refused access’ customer feedback categories will also provide more valuable insight.

 EPM support

Reviewing these different datasets together will provide operators with a range of information to assist with operational planning, in what are extremely challenging times.  EPM can work with operators to tailor automated daily reporting to streamline this analysis. The EPM support desk continues to operate on a business as usual basis, to provide operators with support and assistance and can be contacted via epm@epm-bus.com.

COVID-19 BUS SERVICE SUPPORT GRANT (CBSSG)

Lady with covid mask on bus

An additional £167m for the bus industry

Great news for the bus industry — the DfT have announced that there will be extra support through the COVID-19 Bus Service Support Grant (CBSSG). This temporary funding of £167m is in addition to the increased amounts of BSOG to pre-COVID-19 levels previously announced by the Department.

In summary:

  • Available to operators of eligible local bus services who are currently running between 40% to 50% of scheduled commercial mileage for a typical non-school week.
  • Payments will be available for three months starting from 17 March 2020.
  • The initial payment will be based on 2017/18 data submitted to the Department, with the following formula used:

  • By the end of the month operators will need to provide a list of services (including registration numbers), the live commercial kilometres operated and passenger details (split by fare-paying and concessions). The same information will be required for 2019 as a baseline.
  • Operators will not be permitted to achieve an operating margin through CBSSG funding.

Full details of the letter sent out to operators can be found here.

April 7, 2020

200406-CBSSG-Letter-to-Operators-Final-as-sent.pdf

 Download Document

If you have any questions on the CBSSG scheme then please get in touch with epm@epm-bus.com.