Category: Bus Operators

Employee Spotlight – Sarah Bayliss, BSOG Manager

In this month’s Employee Spotlight, we get to know BSOG Manager, Sarah Bayliss who has worked for EPM for 20 years.

Sarah first joined EPM as a BSOG Audit Assistant and progressed through the ranks to BSOG Manager. She has a vast knowledge of the BSOG scheme and business process improvement, advising both operators and Government bodies.

What is a day in the life of a BSOG Manager like?

Planning and reviewing the work of a strong team. All members of the team support one another, which really does make my role easier – particularly as this has been such a busy year, assisting our clients even more than usual.

What do you enjoy the most about your role? 

The people I work alongside; the level of autonomy over my responsibilities; the connection with our clients and contributing to completion of engagements, which are interesting and often challenging but result in a feeling of accomplishment.

What do you least like about your role?

The last 13 months have been a challenge and it has been tough to plan the team’s work in terms of the time available and changing requirements. They have worked extremely hard meeting their deadlines in a very different world.

Describe yourself in 3 words

Down-to-earth, positive, and adaptable.

I asked my 9-year-old daughter how she would describe me; she said funny, independent and a little crazy. I’ll take the first 2!

If you could meet anyone in the world, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

Wow – anyone? I love sport and have so many sporting heroes but the people I admire most in this world are those who speak out about injustice and stand up for what they believe in.

What is something most people don’t know about you?

I was born with 6 fingers on my left hand. I wouldn’t always have helped with counting and numbers! Although my dad, who was a milkman, asked the doctor to leave it on so that I could carry more milk bottles!

Do you have any hobbies you like to do outside of work?

I enjoy running, yoga and anything that involves the sea. I also often become embroiled in my daughter’s crafty projects and have found I am a skilled pom pom maker!

Name a song title that best describes your personality

All the Time in the World by Deep Purple – I am not someone who likes to be in a rush (or be rushed!). I am quite a fan of the Cornish concept of ‘Dreckly’, similar to that of the Spanish manana. Unless working to a deadline of course, and then it becomes Don’t Stop Me Now by Queen!

What is your favourite holiday destination?

A campsite in Cornwall with a sea view = paradise. Luckily, I have a sister who very kindly moved there, so I am able to book into the Big Sister B&B with relative ease.

Do you have any pets?

Yes, two 5-year-old cats Woody and Jessie who are brother and sister. Also, a new addition to the family in February – a whirling dervish puppy pointer called Loki. I also share my home with an array of creature creations including pebble people and Lego folk!

What are three things still left on your bucket list?

To run (aka shuffle) the London Marathon

Learn to play chess

Visit Orkney where my Mum’s side of the family are from

What’s the best advice you can give to someone who’s just started their career?

A little bit of self-efficacy goes a long way. Play your role in creating a supportive, working environment. We spend a lot of our waking hours at work and we all have responsibility in it not being something all-consuming and dread-inducing, but fulfilling and rewarding.


Read last month’s Employee Spotlight with Chief Executive, Ian Churchill

Experts in Transport Management

3 tips for driving bus network profitability


UK bus services have been hugely impacted over the past year, with patronage dropping almost 90% in the early stages of the pandemic and talk of a 20% reduction in public transport use post-COVID-19.

Planning for the future, even short-term, is now far from straightforward and certainly not easy. Luckily, there are three simple steps you can take to put yourself in the best possible position and quickly return to profitability.


1. Review historic data to improve unprofitable routes
Take some time to dig through your pre-COVID-19 data to understand which routes have been profitable and which haven’t. Whilst patronage is still significantly lower than it was, this will undoubtedly help you put an informed focus on the routes that will directly impact future profitability.

Identifying your loss-making routes through detailed analysis is the first step to understanding where there are issues in your network that are affecting overall profitability. Reviewing passenger loadings, for example, by time-band and route stops will help paint a clear picture – flagging specific times of the day where patronage is below average and identifying the least popular stops. These insights can then be reviewed alongside current data to verify that similar patterns are emerging. Once validated, you’ll have the evidence you need to make effective timetable alterations, such as reduced frequencies, or changes to stopping points, to help reduce costs whilst minimising the impact on the top line.

Having this data to hand would also prove invaluable for discussions with local authorities where a case for funding is to be presented – be that for whole routes, particular days or even certain times of a day. Having patronage data and revenue generation, alongside demographics, would inform ‘value for money’ cases for local authorities, improving your chances of securing funding.

2. Be vigilant in finding the root causes of service profitability
Along with the under-utilisation of buses, you’ll likely find many other factors impacting the profitability of your routes. For instance, high levels of lost mileage could be adversely affecting costs on a route, whilst simultaneously driving down passenger numbers. Understanding the root cause for lost mileage would allow you to instigate remedial action going forward, such as maintenance issues with a particular type of bus that are impacting reliability and driving up engineering costs.

Analysing dwell time at bus stops is another useful tool for identifying scheduling inefficiencies. By minimising the dwell time, you can make cost savings in respect to both drivers’ wages and fuel usage. Speeding up journey times is a proven way to improve profitability that also has a massive positive impact on your customers’ perceptions of your service, leading to significant commercial benefits for the business.

Reviewing customer feedback can also be crucial in understanding why a route is not performing as expected, as it may throw a spotlight on operational issues such as persistent lateness, or regular cancellations.

3. Make informed business decisions with quality data
Clearly, operators require a wealth of data at their fingertips to accurately assess network performance and the factors impacting route profitability.

Understanding your data and extracting valuable insights is critical to actioning network optimisation such as timetable changes – with the normal lead times being reintroduced from January, tweaking or unwinding changes that are not delivering the expected benefits will cost valuable time.

It goes without saying that strong business decisions around future-proofing your network can only be made through high quality data analysis. The integrity of your data is fundamental to the whole process of network optimisation.

Get a specialist on your side to optimise your network for improved profitability.

If you’re struggling to analyse or understand your data, or are looking to improve the quality of your insights, EPM has a range of versatile and fully integrated bus operator solutions to give you total end-to-end visibility of all business functions — from commercial to operations and engineering. You’ll find all the data you need in one place to streamline your operations and optimise your network. Our team of expert consultants is also on hand to guide you through your data to help inform the decision-making process.

Powering the future of your bus operations

Grow patronage, boost revenue, and drive operational efficiency.

Government launches multi-million pound scheme for zero-emission buses

30 March 2021 – The Government have announced a new (ZEBRA) scheme worth up to £120 million, which has been launched to help local transport authorities introduce zero-emission buses.

The funding will deliver up to 500 zero-emission buses, and comes from the wider £3 billion fund announced by the government in the national bus strategy to help improve bus services and make transport more sustainable.

The (ZEBRA) scheme will allow local transport authorities to:

  • Bid for funding to purchase zero-emission buses
  • Reduce the carbon emissions from their local public transport
  • Improve air quality in towns and cities across England

Bidders will have until 21st May 2021 to submit expressions of interest for a fast-track process that will allow local transport authorities with well-developed proposals to move quickly in their bid to secure funding.

However, those who need more time to develop their proposals will have until 25th June 2021 to submit expressions of interest.

Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, commented: “The launch of the scheme today means we’re giving businesses and local authorities the tools to help deliver the 4,000 zero-emission buses we said we would introduce, which will dramatically improve air quality in towns and cities across the country, helping us achieve our net-zero ambitions.”

Read the full document: Multi-million pound scheme for zero-emission buses across England launched

Information on how to apply for zero-emission bus funding

Powering the future of your bus operations

Grow patronage, boost revenue, and drive operational efficiency.

Wales Transport Strategy pushes sustainability

24 March 2021 – The Welsh Government has published Llwybr Newydd: The Wales Transport Strategy 2021 in its aim to improve transport over the next twenty years.

The strategy will see passengers benefit from a transport system that is accessible, efficient, and sustainable with a focus on reducing transport emissions.

In line with recommendations from the UK Climate Change Committee, the Welsh Government has committed to introduce legislation to achieve a net zero carbon emissions target by 2050, with plans to meet a 63% reduction by 2030 and an 89% reduction by 2040.

This will be achieved by encouraging the use of public transport and other sustainable methods such as cycling and walking over driving cars.

There are three main priorities in the strategy:

  • Bring services to people in order to reduce the need to travel – which will mean an increase of local services
  • Allow people and goods to move easily from door to door by accessible, sustainable, and efficient transport services and infrastructure
  • Encourage people to make the change to a more sustainable transport option by making public transport more affordable and reliable

The strategy will require governments, local authorities, transport providers (both commercial and third sector) and other policy areas to work together to help ensure that transport contributes to the current and future well-being of Wales.

Read the full document: Llwybr Newydd: The Wales Transport Strategy 2021

Easy-to-read version: Llwybr Newydd: The Wales Transport Strategy 2021

Powering the future of your bus operations

Grow patronage, boost revenue, and drive operational efficiency.

Network optimisation in a COVID-19 world

As we slowly move out of the COVID-19 lockdown, operators will no doubt have one eye on the future. One area of focus will be on the performance of their networks and the routes within it.

With talk of a 20% reduction in public transport use post-COVID-19, it is likely that the networks previously operated will no longer be commercially viable.

Operators will need to react quickly to the shifts in demand to limit the financial impact and to set themselves up for a bright future. Clearly public transport, as always, has an important part to play in the movement of people – perhaps more so than ever if ambitious climate change targets are to be achieved. However, the transport needs to be sustainable in more ways than one.

Regular route profitability analysis should be undertaken to help operators make these decisions about their network. This can help to identify entire routes that should be cut, frequency reductions, vehicle capacity reductions (e.g. double to single decks) or to provide a basis to seek Local Authority funding to maintain unprofitable service levels. Route profitability can also help to inform planning for increases to, or for restructuring, fares.

Where to start?

To get a good feel for the performance of a network, analysing the operating profitability at route or route group level would be a sound place to start. This would help provide an overview of the routes that are not performing well – as well as those that are. Focus can then be placed on the poorest performing routes, in an effort to improve overall profitability.

Looking at the route as whole may not tell the full story.

Decisions cannot be made simply based upon the performance of a route. A ‘poor’ performing route may in fact be a feeder route to a highly profitable route so to take direct action on one may negatively impact the other – with the overall effect not being the desired one.

It may also be the case that a route appears to perform poorly; however, there are certain times of the day when it performs well. This is where a detailed understanding of patronage and capacity can pay dividends.

By reviewing the patronage and capacity down to timebands, or even trips, operators can then start to get a much better idea of the performance of a route. The analysis may highlight specific trips/times of the day where capacity can be reduced or removed to help lower costs, whilst limiting the impact on the top line.

Analysis at this level may be crucial to demonstrate to a local authority of the need to provide financial support to maintain service provision. It would be possible to provide a local authority with a clear picture of the social benefits of the service, against the costs, to allow them to undertake their own cost-benefit analysis – it would give them a clear case to present to their stakeholders too.

By undertaking regular profitability analysis, trending analysis should prove to be useful when it comes to capital expenditure decisions. The data will help to make the case for particular vehicle capacities, and, potentially, the fuel type (gas, electric, hydrogen) or even manufacturer to use.


Clearly there are many variables when undertaking route profitability analysis. For instance, how should revenue for period tickets collected off bus be distributed across the network, or what is the fairest way of distributing engineering labour costs? There is no definitive answer, but consistent, reasonable, models can be devised to manage this by taking some of the characteristics from the routes, for example, the average fares, PVR and vehicle types used. Be careful, over-simplification can lead to the wrong conclusions.  For example, concessionary fares reimbursement could be apportioned on the basis of concessionary passengers numbers. But a totally different perspective would be obtained if the apportionment also reflected the average fares by route. Clearly, decisions based on the performance of a route alone could have unintended knock-on effects elsewhere on the network. However, having the data to hand allows operators to take a much more targeted, efficient, approach to network reviews.

It is important to ensure that regular route profitability analysis is afforded the importance it deserves; with actions identified and driven through.

How we can help

We have well-established software to facilitate the regular analysis of route profitability, simplifying the process for operators and providing them with the data they need to inform important decisions regarding their network. The software can also be utilised by our experienced consultancy team to help operators undertake detailed analysis and make sense of their data.

The EPM Insights solution empowers you with actionable Management Information on your network performance, supporting you to react to both the changing nature of reality during the Covid pandemic and to help shape your future network. Read more about Insights.

Experts in route profitability analysis

Government unveils new bus strategy with £3 billion investment

happy man in bus
happy man in bus

15 March 2021, Government has announced a new bus strategy along with a £3 billion investment into the sector to encourage people to use buses over cars. The strategy is a complete overhaul to build a better bus services as we recover from the pandemic.

The strategy will see passengers across England benefiting from more frequent, more reliable, easier to use and understand, better coordinated and cheaper bus services.

The changes include:

  • Simpler bus fares with daily price caps, so people can use the bus as many times a day as they need without facing mounting costs
  • More services in the evenings and at the weekends
  • Integrated services and ticketing across all transport modes, so people can easily move from bus to train
  • All buses to accept contactless payments

Through the plans the Government is driving for the fragmented, fully commercialised market, which has operated outside London since 1986 to end. They want to see operators and local councils enter into a statutory “enhanced partnership” or franchising agreements to receive the new funding and deliver the improvements.

Read the full Government announcement on the £3 billion bus revolution

Download the Bus Back Better: national bus strategy for England

Powering the future of your bus operations

Grow patronage, boost revenue, and drive operational efficiency.

BSOG for Home to School Services – DfT announcement

lady with covid mask in bus

12 March 2021 – Due to Covid-19 many operators have had to restrict the number of passengers on board their vehicles in order to comply with social distancing requirements. As a result, many school services that had previously been available to all members of the general public became “closed-door” when schools & colleges returned in September 2020, meaning they could now only carry students. Such “closed-door” services are not eligible for BSOG.

lady with covid mask in bus

Initially this was not thought to be an issue as at the outbreak of the pandemic the Department for Transport (DfT) stated that operators could continue to claim BSOG at pre-Covid levels. However, in the case of services which had become “closed-door”, the BSOG Policy Team advised that they would continue to apply the BSOG eligibility criteria and that the services would no longer be eligible for BSOG from the date of the change.

After an internal consultation the DfT have issued guidance confirming that BSOG can now be claimed for “closed-door” Home to School services. The main points from the guidance are as follows:-

  • Commercial school services that became “closed-door” from 1 September 2020 due to C19 can be treated as eligible from this date.
  • Operators must complete a survey to provide information about these school services – to be submitted by 26 March 2021.
  • For those claims that have already been submitted with year ends after 1 September 2020 then a retrospective claim can be made for the services – details to follow from DfT.
  • Due to the short term nature of this arrangement closed-door services should not be included on current or future estimates

Read the DfT Home to School Services and BSOG eligibility letter

Download a copy of the DfT guidance and the Home to School survey.

If you have any questions on the announcement made by the DfT or on the BSOG / CBSSG schemes, please complete the online contact form or call 01527 556940.

Employee spotlight – Ian Churchill, Chief Executive

In this month’s employee spotlight, get to know Chief Executive, Ian Churchill, who joined EPM in February 2020.

Ian has been running software businesses servicing various market sectors for over 20 years.

Name three words you would use to describe your role

Leadership, interesting, team-builder

Where did you work prior to joining EPM?

BigHand – a legal software business

What is your biggest achievement to date?

Professionally – leading the Capita SIMS business for 8 years, during which time we increased our market share to over 80% through delivering quality products and services.

Personally – bringing up two teenagers

Are you working on any interesting projects at the moment?

I have been with the business for 12 months now, and we are making lots of changes, so plenty of interesting things are happening.

The most interesting projects are about expanding the business both through introducing new products, such as Insight; and acquiring other businesses – we acquired Omnibus Solutions last week.

Do you have a favourite film?

Shrek! – I love its dry humour. I am a big fan of anything from Pixar.

What’s your favourite album?

U2 – Rattle and Hum. I bought it on the day it was released from the local record shop in St Austell in 1988.

What’s the best and worst things you’ve eaten?

As a family we all like food, and regularly cook new things. It is great having 4 cooks in the house! So the best is very difficult. The worst would be a continual diet of rice and Dal Bhat for three weeks whilst trekking in Nepal.

Favourite holiday destination?

This is a difficult one, I love to travel and have a long bucket list. If I have to choose one, it would be Bolivia, which was my first holiday with my wife.

Do you have any hobbies you like to do outside of work?

Photography. I’m also quite active, so I like to ski and cycle as well.

What’s a secret talent that no one knows about?

I can ski off-piste, although my children would say I am not very good at it. Off-piste skiing is skiing in the backcountry, on ungroomed and unmarked terrain.

If you could get a new skill in 10 minutes, what would it be?

I’d like to be able to play the piano

How do you think the industry will change in 10 years?

I think there will be a number of changes over the next ten years. Firstly, the consumer will expect a seamless and integrated transport experience whereby they only have to purchase one ticket for the entirety of their journey. There will also be an increased demand for public transport in general, as climate change gets increasing focus resulting in barriers to the use of cars, particularly in urban areas.

What’s the best advice you can give to someone who’s just started their career?

Push yourself outside your comfort zone and constantly seek to take on more responsibility so you’re always learning new things. Most importantly, believe in yourself and believe that you can do it!

Experts in Transport Management

EPM Bus Solutions completes Omnibus acquisition

Ian Churchill

18 Feb 2021 – EPM Bus Solutions has today, with the support of Literacy Capital, completed the acquisition of one of the UK’s leading passenger transport software businesses, Omnibus.

The strategic acquisition sees EPM further strengthen its capability in providing high quality software solutions across the bus operator and transport authority markets, focussed on improving operational and commercial performance.

Founded in 1990, by Peter and Carol Crichton, Omnibus provides software for passenger transport scheduling, staff rostering, depot allocation and timetable construction to a wide range of public transport operators and local authorities, with solutions being used across the UK and overseas.

Ian Churchill
Ian Churchill CEO at EPM Bus Solutions

EPM Bus Solutions, formed in 1986, provide software to help bus operators and transport authorities reduce operational costs, improve financial performance and better serve their customers. In addition, EPM are the UK’s leading BSOG auditor and concessionary reimbursement consultancy.

Ian Churchill, CEO at EPM Bus Solutions, said: “Omnibus’ software solutions perfectly complements EPM’s, and the acquisition will enable us to provide a higher quality service to existing clients and give a wider offering of solutions to new customers. By bringing together the two businesses we will be able to harness the domain knowledge and experience of both to develop solutions to meet the needs of the public transport sector as society emerges from the impact of Covid-19.”

Peter Crichton, Managing Director at Omnibus, said: “I am very proud of the journey the Omnibus business has been on over the last three decades. Driven by the challenges faced by the pandemic, new technologies, and demand from bus operators and transport authorities for deeper insights into their operations to drive efficiency, EPM’s solutions combined with Omnibus’s will offer a powerful set of solutions which will be best-in-class. I am looking forward to working with the EPM team on this exciting journey.”



Press Contact:

EPM Bus Solutions
Harmi Sangha
07538 935 568 

Webinar – Unlocking the power of your commercial and operations data

Showing benefits of bus operator software solution

With EPM Insights you can easily and quickly manage your entire bus operations from a single online platform to improve business profitability and efficiency.

Join the webinar and see how we can drive your business forward.

  • Date: Thursday 11th February 2021
  • Time: 2-2.30pm

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Illustration of EPM bus operations software

Improving Reading Buses profitability with Insights

Robert Williams CEO Reading Buses

Robert Williams
Chief Executive Officer at Reading Buses

EPM Insights has shifted the Reading Buses business away from the manual collation of data to the automated production of key metrics, freeing up management time to focus on the actionable intelligence which the tool provides…. supporting us to react to both the changing nature of reality during the Covid pandemic and to help shape our future network. “