Category: Concessionary travel

Team Spotlight – Tom Birkin, Product Owner

In this month’s team spotlight we sit down with Product Owner, Tom Birkin, who has worked for EPM for 5 years, working with clients to optimise the use of technology to solve their operational issues.

Tom Birkin Product Owner

How would you describe a typical day in the life of a Product Owner?

There isn’t really a typical day as I have the opportunity to work on a lot of different projects! I get the pleasure of speaking with our customers to discuss their day to day problems and work with them to utilise new technologies to provide solutions that will resolve those issues! It’s an incredibly satisfying feeling to see a product develop from an idea to a finish product. If I had to sum it up I’d say there is a lot of talking, thinking and most importantly, listening!

How does your role contribute to the company’s overall success?

It’s an important role to listen and understand the needs of our customers and to be a step ahead of the competition to provide market leading software solutions that provide insight and solutions to the issues that they are experiencing.

What do you most enjoy about working at EPM/Omni?

My favourite things about working at EPM/Omni are the people I work with and the opportunity to leverage my experiences in my previous roles to drive the technology for our customers, whilst also continuing the develop new skills.

What is the biggest achievement of your EPM/Omni career?

Becoming Product Owner – cliché, I know!

As we continue to expand the team, what advice do you have for someone joining the team?

Most importantly, be yourself and don’t be afraid to ask for help/questions! I’d also encourage you to venture out of your comfort zone.

How do you anticipate the industry may change over the coming years?

There is a lot of government investment going into the industry and I think that, paired with the innovation in technology is driving a big changes. The introduction of multi-Operator Tap-On-Tap-Off ticketing will change the way that we travel and make travel a lot more convenient. There is already a emphasis on EV fleet at the moment and I don’t see that slowing down any time soon but what I’m most excited about is automated vehicles – just not any from SkyNet!

Outside of work, how do you spend your spare time?

Before / during lockdown you’d usually find me at home on my PC but nowadays I try to be a lot more active and outside!

Who is the person who inspires you most?

I’d have to say my parents which feels like a really cheesy answer! If I have to choose one then my Dad. Sorry Mom!

Tell us a random fact about you – the silliest, most daring or spontaneous thing you have ever done you’ve ever done is?

I’m a triplet and I once accidentally ran through a glass door.

Interested in a role in transport management?

Employee Spotlight – Lindsay Brown, Senior Auditor

In this month’s employee spotlight we sit down with Senior Auditor, Lindsay Brown who has worked for EPM for over 21 years and has a vast knowledge of the BSOG scheme and business process improvement.

How would your family or friends describe you in three words?

I asked my friends and didn’t get a sensible answer. I think that says a lot.

What is your favourite thing about working at EPM?

The people – both my colleagues and clients. Everyone is so friendly and helpful, which makes such a positive difference to my working life.

What would you do career-wise if you were not working as a Senior Auditor?

Unfortunately, I’m not one of those lucky people who always knew what they wanted to do – I was very fortunate to get the job at EPM, but it wasn’t my dream to be an auditor. I’ve only ever thought about two jobs I’d like to do – owning a B&B or working on the checkout at a supermarket. The latter is my aim for retirement!

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

Most people know everything there is to know.

Do you have a favourite book?

Jonathan Livingston Seagull, by Richard Bach. It’s quite a short story about a seagull who is outcast by his family and friends as he sees there is more to life than constantly searching for food and shelter – he enjoys flying and soaring the cliffs for fun. It’s a beautiful book and a good reminder that there’s more to life than the mundane.

What music are you listening to at the moment?

Britpop and cheesy pop take me back to good times at school and Uni and make up the majority of my playlist. But I’ll listen to pretty much anything.

What was the first pet you ever had?

I’ve never had any pets as my older brother is very allergic to anything not human. The closest I’ve come is my ex-housemate’s gerbils and my partner’s marine fish. I always wanted a tortoise though (I blame Blue Peter!).

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?

I haven’t travelled extensively, but the two places I could see myself living are Barcelona and Reykjavik – I would love to go back.

What achievement are you most proud of?

Probably renovating my house with my partner. What started out as a 6-month re-wire and re-decorate turned into completely gutting it and 4 years of very hard work.

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

The worst is definitely cucumber. I can’t stand the stuff! As for the best; my mum’s cheese-on-toast. I don’t know what she does, but I can’t replicate it. It’s amazing!

What’s your favourite thing to do on the weekends?

Seeing family and friends or going somewhere in the caravan with my partner.

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

I think advancements in technology will massively change the industry, ranging from zero-emission or autonomous buses to the availability of more detailed analytical data.

Read the previous Employee Spotlight with Service Desk Manager, Olly Gough. 

Experts in Transport Management

Employee Spotlight – Olly Gough, Service Desk Manager

In this month’s employee spotlight we sit down with Service Desk Manager, Olly Gough who has worked for EPM for 14 years, providing high levels of service to customers and is a self-confessed bus geek and problem solver.

What is a day in the life of a Service Desk Manager like?

Fast-paced and never boring; no two days are the same. I have a lot of internal and client meetings and do a lot of data analysis to look for recurring issues and trends. Fortunately, I’m surrounded by a brilliant team who regularly go above and beyond which makes my life a lot easier.

What is your biggest achievement to date?

I’ve done a few things I’m proud of – I have a Masters degree from Bangor Uni, I also recently helped my Mum to relocate to a new city and find accommodation she loves but that also meets her needs. But I’d say my biggest achievement is that one of my nieces, who’s 12, told me she thinks I’m cool!

What is one hobby you would like to pick up? 

There are loads of things I’d like to try. I played rugby until a couple of years ago and would definitely pick that back up again if I had the time. I miss being part of a team (outside of work) and the social side, I don’t miss the bruises and pulled muscles. Otherwise, I’d love to be able to play any musical instrument really well.

When you are not working, what are you up to? 

I don’t have an awful lot of spare time but when I do I like spending time with my family – I have 9 nieces and 2 nephews so a lot of them to get around! I like cooking, trying out new restaurants and pubs with friends, and exploring the local parks with my partner and my Mum.

Where is your favourite place to go on holiday?

Iceland which was just incredible, or Ibiza – every time I’ve been, I’ve immediately booked my next trip out there.

Do you have any pets?

Yes, 2 cats. Molly who is everything you’d expect a cat to be, elegant, stand-offish and completely disinterested which just makes me want her attention even more; and Wilf whom we call Badger because personality wise, he’s closer to a Badger or a dog than a cat. Both are absolutely ruthless, so we get a lot of presents!

If you had to listen to one song for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?

That sounds awful! I guess I’d probably pick anything by Faithless, or Loud Places by Jamie XX as they’re probably the most played songs on my playlist.

Do you have a favourite film?

Jaws 100%, I’ve watched it a million times and I never get bored.

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

I used to be a decorator so I’m not bad at painting and wallpapering. Essentially what that means is that I sometimes get support calls outside of work hours from those friends who do know this, and are having a decorating crisis.

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

Any scientist from a couple of hundred years ago – I think it’s crazy that a lot of them used to test out theories on themselves out of necessity, so they sound like an interesting bunch. Failing that, Stephen Hawking – I have a lot of questions and that definitely appeals to my geeky sense of curiosity.

What music are you listening to at the moment?

My partner and I went to a Suede concert recently which was brilliant so we’re listening to a lot of their stuff at the moment. Also, Faithless and Jamie XX.

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

I’m not sure I’m in a position to advise anyone on that, but I think having a good work ethic is important. Treat people well and support the team around you, and definitely try to have a good work-life balance.

 

Read last month’s Employee Spotlight with Consulting Director, Jon Anton

Experts in Transport Management

Employee Spotlight – Jon Anton, Consulting Director

In this month’s employee spotlight we sit down with Consulting Director, Jon Anton who has worked for EPM for 13 years; maximising operators’ concessionary fares reimbursement, as well as analysing the performance of networks and identifying areas for improvement.

Name three words you would use to describe your role

Varied, thought-provoking, challenging.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I would have to say the variety. Concessionary fares consultancy has a mix of desk based analysis, client engagement and negotiations with third parties, whether that’s Local Transport Authorities or their consultants. Then there’s the operational audit work, it does share some similarities to the consultancy work but for the most part requires a completely different mind-set.

What is your biggest achievement to date?

Personally, securing my ACCA Practising Certificate. It took some time to achieve it, but without it I wouldn’t be in the role I am today.

Professionally, it was demonstrating the value EPM could offer to one of the large bus operators in the UK in respect of their concessionary fares reimbursement. Following some proof of concepts that yielded double-digit percentage increases in reimbursement, we secured a contract to review reimbursement for the whole group – and have continued to do so since.

Are you working on any interesting projects at the moment?

One of the most interesting is an internal project to migrate our accounting to a new solution. We kicked off with EPM at the end of 2020 and then more recently we have brought across Omnibus into the same solution. There was a steep learning curve for me, however we’re already starting to see the benefits of the new solution and there’s still more to come.

What’s your favourite thing to do on the weekends?

Going for a long walk across the fields with my dogs, a whippet and a greyhound. They would much rather tear around the garden than walk though!

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

To be able to speak another language; maybe Spanish, German or French.

What’s an interesting fact about you?

Despite my answer to the previous question, at the age of 4 I was able to converse in French. My dad was on a work exchange placement in Montreal, I went to a French-speaking pre-school whilst we were there. Sadly I didn’t hold on to that skill, nor did it come back to me in my mid-teens when I was studying French GCSE!

Do you have a favourite film?
Home Alone. It’s far from the best film ever made, but it’s one that I can’t help but watch at least once a year!

What music are you listening to at the moment?

I’ve been listening to lots from the ‘90s and ‘00s recently – bands like Oasis, Stereophonics & Foo Fighters.

What three items would you take with you to a deserted island?

Can I have items that will help me get back to civilisation, after a short break of course? No? Then a book, probably something by Bill Bryson, a large bottle of whisky and some sun cream!

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

I’ll echo the thoughts of my colleagues; integrated transport networks will be prevalent across the country. Multi-operator ticketing will play a key part in this, so we’ll see these schemes becoming increasingly prominent.

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

Take every opportunity that presents itself to broaden your skills and experience. Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions – you’re not expected to know everything!

Read last month’s Employee Spotlight with Software Director, Nick Brookes.

Experts in Transport Management

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.

 

Concessionary Fares 2020/21 – Appeal Deadline

calendar

We are sure you all have many other more pressing issues right now, however we wanted to make you aware of an update we have received from the DfT. The last date for appealing concessionary fares reimbursement arrangements is 56 days from scheme commencement/variation and as this is set in legislation the DfT currently have no plans to extend this.

For those operators that are in the middle of negotiations, or have yet to commence discussions, we would recommend submitting an appeal application well in advance of the deadline (which is 26 May for most), along with a request to stay the appeal beyond the deadline. This will provide you with additional time to progress the negotiations, freeing up time now to deal with the current situation, whilst retaining your ability to proceed with an appeal should agreement not be reached.

EPM have assisted numerous operators over the years with their appeal applications, so please do get in touch if you would like assistance, or if you have any questions.

BSOG & Concessionary Fares – Emergency Support for the Scottish Bus Industry

Glasgow on bus

With a significant decrease in operations and passenger numbers Transport Scotland have announced that they will support bus operators with additional BSOG and Concessionary Fares payments. They are intending to maintain payments at the levels forecast prior to the impact of COVID-19 which typically amounts to £260m per annum. The full announcement can be found here:-

https://www.transport.gov.scot/news/emergency-support-for-the-scottish-bus-industry/

We will provide further information as we receive it from Transport Scotland. In the meantime if you have any questions please contact epm@epm-bus.com.

DfT Concessionary Fares Guidance & Calculator 2020/21

business man using calculator

The DfT have published their concessionary fares reimbursement guidance and calculator for the 2020/21 scheme year. We have reviewed the latest guidance and we can confirm that it is in line with last year’s publication.

Operators should receive their draft scheme documents for the 2020/21 scheme year over the coming days. The team here at EPM would be happy to review these documents free of charge in order to provide you with an initial assessment of the scheme, including the proposed reimbursement parameters. We frequently identify areas for improvement and assist operators to secure the additional reimbursement they are entitled to.

If you would like a review of your scheme documents, or if you have any concessionary fares questions, please contact epm@epm-bus.com.

The DfT’s reimbursement calculator can be found here:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/concessionary-bus-travel-reimbursement-calculator

The full reimbursement guidance for 2020/21 is located here:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-on-reimbursing-bus-operators-for-concessionary-travel

BSOG & Concessionary Fares – Scotland

scottish coast

Transport Scotland have recently written to operators to advise them of the arrangements for their BSOG and Concessionary Fares schemes from 1 April 2019.

A copy of the letter can be found at the foot of this page – the main points to note are as follows:

BSOG

The underlying BSOG rate of 14.4 pence per kilometre (ppkm) is maintained, as is the rate of 17ppkm for sustainable biodiesel operations.

There will be four rates for new Low Carbon Vehicles (LCV) introduced after 1 April 2019, ranging from 5ppkm through to 30ppkm, each rate being dependent on the level of emissions that can be achieved by qualifying vehicles. For these new vehicles they will only be eligible for the LCV incentive for five years from the date of first claim.

For operators of existing LCV’s that have been claimed prior to 1 April 2019 they will continue to receive the current rate of 10.1ppkm, however this payment will also be limited to five years. Therefore buses that have already received the LCV incentive for five or more years will no longer be eligible.

We understand that Transport Scotland will be contacting operators over the next few months to request additional data for those LCV’s currently in operation and on order so that a database of qualifying vehicles can be established.

Concessionary Fares

The reimbursement rate for 2019/20 will be 56.5% of the adult single fare with the scheme capped at £213.65million. The rate for 2018/19 was 56.8%.

Transport Scotland have forecast that the Concessionary payments for 2018/19 will be around £206m. As this will exceed the cap of £202.1m, operators may receive reduced payments in period 13.

If you have any questions on the above please contact epm@epm-bus.com

The letter to operators from Transport Scotland can be viewed by clicking the following link:
TS BSOG Concessions Letter to Operators