Category: Transport Authorities

Why control room systems present a barrier to delivering a reliable bus service

The constant overlapping of systems and applications gets in the way of delivering good bus services.

Kurt Cappello, Operations Manager at trentbarton 

Controllers have more sophisticated technology than ever before. There are systems to tell them what’s happening on the road, where the buses are, and which drivers are available for allocation.

There are also systems controllers can use to send instant messages and record incidents to generate lost mileage reports. 

The issue lies in the segregation of these individual systems that operate independently without integration. Control teams frequently find themselves juggling three or four screens simultaneously to retrieve or input data, leading to a significant amount of time wasted on scrolling and clicking between different interfaces. 

Kurt Capello, Trentbarton

“One of the biggest issues is managing multiple different systems at once. Even within the same system you have different applications for different things – lost mileage in one app, staff and shifts in another.” – Kurt Cappello. 

There is no shortage of separate solutions in the control room, and this presents some significant barriers to delivering good bus services. 

Our ebook explores the concept of a single control room platform which brings systems together onto one screen, providing the insight to run a reliable, efficient and profitable bus operation. 

Having a unified control room platform enables controllers to identify issues promptly and take preventive measures before they lead to delays. This ensures buses stay on schedule and passengers reach their destinations punctually. 

Better visibility of vehicle and driver information would enable improved on-the-spot decisions, so routes can be re-allocated quickly with a clear understanding of the cost and the impact of those real-time decisions. By consolidating data from various systems, operators can gain the insights necessary to leverage past experiences and shape a sustainable, successful bus service for the future. 

Reinventing the control room

Technology empowering control room teams

trentbarton to improve end-to-end efficiency with EPM and Omnibus’ integrated cloud technology

13 May 2024 – trentbarton has selected EPM and Omnibus’ cloud technology to drive end-to-end efficiency – including EPM’s new cutting-edge Control360 solution, an industry-first, fully integrated live operations platform for improving service delivery.

trentbarton to improve end-to-end efficiency with EPM and Omnibus’ integrated cloud technology

Control360 will assist the operator’s time-pressured controllers in making the optimal decisions with automated workflows improving efficiency and providing effective communication across the business.

The solution seamlessly brings together vital operational information from individual systems, providing users with an all-in-one operations platform to efficiently manage daily challenges and proactively resolve emerging issues through system alerts and insights, all in one place.

trentbarton will integrate Control360 with two new software implementations. The link with EPM’s incident management system, Traffic, will make it considerably easier to manage lost mileage records in real-time and significantly reduce the amount of data input required to do so.

Control360 will also interact with the Omnibus depot allocation solution, OmniDAS. From one graphical interface in Control360, trentbarton will have complete visibility of all drivers and drag and drop capability to orchestrate changes visually using the same rule validation that exists within OmniDAS. The view can be pivoted by vehicle to allow any changes to vehicles or incidents during operation to be quickly and easily recorded.

Further efficiencies will be gained with the implementation of the OmniENGAGE driver app which will allow drivers to manage their work remotely and independently in real-time. trentbarton will also move its Omnibus scheduling suite to the cloud, bringing new functionality including automatic file management and enhanced team collaboration.

The EPM and Omnibus suite of solutions will support trentbarton with end-to-end efficiency at its Trent, Kinchbus and TM Travel operations.

 

Mark Greasley, Group Projects Director at trentbarton, said: “Omnibus and Mark Greasley, Group Projects Director at trentbartonEPM’s strong delivery track record and their ability to deliver a total end-to-end solution without relying on outside partners for complementary expertise, make them a valued partner for trentbarton to achieve our growth plans. With their proactive approach to developing new solutions and supporting operators in improving operational efficiency, we are confident our future needs will be met as our requirements evolve.”

Nick Brookes, Software Director at EPM and Omnibus, said: “We are delighted to support trentbarton with end-to-end efficiency, from planning to payroll to BSOG claim.

“Operators have a plethora of tools for managing their networks on the day of operation. But data is often siloed so it is difficult to identify problems unless looking at the right screen, in the right software solution, at the right time.

“Control360 will bring key operational data from all these silos together so operators can make informed, efficient and effective decisions all in one place. By combining this data, it will be easier for trentbarton to ‘join the dots’ to identify problems and will facilitate proactive decision making; identifying problems before they even occur. “No other solution can do this, which further enhances our expertise in passenger transport.”

 

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Customer: www.trentbarton.co.uk
Omnibus Solutions: www.omnibus.solutions

Press contact at Omnibus and EPM:
Harminder Sangha
harminder.sangha@epm-bus.com

07538 935 568

Reinventing the control room

Technology empowering control room teams

Customer service in a franchised bus network

Customer service in a franchised bus network

A positive customer experience can enhance passenger satisfaction and loyalty, leading to repeat business and increased bus ridership. When passengers feel valued and well-cared for, they are more likely to choose bus services over other transportation options.

Also, effective customer service can help build a positive reputation for the bus service provider, attracting new customers through word-of-mouth recommendations and positive online reviews.

Good customer service addresses passenger concerns and complaints promptly, improving the overall customer experience and retention. By listening to feedback and continuously striving to meet passenger needs, bus service providers can build trust and credibility with their customers, leading to long-term relationships and increased patronage.

Managing customer service in a commercial network

In a commercial network, bus operators are typically responsible for managing customer service directly. This involves setting their own standards and protocols for handling customer inquiries, complaints, and feedback, as well as ensuring that buses are clean, safe, and on time.

Bus operators usually have dedicated customer service teams or representatives who are trained to address passenger needs and concerns. These teams are responsible for responding to customer enquiries, resolving complaints, and collecting feedback to improve service quality. As well as providing information about routes, schedules, fares, and any service disruptions or changes.

Managing customer service in a franchised network

In a franchised bus network customer service becomes the responsibility of the transport authorities, a structured customer service model would need to be established to ensure a seamless and efficient experience for passengers. Several key areas need to be considered:

Clear service standards: The transport authorities would need to define clear service standards and expectations for customer service, including response times, complaint resolution procedures, and quality benchmarks.

Training and support: Providing comprehensive training and ongoing support to customer service teams on how to deliver excellent customer service, handle enquiries and complaints effectively, and represent the franchise brand positively.

Communication channels: Establishing multiple communication channels for customers to reach out with feedback, complaints, or enquiries, such as phone, email addresses, website forms, social media platforms, and in-person customer service centres.

With social media, email, and websites being used more by passengers, this has resulted in an increase in the speed and frequency of feedback, as well as customer expectations rising for faster responses.

How technology can help

Technology plays a crucial role in helping transport authorities to get ahead of their new responsibilities to efficiently manage customer feedback and improve overall service quality as well as enhancing communication with passengers.

Key considerations for a software solution should include:

  • A central repository which automatically consolidates customer feedback from multiple sources (email, website, social media) to get a complete view of customer interactions and identify any issues within the network quickly and easily
  • Visibility of the operating environment with feeds of dynamic and static data giving customer services visibility of any network issues to respond quickly to the customer with a quality outcome
  • Multi-platform communication management to efficiently respond to customers using their preferred channel: social media, email, website and phone
  • Standardised workflows that streamline the investigation process such as generating driver feedback forms and evidence requests to further investigate customer feedback
  • Case management capability that tracks the follow up of all customer feedback, activities, outcomes, and review responses against Service Level Agreement measures
Improving the customer service experience

Finally, factors need to be considered for improvement mechanisms which would feed into building future strategies to better meet the needs and expectations of passengers while enhancing overall efficiency and effectiveness. Key areas include: 

Operator feedback mechanisms: Communication between the transport authority and operator is key; operators need visibility of feedback being received for services they are operating. 

Monitoring and evaluation: Implementing mechanisms to monitor and evaluate customer service performance, such as regular audits, surveys, and feedback collection to identify areas for improvement and ensure compliance with service standards.  

Continuous Improvement and visibility of feedback: Encouraging a culture of continuous improvement by analysing customer feedback, measuring against KPIs and standards, identifying trends, and implementing changes to enhance the overall customer service experience.  

Management information should be shared with operators to collaborate on executing improvement plans and resolving identified driver, vehicle or route issues.

Summary 

Customer service is essential in increasing patronage in bus services because it fosters passenger satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy, ultimately driving growth and success for the network. 

The key areas include standards, processes, systems, training, analytics, and reporting to establish a structured customer service model. This will ensure that passengers receive consistent, high-quality service when using the bus in a franchised network and that the customer service operation is effective, responsive, and focused on meeting the needs of passengers. 

How we can help: 

With franchising gaining prominence, technology will play an increasingly important role. We can help transport authorities to successfully navigate the challenges of managing a customer services function with our Customer Resolution Centre; and provide comprehensive reporting and analytics with our Insights solution, enabling you to make well-informed decisions and build feedback into network improvement plans. 

Enhancing the customer service function

The future of customer service in the bus industry

2023 reflections and the year ahead

UK bus industry in 2023 and the year ahead

The UK Bus industry is ever-evolving and 2023 has been a year of marked change. This year has witnessed the sector navigating challenges, such as the lingering impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and driver shortages, to the ever-present call for greener and more efficient modes of transport. As we approach 2024, we believe the central themes guiding the upcoming year and beyond will revolve around collaboration and adaptability.

 

UK bus industry in 2023 and the year ahead

To franchise, or not to franchise?

Franchising has undeniably taken centre stage in the narrative of 2023. Introduced in Manchester for the first time since deregulation, this transformative trend looks set to shape the years ahead with Liverpool City Region and West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA), amongst others, planning to follow suit. With a growing number of councils bracing for upcoming elections, the widespread adoption of the franchise model seems increasingly inevitable. Yet, as this momentum builds, it is important to consider alternative approaches. By leveraging best practices and enhancing the established systems and processes within operators’ existing networks, there’s an opportunity to transition toward a more collaborative future involving Local Transport Authorities (LTAs) and operators.

Against this backdrop and with funding potentially tightening in 2024, bus operators and LTAs must adopt a prudent approach, carefully managing financial resources to ensure operation of the most efficient services possible. The notable upswing in patronage observed this year underscores the need for a sustained and proficient operation. Collaborative efforts between bus operators and LTAs will play a pivotal role, with the latest technology helping to empower LTAs and operators with the intelligence and insights required to fulfil their commitments and uphold network responsibilities effectively.

Incentivised travel and BSOG reform

The introduction of the £2 bus fare cap in England, not only incentivised bus travel but made it affordable for millions of passengers struggling with the cost-of-living crisis. Introduced as a £2 flat rate fare outside of London until November 2024, the measure has helped to increase patronage post-Covid. However, unless a transitional arrangement is introduced at the end of the current initiative, a potential cliff-edge scenario could see fares increase substantially at the end of 2024, hitting millions of passengers in the pocket and reducing patronage.

The BSOG funding process is set to be reformed, with the Department of Transport and industry bodies set to shape the future of the scheme with a focus on incentivising zero emission vehicles and additional funding for rural services. Depending on the approach, and considering work carried out by EPM in collaboration with Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT), changes to the current funding mechanism could have significant winners and losers. With a general election next year it is likely that any reform measures decided on in 2024 will not be implemented until Spring of the following year.

Flexible timetables to meet changing work patterns

Travel patterns have changed, characterised by an uptake in remote work and an increase in leisure travel. Therefore, there is a greater need for LTAs and bus operators to understand these changing behaviours. Timetables need to be fluid and flexibly planned to capitalise on emerging trends and to effectively meet the fluctuating demand. This ensures that the changing needs of customers are not only understood but also met.

Driver shortages

This year has seen a shortage of drivers continue to blight the industry. The CPT has identified that almost 1 in 10 bus driver positions are vacant in the UK which has led to a drop in the number of deliverable services. With attributing factors such as long hours and exhausting shift patterns, there is a need for operators to build stronger relationships with their drivers to address this ongoing challenge. Establishing open communication is vital, and leveraging data becomes paramount in understanding and contextualising driver performance. Additionally, adopting driver-centric technologies can prove instrumental in enhancing driver relations by empowering them to access their schedules remotely and easily request time off or overtime.

Innovation to attract more passengers

The key challenge for bus operators and local authorities in 2024 will be to continue to attract customers. Initiatives such as multi-operator ticketing (MOT) and tap on tap off (TOTO) make bus travel a more attractive proposition, encouraging travel and repeat journeys. However, the key metrics of affordability and reliability will determine the continued success and viability of operations. Amid escalating costs and rising customer expectations, on-the-day decision-making will be critical in ensuring service quality. This demands an evolution of control room systems to provide a complete, holistic view of operations in real-time, helping controllers get ahead of problems on the network and proactively find solutions.

The year ahead

2023 has been a dynamic and transformative period for the industry, marked by challenges and significant developments. As we look ahead to 2024, collaboration emerges as a central theme, with franchising gaining prominence and funding set to reshape the sector.

Technology will play an increasingly important role, helping bus operators and LTAs to successfully navigate these challenges and help the bus industry to go from strength to strength.

Solutions to support the year ahead:

  • For planning and managing franchise networks ETM DAS and Contract Performance.
  • To improve driver retention and communication a driver app such as OmniENGAGE.
  • Empowering control room teams to efficiently manage and resolve on-the-day issues to deliver a quality bus service, as well as achieve significant cost-savings with Control360.
  • Data / intelligence streamlined with Insights providing management teams with a comprehensive view, enabling them to make well-informed decisions.
  • Flexible timetable display solution, OmnSTOPdesign, allows for efficient and cost-effective turnaround for roadside publicity.

Ready to start driving forward in 2024? Get in touch to build a tailored solution today

Powering the future of your bus operations

Grow patronage, boost revenue, and drive operational efficiency.

EPM Bus Solutions parent company announces rebrand to Velociti Group

Today, UK-based EPM Transport Solutions, transport technology specialists and parent company of EPM Bus Solutions, Omnibus Solutions, 3Squared, and FabDigital has announced it has rebranded to Velociti Group.

 

The company launched the new identity, including new name and logo, to better communicate its purpose to deliver innovative software and specialist consultancy to power public transportation. This new fresh identity represents Velociti’s dynamism, agility, and energy.  Along with the brand-new look, Velociti Group’s innovative message is ‘The Future. Accelerated.’

Through pioneering technology and a first-class approach to implementation, Velociti Group tackles the challenges faced by those seeking to create an improved and greener future for customers, operators, and infrastructure owners, in both rail and bus sectors.

Ian Churchill, CEO at Velociti Group, commented: “We are delighted to launch Velociti Group, a new name and vibrant identity that effectively embodies us as a group. Velociti Group encompasses a wealth of heritage and ambition from across the bus and rail sectors and we are pleased to reflect this in our new brand.”

“Velociti Group companies will continue to operate as individual entities while the new group identity will bring them together as a collective, with the combined aim of creating a better future for forward-thinking organisations seeking to improve outcomes in bus and rail transport.”

Ready to take your bus network to the next level?

Get in touch to build a tailored solution today.

The DfT develop transport user personas

The Department for Transport (DfT) has developed a set of transport user personas to help understand the needs, preferences, and behaviour traits of different passengers and ensure the transport system works for everyone. They have developed 12 different personas to reflect 9 groups of people.

 

These segments were developed from existing research that was validated and updated by a large-scale survey and ethnographic research in 2022, covering the population aged 16 and over in England only. They break up the population into smaller clusters to define their individual traits when using transport.

Read the full story: Transport user personas: Understanding different users and their needs

Ready to take your bus network to the next level?

Get in touch to build a tailored solution today.

RTIG webinar: Improving the customer experience effectively and efficiently

With customer expectations rising, ensuring they receive a high quality experience at every touch point in their journey is essential to support patronage growth.

On the 20th of June 2023, Nick Brookes, our Software Director, and Aiden Proctor, Omnibus Product Owner, delivered a presentation at an RTIG event where they discussed the importance of high quality bus stop publicity and customer communications to enhance the customer experience.

eBook – The future of customer service in the bus industry

Our eBook discusses the challenges customer service teams in bus operations face and explores ways bus operators can adapt and enhance their customer service function to thrive in the current climate where the customer experience is key to a successful business.

Complete the below form to download our eBook.

Ready to take your bus network to the next level?

Get in touch to build a tailored solution today

Webinar: Effectively manage performance across your contracted network to drive service quality and patronage

Measuring the performance of bus operators against desired performance indicators is challenging for most Local Transport Authorities (LTAs) due to the lack of standardised processes to manage the contracted network. This can result in passenger complaints regarding reliability, punctuality, and vehicle suitability.

The ability to benchmark operators on your contracted network depends on bringing together reliable and consistent information on all aspects of performance.

Our webinar, recorded on 27 June 2023, demonstrates how our Contract Performance solution will support you to analyse contract compliance and understand the performance of operators on your contracted network.

We also demonstrate how utilising valuable insights will enable you to work with operators to improve the quality of contracted bus services and drive patronage.

Contract Performance

Drive positive change and improve the passenger experience.

Transport for Wales to improve efficiency of contracted network with adoption of EPM’s Contract Performance solution

Transport for Wales is to improve the performance of their TrawsCymru contracted bus services with the adoption of EPM’s new solution, Contract Performance.

Developed for Local Transport Authorities the system manages all stages of contract procurement, management, and performance analysis in one intuitive platform.

A key aim of Transport for Wales (TfW), a not-for-profit company owned by the Welsh Government, is to improve the quality of the service delivery of their contracted network to encourage people to use public transport.

TfW is keen to manage contract performance efficiently and consistently using the data available from systems that support bus operations to automate monitoring and analysis, rather than it being a manual and time intensive task.

Working in partnership with TfW in overcoming its challenges, EPM designed a powerful solution that enables TfW to manage all stages of contract management, including performance analysis. The solution standardises processes as well as providing them with the capability to benchmark operators against key performance indicators.

The intuitive solution provides an overall performance score for the contracted network and for individual operators using a combination of existing data from EPM and third-party solutions. Bus operators are scored based on three key standards: reliability, driver, vehicle and operator processes, which includes vehicle maintenance.

Integration with the EPM Insights platform provides advanced analytics, the reporting capability allows TfW to drill down into the data and investigate the root cause of any identified issues and gain a deeper understanding of individual operator scores. The powerful management information provides actionable insights to drive network improvements and improve passenger satisfaction.

Lee Robinson, Development Director for Mid, North and Rural Wales at Transport for Wales said, “Our aim at TfW is to make public transport an easy and obvious choice for the people of Wales, to encourage behaviour change and modal shift and support Welsh Government policy direction. We are confident the Contract Performance solution will support us in achieving our goal and that it will provide us with valuable in-depth knowledge and understanding of the TrawsCymru contracted network.

“A key aspect of the platform is monitoring the performance of our contracts and having on-demand visibility of this will enable us to develop improvement plans and ensure a quality service is being delivered to meet the needs of our local communities.”

Nick Brookes, Software Director at EPM Group said, “We’re delighted to have worked with Transport for Wales to develop a solution that addresses their requirements but also helps other local transport authorities across the UK to improve the passenger experience and support growing patronage.”

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Contract Performance

Drive positive change and improve the passenger experience.

Reading Borough Council appoints EPM Bus Solutions to administer the new multi-operator ticketing scheme

Reading Borough Council selects EPM Bus Solutions to administer and audit its new multi-operator ticketing scheme ensuring participating bus operators are compensated accurately – providing valuable experience in scheme management.

Reading Borough Council has been awarded funding for its Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP). Part of its plans to improve bus services across Reading is to introduce a multi-operator ticketing (MOT) scheme, the Reading All-Bus ticket, to allow passengers to seamlessly travel across several operators’ services using one ticket.

The scheme includes adult, young persons, and group tickets with two ticket types – peak and off-peak – and the council will be introducing a tap-on, tap-off day ticket this summer. These ticket prices are set at a lower level than a single operator’s own day tickets in order to generate demand and help with the current cost of living crisis and each operator will receive compensation from Reading Borough Council’s BSIP allocation for each ticket purchased on one of their buses or via their website.

To ensure all participating operators are reimbursed accurately and on time Reading Borough Council has appointed EPM to administer and audit the scheme. As administrators, EPM will periodically allocate the scheme revenue along with the compensation payments, ensuring the payments being made to participating operators are accurate and the BSIP funds allocated to this initiative are accounted for.

As part of their service, EPM will provide Reading Borough Council and the operators with patronage data from each of the scheme products. The data provided enables Reading Borough Council to track the performance of the scheme and identify trends, the data can also be used for BSIP reporting.

Bi-annual audits of operator submissions will also be conducted, this involves an in-depth interrogation of the data to ensure revenue and passenger data align and provides further assurance that all participants have been accurately reimbursed.

John Ennis, Lead Councillor for Climate Strategy and Transport at Reading Borough Council said: “We’re excited to be introducing the Reading All-Bus ticket to make travel simpler for the people of Reading. Keeping track of the scheme and ensuring operators are paid correctly, as well as complying with our own reporting requirements, can be a complex and time-intensive task.

“EPM has the dedicated resource and extensive skillset to seamlessly administer and audit the scheme. This will relieve some of the pressure off our transport team and gives us more time to focus on implementing our other bus improvement commitments.”

Jon Anton, Consulting Director at EPM said, “We’re delighted to be working with Reading Borough Council to administer their new multi-operator ticketing scheme. Our comprehensive knowledge of multi-operator ticketing schemes enables us to seamlessly implement processes and provide assurance to stakeholders that all bus operators participating are paid what they are owed.”

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Ready to take your bus network to the next level?

Get in touch to build a tailored solution today