Category: Transport Authorities

CILT webinar: Building an efficient bus operation and retaining drivers

The bus industry is navigating its way through a challenging operating environment with changes in travel routines and driver shortages making the demand for bus services increasingly complex. To overcome these challenges, bus operators need to become more operationally efficient.

The live webinar which was delivered on the 17th January in conjunction with the CILT UK, Nick Brookes, our Software Director, and Aiden Proctor, Omnibus Product Owner, discussed how bus operators can make their transport business more efficient whilst retaining and engaging their workforce.

eBook – Building an efficient bus operation in today’s world

Our eBook discusses how to measure the performance of each of the components which make up an efficient, profitable, and sustainable bus operation.

Complete the below form to download our eBook.

Ready to take your bus network to the next level?

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Solutions certified on Government’s G-Cloud 13 Framework

EPM Group, Omnibus and EPM, is certified on the new Crown Commercial Services ‘G-Cloud 13 framework’ which went live in November 2022.

The G-Cloud Digital Marketplace is an online service allowing public sector organisations to buy cloud software and services from approved suppliers. The framework is an agreement between government and suppliers of cloud services. Buying services through the framework is faster and more cost-effective than entering into individual procurement contracts.

Public sector bodies can purchase the following services from us via the Digital Marketplace:

Access EPM and Omnibus on GOV.UK Digital Marketplace.

Read more on the Crown Commercial Service.

Ready to take your bus network to the next level?

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Local Transport Authorities: Utilising ETM Analysis to support BSIP reporting

Since the launch of the National Bus Strategy (NBS), there has been a drive for Local Transport Authorities (LTAs) and bus operators to work together to increase patronage.

Prior to the NBS, LTA’s could step in to ensure socially necessary services were provided when gaps existed within the commercial network.  The NBS takes this further, expanding the category to include the delivery of economically necessary services to connect people to places of employment and education.

With a push for more comprehensive services from the Government, there is likely to be an increase in contracted services across LTAs once their Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP) funding is in place.

With a potential increase in contracted routes for LTAs as a result of the NBS and BSIPs, having access to ETM data across their contracted network will be important when reporting on patronage on these services.

Why is ETM data important?

ETM data provides LTAs with strategic insight enabling them to gain a deeper understanding of their contracted network by giving a clear view of patronage and revenue performance. Having visibility of all passenger transactions allows LTAs to spot passenger trends and identify routes, trips, and times of the day with low patronage.

The data also enables analysis of cost per passenger. This level of insight can then be used to make informed decisions about the performance of the network and individual routes to ensure funding is invested in the correct areas.

However, with contracted services often being shared between multiple operators within authorities, gathering in-depth data can be complex and time-consuming.

Utilising software to conduct commercial analysis and save time

Software such as the EPM ETM Analysis platform can provide LTAs with a consolidated view of ETM data from all operators who service their contracted routes in one place, reducing administrative tasks and saving valuable time.

Furthermore, the reports engine function within the platform and integration with EPM Insights enables reporting against defined KPIs to provide analysis of performance against BSIP KPI’s easy.

EPM Group

With over 30 years’ experience in software and consultancy services, EPM Group has a comprehensive knowledge of the bus industry and works with four of the seven PTEs in the UK as well as a range of local authorities to streamline their organisational processes.

Our broad, fully integrated software range covers a multitude of functions from operations to commercial and engineering. To book a free consultation to see how we can assist with your challenges and requirements, complete the online form, or call 01527 556940.

Ready to take your bus network to the next level?

Get in touch to build a tailored solution today

eBook – The future of customer service in the bus industry

Customer Service

Customer service is an important aspect of any industry, and the bus industry is no different. Bus operators and transport authorities must deliver exceptional services to increase customer satisfaction and grow patronage.

However, there are a variety of factors that are making customer services increasingly complex for the industry. 

Customer Service

Customers have high expectations; they have become accustomed to personalised and quick responses, and the way they provide feedback has evolved to include social media, email, and websites. This alongside changes in travel routines, driver shortages, and the National Bus Strategy requirement to share data and build into improvement plans has resulted in customer service teams in bus operations facing new challenges.

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.

Local Transport Authorities: Streamline data sharing processes and get network insight to meet Bus Recovery Grant and Local Transport Fund requirements

The deadline for Local Transport Authorities (LTAs) to complete Network Reviews for the Bus Recovery Grant and Local Transport Fund is fast approaching.

By 1st July 2022, LTAs will need to have submitted Network Reviews to the Department for Transport to demonstrate that they’re working with operators to plan for a sustainable network.

This will set expectations of service levels at the end of the recovery period, offering a plan of commercial and tendered networks once pandemic-related funding in England ceases on 4th October 2022.

Optimise data sharing processes

Grant funding will only be distributed if both LTAs and operators can prove that they have undertaken this work in partnership, which means data sharing processes should be implemented.

Historically LTAs have not had access to vast amounts of operator data but with the National Bus Strategy and BSIPs encouraging a more collaborative relationship, it’s clear that data sharing will be a key requirement from the government going forward.

Software can be used to streamline this sharing of data between operators and LTAs. In many cases, current processes are not synchronised and require time-consuming and error-prone manual data submissions. Data automation significantly reduces administration time and ensures a level of accuracy, which means users can spend more time understanding and analysing the figures.

Source baseline data for KPIs

In order to set and monitor KPIs, LTAs need access to baseline data. Due to the Covid pandemic, data from the past couple of years cannot be used as an accurate reference point, which means LTAs will need to look further back at historic data in order to draw comparisons. Established software solutions will have historic data embedded within the system and users can easily access the data from weeks, months, or years prior in order to build an accurate picture of progress.

LTAs are likely to focus on specific areas of the network to improve and being able to access systems that can compare recent results with historic data is key to analysing if the changes have made the desired impact.

Get clear insight into network performance

The Network Review guidance states that LTAs should use the data, scenarios and knowledge around risks and mitigations, and work with operators to forecast revenue on services, on a route-by-route basis, using the patronage recovery assumptions developed.

Software solutions can be implemented to identify how viable a route is, the types of tickets purchased, mileage per route and passenger numbers. There is also functionality for scenario modelling, to test for ‘what if’ scenarios and find the best way to service each route.

Analysis tools can also be used to give a complete picture of the network by collecting all the data into one system and offering breakdowns of individual areas. Users can view information such as patronage trends that are formulated into graphs and charts. This drill down capability allows intuitive interrogation of the data, investigating root causes of any issues identified, and enables users to set and monitor KPIs.

How EPM Group can help

With over 30 years’ experience in software and consultancy services, EPM Group has a comprehensive knowledge of the bus industry and works with four of the seven PTEs in the UK as well as a range of local authorities to streamline their organisational processes.

Our broad, fully integrated software range covers a multitude of functions from operations through to commercial and engineering. To book a free consultation to see how we can assist with your challenges and requirements, complete the online form or call 01527 556940.

Ready to take your bus network to the next level?

Get in touch to build a tailored solution today

Local Transport Authorities: Utilise resources to meet BSIP requirements

Last month it was announced that thirty-one counties, city regions and unitary authorities have been selected to level up local bus services through government funding. Recipients of the grant will now be working towards implementing the proposed changes that were submitted in last year’s Bus Service Improvement Plans (BSIPs).

Now more than ever there is an expectation that buses should run as efficiently as possible. Data will be required to demonstrate how services have improved and justify the government grants.

Upskill your team with industry-recognised courses

With all the newly required changes it can be difficult for LTAs to know where to begin. Upskilling the team with industry-recognised practical courses can provide a solid foundation for those who are unfamiliar with key aspects of the bus operation.

Learning to manually schedule buses and drivers with industry-trained schedulers helps in understanding what is actually involved in getting bus services out onto the road.

Covering a range of subjects, from the theory behind bus timetabling, including the creation of efficient vehicle workings and the relationship between these two disciplines; to creating cost-effective driver duties and understanding the impact they can have on vehicle workings and timetables, a working knowledge of bus timetables and their operational effectiveness is vital in ensuring the success of the network.

Increase operational efficiency with consultancy services

Many LTAs will have seen a reduction in staff levels in their public transport teams over recent years and will have faced budget cuts or budget freezes. Coupled with very tight timescales, they may struggle to meet their obligations at a critical time.

Outsourcing these services can alleviate the problem completely and deliver highly efficient results quickly and easily. Onboarding skilled and experienced consultants can fill resource gaps on an interim basis and help manage demand peaks.

Conduct network analysis for BSIP reporting

In order to identify the effectiveness of network changes, software can be implemented to monitor journey times and service levels at different times of the day.

Analysis tools can also be used to give a complete picture of the network by collecting all the data into one system and offering breakdowns of individual areas. Users can view information such as patronage trends that are formulated into graphs and charts. This drill down capability allows intuitive interrogation of the data, investigating root causes of any issues identified, and enables users to set and monitor KPIs for BSIPs.

How EPM Group can help

With over 30 years’ experience in software and consultancy services, EPM Group has a comprehensive knowledge of the bus industry and works with four of the seven PTEs in the UK as well as a range of local authorities to streamline their organisational processes. We offer a two-day Manual Scheduling course for Local Bus Services and a range of consultancy services to assist with timetabling and scheduling.

In addition, our broad, fully integrated software range covers a multitude of functions from operations through to commercial and engineering. To book a free consultation to see how we can assist with your challenges and requirements, complete the online form or call 01527 556940.

Ready to take your bus network to the next level?

Get in touch to build a tailored solution today

Local Transport Authorities: Managing a multi-operator ticketing scheme

According to the National Bus Strategy, 75% of regions currently have multi-operator ticketing schemes, however the take up of these products by the public has often been low.

A key theme of the National Bus Strategy is for LTAs to encourage multi-operator ticketing, whether that’s through the introduction of new schemes, or improving existing ones. The potential benefits are clear: increased passenger satisfaction, greater usage of bus services and scope to reduce costs and carbon emissions.

Scheme administrators will be tasked with setting up the scheme, collating operators’ data on a periodic basis and allocating revenue to operators. They will need to ensure that the sales revenue data from all sources (on-bus, ticket vending machines, travel shops, etc.) as well as passenger numbers are correct so that operators receive accurate amounts of reimbursement.

Streamline processes to increase efficiency

Most multi-operator ticketing schemes are conducted manually, which are extremely time intensive and prone to errors. Scheme administrators are reliant on operators providing manual returns, which are then processed centrally. In addition to this, the calculations that underpin operator reimbursement are usually performed through a series of spreadsheets compiled by the scheme administrator.

Due to the size and complexity of these spreadsheets, they can often become difficult to maintain, particularly with the addition of new products or operators.

Software is needed to streamline this sharing of data between operators and LTAs. Automation tools can enable the transfer of ETM data to a central database. This approach avoids the use of large complex spreadsheets and enables the administrator to analyse the data and produce reports to facilitate the distribution of revenue to operators.

Ensure operators’ payments are accurate

As well as being time-consuming, manual inputting of data can lead to inaccurate figures. There are cases of operators understating their sales returns by hundreds of thousands of pounds and as a result, they retained substantially more revenue. This had a significant impact on the other operators in the scheme, as it meant they received less than their entitlement.

Data automation prevents this from happening and ensures a greater level of accuracy, which means users can spend more time understanding and analysing the figures, instead of manually inputting data.

Software tools can obtain transactional data for all multi-operator ticket sales and usages, which in most cases removes the requirement for survey data – improving accuracy and reducing costs. For those schemes that require average fare data, software can be configured to calculate this for onward submission to the administrator.

Software can also be set up to only send the multi-operator product transactions to the administrator, providing comfort to the operator that their commercial data is not shared.

Conduct commercial analysis for BSIP reporting

Software solutions offer a complete dataset of transactions, which can be utilised to better understand patronage trends and multi-operator product development. As part of the Bus Service Improvement Plans, LTAs will need access to this data to conduct commercial analysis and demonstrate that the enhancements to multi-operator ticketing have been effective.

Undertake an independent audit to offer assurance

With all the complexities of running a multi-operator scheme, stakeholders need to be assured that participants are receiving correct payments. Independent auditors can provide this assurance by undertaking a year end audit of the scheme. This involves analysing ETM data utilising various auditing techniques to ensure that all revenue and passenger numbers can be reconciled to the operator declarations. Further audit tests are also performed on other data sources that form part of the scheme, such as travel shops and online ticket sales. Once confirmed, the internal processes and calculations are reviewed to ensure that the scheme rules have been followed and that operators have been reimbursed appropriately.

How EPM Group can help

With over 30 years’ experience in software and consultancy services, EPM Group has a comprehensive knowledge of multi-operator ticketing schemes – from streamlining operational processes, to auditing data, and acting as the scheme’s independent referee. We’ll help to ensure that all participants in the scheme get what they are due and implement processes to provide greater day-to-day assurance. To book a free consultation to see how we can assist with your challenges and requirements, complete the online form, or call 01527 556940.

Ready to take your bus network to the next level?

Get in touch to build a tailored solution today

Local Transport Authorities: Contract management for tendered bus services

The launch of the National Bus Strategy (NBS) has given Local Transport Authorities (LTAs) more control over bus services. Prior to this, operators had driven most of the decision making due to buses being largely run on a commercial basis.

There is now a bigger push, not only for commercial services, but also socially necessary services to meet the needs of local communities, and LTAs are responsible for ensuring that both services are provided.

This shift is expected to drive an increase in the number of subsidised routes and in turn, will increase the volume of services put out to tender and the workload of managing contracted services.

Streamline network processes

The increase in subsidised routes will be challenging for a lot of LTAs and particularly those who have a limited number of staff. Trying to manage the process with a manual system will be very time-consuming and is susceptible to data errors. LTAs should look to implement software to streamline this process and improve efficiency.

Software solutions can improve the efficiencies of the tender process by producing timetables that can be easily edited, and automatically transferred electronically to the contract register. This integration removes manual input, ensuring data accuracy and adding significant time savings.

As well as this, there is also functionality to automate the calculations and operator payment process by utilising actual performance and compliance data. This ensures operators receive accurate and prompt payment.

Ensure tenders are operated as planned

It’s imperative that LTAs ensure services are delivered to specification. Contract management tools give LTAs a base record which can be compared with ticket machine data to see the collected revenue and ensure services have operated in line with the contract.

Software systems can flag to the LTA if there is missing ETM data or if the route hasn’t operated as planned. The operator then has an opportunity to insert the reason why that data was missing, and this creates a full audit trail that both parties can refer to.

All of this data can be collated in one central location so users can access the information they need quickly and easily without having to check multiple systems.

Conduct commercial analysis

LTAs need to work with operators to identify and evidence the need for subsidy on routes that are no longer commercially viable but are socially or economically necessary. In order to do this, both the LTA and operator need access to systems that can breakdown the cost per mile and cost per passenger.

Software solutions can extract date from multiple systems automatically and analyse the results to see all network data in one place. Data can be broken down by day and time band and presented in a visual format using dashboards with graphs and heatmaps to give a clear network overview and help target subsidies where they are needed most.

How EPM Group can help

With over 30 years’ experience in software and consultancy services, EPM Group has a comprehensive knowledge of the bus industry and works with five of the seven PTEs in the UK as well as a range of local authorities to streamline their organisational processes. Our broad, fully integrated software range covers a multitude of functions from operations through to commercial and engineering. To book a free consultation to see how we can assist with your challenges and requirements, complete the online form or call 01527 556940.

Ready to take your bus network to the next level?

Get in touch to build a tailored solution today

Local Transport Authorities: Performance monitoring and reporting to support BSIPs

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The deadline for Local Transport Authorities (LTAs) to develop and publish their Bus Service Improvement Plans (BSIPs) is fast approaching. By 31st October 2021, LTAs will need to have sent their BSIPs to the Department for Transport (DfT), and from 1st April 2022 they will need to be delivering the Enhanced Partnerships.

The guidance states that LTAs should set targets for journey times and reliability improvements, as well as for passenger growth and customer satisfaction. Initially, progress reports are required to be published against these targets on a six-month basis to monitor performance, which means it’s imperative that LTAs have access to accurate data to ensure that KPIs are set and monitored correctly.

Sourcing baseline data for KPIs

In order to set KPIs for the BSIPS, LTAs need access to baseline data. Due to the Covid pandemic, the past 18 months of data cannot be used as an accurate reference point, which means LTAs will need to look further back at historic data in order to draw comparisons. Established software solutions will have historic data embedded within the system and users can easily access the data from weeks, months, or years prior in order to build an accurate picture of progress.

LTAs are likely to focus on specific areas of the network to improve and being able to access systems that can compare recent results with results from two years ago is key to analysing if the changes have made the desired impact.

Streamlining data sharing processes

Traditionally, LTAs have not had access to such vast amounts of data but now the National Bus Strategy is encouraging a more collaborative relationship between LTAs and operators and is insisting that processes become more transparent. Because of this, it is important that both parties use trusted providers that can help facilitate that exchange of data.

Software is needed to streamline this sharing of data between operators and LTAs. In many cases, current processes are not synchronised and require time-consuming and error-prone manual data submissions. Data automation significantly reduces administration time and ensures a level of accuracy, which means users can spend more time understanding and analysing the figures rather than uploading large volumes of data to a system.

There should also be controls around what data is shared between LTAs and operators. Both should agree together on the information that they are going to provide and use a platform that can feed in the data between systems automatically and within agreed parameters.

Data accuracy is crucial to ensure that BSIPs and the KPIs around them are set and monitored correctly. The BSIP guidance refers to ensuring data is consistent throughout, for instance, the naming of stops between ‘operator A’ and ‘operator B’ must be the same.

Utilising data to improve the network

Access to this information can help inform the network, as close examination of corridors can indicate areas which need to be improved. For example, traffic congestion in a city or town can lead to an unreliable service, so LTAs and operators will need to work together to find a solution, whether that be changing the traffic light system or adding a bus lane. After this has been implemented, operators and LTAs can use software systems to monitor if the change has had an impact on patronage and customer satisfaction levels.

There is also a flexibility within these systems that allows users to home in on certain scenarios, such as omitting specific data from the analysis if there has been a large-scale event that will have skewed the overall results. Users are then able to quantify the results, to find out exactly what the changes have cost in terms of investment, and what the benefit has been.

Network analysis for improvement planning

Analysis tools can be used to give a complete picture of the network by collecting all the data into one system and offering breakdowns of individual areas. Users are able to view information such as patronage trends that are formulated into graphs and charts. This drill down capability allows intuitive interrogation of the data, investigating root causes of any issues identified, and enables users to set and monitor KPIs for BSIPs.

Customer feedback can be collated through integrated software solutions and monitored to see where issues may have developed and why. With this data, operators and LTAs can get a better understanding of customer complaints and use it to inform the improvement plans.

How EPM Group can help

With over 30 years’ experience in software and consultancy services, EPM Group has a comprehensive knowledge of the bus industry and works with five of the seven PTEs in the UK as well as a range of local authorities to streamline their organisational processes. Our broad, fully integrated software range covers a multitude of functions from operations through to commercial and engineering. To book a free consultation to see how we can assist with your challenges and requirements, complete the online form or call 01527 556940.

Ready to take your bus network to the next level?

Get in touch to build a tailored solution today

Local Transport Authorities: Network planning to attract new passengers

The National Bus Strategy (NBS) sets out a vision to improve bus services with the principal aim of encouraging more people to use buses, which means the traditional approach of network planning is going to change.

Previously operators have driven most of the decision making due to buses being largely run on a commercial basis and have had full control in terms of the services they run, which communities they serve, the frequency of services, and the times of day they operate. Now, Local Transport Authorities (LTAs) will have more control over bus services and there will be a bigger push, not only for commercial services, but also economically necessary funded services to meet the needs of local communities.

LTAs and operators have a responsibility to work more collaboratively in order to provide an integrated and efficient service for customers. The majority of LTAs have opted for Enhanced Partnerships over Franchising; working closely with operators to improve the network instead of having full control over bus services. Partnerships already operate very successfully, with examples in Nottingham, Brighton, and the West Midlands delivering passenger growth and high levels of customer satisfaction.

LTAs are required to set Bus Service Improvement Plans (BSIPs) which they will then closely monitor in order to receive grant funding. The majority of operators in the region must agree to the BSIPs and ensure that they consistently follow the points laid out in the plan to receive BSOG payments.

Utilising data to improve the network

The NBS is encouraging a more open sharing of data between LTAs and operators and insisting that processes become more transparent, which requires a level of trust from both parties. Previously operators will have only had to share data from contracted services, but now the LTAs require data from commercial services: such as patronage, revenue, and customer feedback.

This shared information can be used to inform the structure of the network. For example, an increase in bus lanes and traffic priority measures will speed up journey times, which means fewer buses are needed to run on that particular route, giving them the opportunity to be utilised elsewhere. This can also lead to a reduction in the cost to run the service, which in turn can be passed on to passengers in the form of lower fares. Faster journey times and lower fares will also help to encourage more people to use the bus.

In order to monitor the progress of BSIPs, LTAs need access to data to see whether or not the goals are being achieved and to see if they have made an improvement to service and patronage levels. These results are also required to be published under the funding terms, which means it is important to get accurate figures.

Software solutions can be implemented to monitor route performance to assess how successful a route is, and customer feedback can be collated and tracked to see where issues may have developed and why. Analysis tools can also be utilised to give a complete picture of the network by collating all the data into one system and offering breakdowns of individual areas. Users are able to view information such as patronage trends that are formulated into graphs and charts. This drill down capability provides intuitive interrogation of the data, investigating the root causes of any identified issues.

Coordinating services to streamline the network

A key point of the NBS is to simplify services for customers so that they feel more encouraged to use buses, whether that’s with multi-operator ticketing which enables the customer to use a variety of buses from different operators, or by implementing a more streamlined service.

The NBS encourages operators to work with LTAs to harmonise route numbers to improve the passenger experience. So instead of having two buses that serve different parts of the city but have the same service number, this would then change to two different numbered buses.

LTAs should plan an integrated transport network whereby other modes of transport, such as trains and trams are coordinated with bus services and arrive and depart at a suitable time so passengers can avoid waiting for long periods. Bus timetables should also be coordinated so different operators do not run buses at the same time, which will stop a duplication of effort and cut down on costs.

As well as streamlining the operational side, operator branding can be replaced with route branding to simplify the service. Software solutions can easily merge different operators’ timetables together and create a customised stop display that incorporates the route’s branding, making it easier for customers to know that they are getting on the right bus.

Improving process efficiencies

In many cases, processes between LTAs and operators are not synchronised and require time-consuming and error-prone manual duplication of data entry. Tools are available for mapping, timetabling, and scheduling, that can gather all the information from operators and consolidate this data into a single, combined view of operated routes which LTAs can then use to produce timetables for the whole network. Operators can then use tools that enable rapid scenario modelling to test for ‘what if’ scenarios and find the best way to service that route.

By using integrated software solutions, LTAs can transfer timetables into contract registers and operators can import the information and work out how to make the service more efficient, such as moving journey times to cut down on costs. They can then feed this information back to LTAs and share ideas without losing data integrity.

Historically this data has been exchanged over paper, pdf, email or excel and this format has had to be rekeyed into the operator’s or LTA’s systems, which is very time consuming and can lead to errors. Ideally, planning data should be shared via TransXChange files which should be used as a standard format across LTAs and operators, regardless of the different systems used. This will allow for a more efficient sharing of data as the operator can then import that file straight into their scheduling system.

How EPM Group can help

With over 30 years’ experience in software and consultancy services, EPM Group has a comprehensive knowledge of the bus industry and works with five out of the seven PTEs in the UK as well as a range of local authorities to streamline their organisational processes. Our broad, fully integrated software range covers a multitude of functions from operations through to commercial and engineering. To book a free consultation to see how we can assist with your challenges and requirements, complete the online form or call 01527 556940.

Ready to take your bus network to the next level?

Get in touch to build a tailored solution today