17 January 2023 – 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.
In a live webinar delivered on 17th January in conjunction with the CILT UK, Software Director Nick Brookes and Product Owner Aiden Proctor discuss 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
18 January 2023 – Newport Transport is expanding its partnership with Omnibus by moving its existing software to the cloud to increase efficiency.
The operator will migrate its timetabling, mapping, scheduling, rostering and timetable publicity software to a cloud-based scheduling platform, and upgrade its depot allocation system, OmniDAS, to a cloud-native version of the solution.
The cloud scheduling platform allows for seamless collaboration on jobs, increases accuracy with automatic file management and provides operators with a clear picture of their operation through enhanced reporting capabilities.
OmniDAS cloud provides operators with a holistic view of their operations with real-time driver and vehicle management control to enable services to be delivered safely and legally whilst minimising costs.
The cloud solutions will eliminate infrastructure costs and together provide the capabilities Newport Transport needs to streamline processes on a secure and flexible platform.
Morgan Stevens, Director of Delivery (Commercial) at Newport Transport, said “The modernisation of our processes is key to providing reliable bus services more efficiently, and we look forward to achieving this using software solutions we already know and trust.”
The operator serves nearly 8 million customers every year and is the main provider of bus services in Newport. The operator, which has been in operation since 1901, runs nearly 50 services throughout the city, including routes to Cardiff, Cwmbran, Chepstow and Monmouth. It also operates the Chepstow to Bristol service with dedicated TrawsCymru buses and drivers.
Mr Stevens added: “Omnibus has in-depth knowledge of the passenger transport market and has proven experience in cloud-deployed solutions. We are confident Omnibus will enable us to continue streamlining business processes with solutions that support our growth plans.”
Peter Crichton, Founder of Omnibus, said: “We are proud to continue and build on our relationship with Newport Transport providing them with solutions that will further increase their efficiency and help streamline their processes. We are committed to delivering innovative solutions which support operators’ long-term goals and enable them to overcome their challenges.”
5 January 2023 – 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:
19 December 2022 – Passengers are being encouraged to get around for £2 by bus from January to March next year, with bus operators launching a campaign to promote the government fare cap scheme today.
The scheme is designed to help passengers save money this winter, backed by £60 million of government investment to cap single tickets at £2 from 1 January to 31 March 2023 across England, outside of London.
The government has confirmed over 130 bus operators, such as National Express and Stagecoach, managing routes from the north to the south of England will charge no more than £2 for their single tickets.
Buses Minister Richard Holden said: “We’re investing £60 million to cap single bus fares at £2 to help families, students and commuters and help get people back on the bus. The scheme will also take 2 million car journeys off the road and it’s fantastic to see so many bus operators signing up.”
Bus fares vary across different parts of the country and between bus operators, and the government says the cap is an important step in ensuring passengers across the country are getting a fair deal.
The Founder of Omnibus, Peter Crichton, has been recognised for his outstanding contribution to passenger transport at the UK Bus Awards 2022 – describing it as one of the proudest days of his life.
Peter is the gold winner of the Services to the Bus Industry Award in recognition of his revolutionary timetabling and scheduling software which transformed the scheduling process in the 1990s and the innovative solutions Omnibus continues to develop to support the industry.
The prestigious national awards scheme celebrates the successes and dedication of those who work in the sector. The ceremony took place in London on 15 November.
“I am humbled and honoured to receive this award,” says Peter. “This is one of the proudest days of my life. It is great to be part of a brilliant industry.”
Peter established Omnibus in 1990 with the aim of helping schedulers to easily produce efficient and workable schedules.
“Development of the timetable and scheduling software started in the mid-1980s, but it was whilst working at Shearings as Traffic Manager (Buses) that I further developed OmniTIMES and OmniBASE,” says Peter.
“After being made redundant, I joined Meridian, and part of my role was to liaise with operators on the planned depot allocation software. The operators weren’t too interested in that software, but a lot did express a need for scheduling software.
“After I left Meridian, I was free to contact those operators, and some became customers. It was around this time that I got a call from Mark Savelli who had started working for Citybus in Hong Kong, and this eventually led to them being my first overseas customer.”
Since then, Omnibus has grown to be one of the best known and highly respected suppliers of planning software in the UK and internationally. Its success, says Peter, is down to having a deep understanding of the passenger transport industry.
He explains: “As a scheduler, Omnibus software has been developed with a deep knowledge and understanding of the scheduling process. You can’t get this built-in knowledge in other scheduling software.
“Our approach was to make the software fit around the way the scheduler worked, and not make the scheduler fit around the computer program. My view was that the computer should take away the drudgery out of the scheduling process, not add to it.”
John Crichton with black and white images taken from his days at the Queens Road bus depot
Peter developed his knowledge of the bus industry from an early age. His dad, John, was a bus conductor at the Queens Road bus depot in Manchester and Peter would often visit the depot with him on pay day.
Peter says: “From an early age I was fascinated seeing the depot full of red buses and I developed an interest in the services and the routes they took. Though my English Teacher may have thought I was a little obsessed as he made a comment on a report, ‘Pity Peter’s essays are all about buses’. Then, as a teenager, I would go bus spotting with my friends Paul Wreghitt and Jon Brierley.”
Both Paul and Jon later joined Omnibus as a software developer and timetables/publicity expert respectively, and today form part of a growing team, many of whom have a background in passenger transport.
Peter continues: “I applied to be a Computer Systems Analyst Trainee with Greater Manchester Transport, but as I showed an interest in buses, I was asked if I was interested in applying to be a Traffic Trainee, which was trainee scheduler, the job I really wanted.
“I was interviewed by Jim Hulme, who developed the manual scheduling course which Omnibus now offers. During the interview Jim said, ‘I’m a bit worried you’ve got an interest in buses, it might get in the way of your work because it does with some people.’ It later transpired that he’s a bigger bus enthusiast than me.”
Peter got his dream job and started work on 16th October 1978. In 1981 as a reward for working hard on some major schedules his boss, Colin Reeve, put him through the bus driving school. “Once I got my licence to drive, I would often be called upon to work an evening or weekend duty,” says Peter. “I absolutely loved it and couldn’t believe I was being paid to drive buses.”
John Crichton at the Queens Road depot on 9 May 2022
Today, Peter still drives buses – his own. He is the proud owner of London Routemaster RM1152, inherited from a friend, and Manchester City Transport Leyland Titan 3706 which is steeped in memories. “When the Manchester bus came up for sale, I had to buy it. My dad had been conductor on it, and I caught it several times going to school.”
Peter is not the only person in the family to receive recognition. Go North West organised a special day for John Crichton at their Queens Road depot on 9 May this year, exactly 60 years to the day when he started his career as a trainee conductor in 1962.
Peter says his dad, now aged 86, was lost for words; as was Peter on the day he received his prestigious award.
12 October 2022 – Compass Travel (Sussex) Ltd, the largest independent bus operator in the South East, has selected a package of Omnibus software solutions to improve operational efficiency, including cloud-based scheduling and depot allocation.
The cloud solutions will provide the Worthing-based operator with seamless collaboration on schedules, real-time driver and vehicle management for faster handling of disruption events whilst minimising costs, and enhanced reporting capabilities to improve service quality.
Michael Bishop, General Manager at Compass Travel, said: “Having considered other options, Omnibus software solutions offered the most comprehensive and flexible capabilities to support our operation. Since the acquisition of Omnibus by EPM Group and ongoing investment, there is a great choice of solutions and synergy between the two companies to drive innovation, collaboration, agility and efficiencies.”
Compass will migrate its existing Omnibus software (timetabling, vehicle scheduling and rostering) to the cloud scheduling platform and introduce OmniMAP, a digital mapping solution developed specifically for bus operators and transport authorities.
To reduce the administrative burden on allocators, the operator will digitalise manual allocations processes by adopting OmniDAS, a cloud-native real-time depot allocation system. OmniDAS provides users with more control to efficiently allocate and manage resources, produce timesheet and payroll information, and automate sign-on.
Linked to OmniDAS, Compass will implement driver app OmniENGAGE to automate driver requests and enquiries and streamline communication between allocators and drivers. It will also adopt data sharing solution BODS Exporter to ensure that compliant transport data is submitted downstream.
Michael, who also sits on ALBUM’s (The Association of Local Bus Company Managers) board of directors, said: “Having shared values, we are proud to extend our partnership with Omnibus. Its solutions are built on a deep appreciation for passenger transport operators of all sizes.
“Moving our existing scheduling software to the cloud and implementing new solutions will help us work efficiently and provide unprecedented levels of transparency and accountability across the business.
“With OmniDAS, our allocators will gain capability to work holistically across our Lewes, Worthing and Dunsfold depots and report on them individually and as a collective. The driver app will support staff retention by improving communication with drivers and providing them with an easier way to submit holiday requests, shift swaps and overtime requests.”
Peter Crichton, Founder of Omnibus, said: “Omnibus is delighted to further expand its relationship with Compass Travel in offering cloud-based scheduling and depot allocation along with a data sharing solution.
“Operators need to be agile to react to the changes in passenger demand and require a deep understanding of the data relating to their operation in order to achieve their business goals. With our in-depth knowledge of the industry and proven ability to provide robust solutions, Omnibus is well positioned to support operators with their challenges.”
At a time when driver recruitment and retention arethe biggestchallenges across the transport sector,bus operators shouldconsider how they can make their organisation a place where people want to work.
One such area is the process for managing driverholidayrequests.
It can be quite frustrating for a driver, who at the end of their working day needs to speak to someone about a holiday request, only to find that person is unavailable or busy seeing to other drivers. It is possible for the driver to have a clear and easy way of requesting leave that does not affect their own time, such as a driver app which can be used remotely and independently when convenient.
Other options that make managing the driver’s work-life balance easier can also be available. For instance, it can be easy to swap a shift for a more suitable start or finish time or know where they might be at a given time on a given date in the future. Having easy access to duties weeks in advance and the content of those duties empowers your drivers with better management of their own time.
The benefits go beyond the time saved discussing leave or swaps with the person responsible for driver allocation; the quality of information is vastly improved, and it differentiates your organisation to current and potential employees.
Drivers who want to volunteer for overtime can also be accommodated. They do not have to scan the noticeboard after each shift or burden the allocator; they too can request overtime at their convenience or even just let the allocator know they are available.
If a driver can do all this at any time, it adds an element of fairness. The driver does not miss an opportunity to request holiday just because they could not get into the office and the overtime does not always go to the person who is in the canteen at the right time. If overtime is available through a driver app, it is available to all your drivers at the same time in the same place.
Driver requests are a time drain and fraught with inaccuracies when done manually. By leveraging technology, you can make the process a positive experience where staff are encouraged to take the appropriate leave and come back recharged, refocused and recuperated.
Drivers need support to help manage their home life around varying shift patterns and you need an efficient and fair process which makes the depot allocator’s life easier, whilst improving the level of control and accuracy of information.
Coming soon – In part 2 of our series on driver communication, we consider how you can ensure your staff are kept in the loop about operational and business decisions.
How we can help
Part of the EPM Group, Omnibus has over 30 years’ experience in software and consultancy services and has comprehensive knowledge of the passenger transport industry and well-established software solutions to meet your challenges.
Our driver app OmniENGAGE enables operators to stay connected with drivers whilst reducing administration to your operations team remain focussed on service provision.
To book a free consultation to see how we can assist with your challenges and requirements, complete the online form or call 0161 683 3100.
Empowering you with software to drive your business forward
23 September 2022 – Transdev Blazefield is rolling out Omnibus’ cloud-native depot allocation solution to its bus operations in the north of England after successfully using the software at Team Pennine.
OmniDAS, a complete depot allocation system for real-time driver and vehicle management, will support the group to increase flexibility and efficiency of multi-depot working and reduce operational costs.
Vitto Pizzuti, Operations Director at Transdev Blazefield, said: “We needed visibility of all depots individually and collectively to improve efficiency and manage resourcing issues such as driver shortages.
“Cloud-native OmniDAS will provide the flexibility to analyse and drill down into the data of all depots, giving full transparency of all our driver and vehicle resources across the entire operation and comply with legal requirements as well as company policies and procedures.
“Also, working from one centralised system ensures consistent processes and data integrity.”
Part of Transdev’s UK business, Transdev Blazefield is based in Harrogate and has 9 subsidiaries operating from 10 centres. They include: Coastliner (Malton & York), York & Country (York) and The Harrogate Bus Company (Harrogate) in North Yorkshire; Flyer (Bradford), The Keighley Bus Company (Keighley) and Team Pennine (Halifax and Huddersfield) in West Yorkshire; and The Burnley Bus Company (Burnley), Rosso (Rochdale, Burnley & Blackburn) and The Blackburn Bus Company (Blackburn) in Lancashire and Greater Manchester.
OmniDAS cloud is due to be rolled out at Harrogate with implementation at other depots to follow. The decision to upgrade from the legacy product comes after the successful implementation of OmniDAS cloud at the group’s newest subsidiary, Team Pennine, which was using a competitor’s product prior to the acquisition in July 2021.
Vitto said: “Proven in operation at Team Pennine, OmniDAS brings the established functionality of the legacy system with enhanced reporting capabilities and can be accessed from anywhere.”
Peter Crichton, Founder of Omnibus, said: “We are delighted to strengthen our relationship with Transdev Blazefield. OmniDAS will allow Transdev to spend more time on service provision without having to worry about time-consuming administration.”
Bus operators have invested in multiple control room software systems from depot allocation to incident management in order to run a smooth operation.
To maintain operational efficiency, they need to work in harmony as often an action or data point in one system has an impact in another.
But without integration this can lead to double entry of data, which is an inefficient use of time and can lead to inaccurate data. Also, the team can make poor service decisions if all the relevant information is not easily accessible to them.
Control room teams and engineers rely on each other for information. The engineer needs to know when a vehicle has broken down, what to expect when attending or dealing with a breakdown and if a driver has reported a vehicle fault. In most instances, the engineer only discovers a vehicle problem when they receive a message from the operations team, and this does not always include all the key information they require to efficiently deal with the problem.
The depot controller needs support from the engineering team to keep the service running by providing the required vehicles. They need to know when a vehicle is available after being worked on by the engineering team. The receipt of this information can be slow, and this results in a delayed resolution to a time-critical problem.
Communication between controllers and engineers can be poor or slow due to several reasons. The control room and engineers are often based in different parts of the site and can be completely remote from each other. But more importantly, both functions use different software tools, so email and phone calls are the current means of communicating and sharing data.
What is the solution?
An operator’s engineering teams use a range of software solutions and providers to manage vehicle maintenance, inventory and costs. Integrating these third-party solutions with your vehicle allocation and incident management systems can improve operational efficiency by automating data flows.
For the engineer, this means that when the depot controller records a vehicle defect, the data is automatically populated in the system with the relevant incident categorisation against the correct vehicle. Time is saved as there is no need to enter the data manually; the system is updated automatically as soon as the driver reports the incident to the operations team.
For the depot controller this means that when a vehicle is taken off the road for maintenance it is automatically marked as not available for allocation. Similarly, when it is released by the engineering team using their software system, the vehicle immediately appears as available in the depot allocation system. The controller does not waste time chasing the engineer on the vehicle’s status.
The controller can also supply details of vehicle incidents, with details of the bus and any defects, straight to the engineering team. This saves valuable time as there is no need to rewrite the information in an email or relay it over the phone. Furthermore, the controller does not need to then mark a vehicle as unavailable in the allocation system because that is updated automatically as soon as the engineer takes it off the road. A double timesaving for the operator!
How we can help
With over 30 years’ experience in software and consultancy services, EPM Group has comprehensive knowledge of the passenger transport industry and well-established software solutions.
We offer an end-to-end solution. For engineers and depot controllers, we can integrate with engineering software solutions to improve your operational efficiency by automating communication and data transfer. As soon as an incident occurs, it can be logged through the Bus Incident Reporting Screen (BIRS) in the EPM Traffic system and reported to engineering. Engineering can quickly process the issue and make the vehicle unavailable, and this is then automatically updated in OmniDAS.
To book a free consultation to see how we can assist with your challenges and requirements, complete the online form or call 0161 683 3100.
Powering the future of your bus operations
Grow patronage, boost revenue, and drive operational efficiency.