Author: Neil Miles

Halton Borough Council improves roadside bus stop publicity with Omnibus

Halton improves with Omnibus. Aerial shot of Halton. There are no people in this photo.

10 April 2024 – Halton Borough Council is improving the customer experience with Omnibus timetable publicity solution, OmniSTOPdesign.

OmniSTOPdesign allows users to provide stop-specific displays at bus stops, providing passengers with access to real-time timetable information. The solution offers user-configurable templates, has an in-built database to store case information and simplifies output, reducing the time and expense of creating bespoke displays.

Halton improves with Omnibus. Aerial shot of Halton. There are no people in this photo.

The unitary authority has also implemented the TransXChange Importer software to remove the need to enter data manually into its Omnibus timetabling solution (OmniTIMES).

Tony Barker, Network Development Officer at Halton Borough Council, said: “With OmniSTOPdesign we can create high quality roadside publicity in various styles, sizes and formats. The universal implementation of stop-specific QR codes at all bus stops has improved the customer experience and enabled passengers to more easily plan journeys.”

 

Nick Brookes, Software Director at EPM and Omnibus, said: “We are proud to extend our relationship with Halton Borough Council and deliver capabilities that will enhance efficiency, flexibility and data integrity.  Our publishing software has been developed to seamlessly import timetable data from third-party timetabling systems, not just OmniTIMES, ensuring we meet our customers’ individual requirements.” 

 

 

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Halton Borough Council: Halton Borough Council
Omnibus Solutions: www.omnibus.solutions

Press contact at Omnibus and EPM:
Harminder Sangha
harminder.sangha@epm-bus.com
07538 935 568

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

ebook – the bus control room reimagined

Bus operators need to deliver a high-quality service to increase patronage and revenue. At the same time, operators must work as efficiently as possible to keep costs down.  

The control room is key to a profitable bus operation. It keeps services running smoothly every day and directs critical decisions which can make or break a service.  

ebook – the bus control room reimagined
ebook – the bus control room reimagined

However, control room teams are having to key in and access data using disparate systems on multiple screens which makes it hard to resolve problems efficiently. It is also difficult for planning and commercial teams to see the big picture without a consolidated view of the data.  

This 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. 

Complete the form to download the ebook:

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North Northamptonshire Council selects Omnibus cloud-based solution

North Northamptonshire Council selects Omnibus cloud-based solution

27 February 2024 – North Northamptonshire Council has partnered with Omnibus, opting to manage its timetables, NaPTAN database, roadside infrastructure and data exports through a cloud-based solution. 

The solution will include the OmniTIMES, OmniMAP, OmniFLAG and TransXChange (TXC) Tools software, providing enhanced data security, improving flexibility and collaboration, and reducing infrastructure costs. 

North Northamptonshire Council selects Omnibus cloud-based solution

Elise Northfield, Public Transport Officer at North Northamptonshire Council, said: “We are excited to partner with Omnibus. We wanted a partner with an established track record of delivering innovative solutions to local authorities, and one with the resources to meet all our expectations. 

“With all the solutions accessed via the cloud our teams can easily collaborate on tasks and share accurate data downstream, all of which will save valuable time and cost.” 

OmniTIMES gives users one source of truth for importing, designing, editing and storing timetables in one central repository. OmniMAP allows for routes to be plotted, including all bus stops, with accurate distance calculations, and this mileage information can then be used to work out costs. 

OmniFLAG provides a single source of bus stop information for use in timetables, publicity and journey planning, and comes preloaded with existing NaPTAN data to save time and money. It also includes a comprehensive infrastructure asset management database for recording and monitoring bus stops and associated equipment.   

The TXC Tools allow transport authorities to easily view, import and share files with operators and downstream systems. 

Omnibus Founder, Peter CrichtonPeter Crichton, Founder of Omnibus, said: “We are pleased to partner with North Northamptonshire Council and provide a proven cloud-based solution that will deliver immense value and support a wide range of improvements to work processes and reduce costs.” 

 

 

 

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North Northamptonshire Council: northnorthants.gov.uk
Omnibus Solutions: www.omnibus.solutions

Press contact
Harminder Sangha
harminder.sangha@epm-bus.com
07538 935 568

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Tower Transit to improve access to bus services with Omnibus GTFS Exporter

Tower Transit to improve access to bus services with Omnibus GTFS Exporter

22 February 2024 – Tower Transit will improve access to its bus services in the Channel Islands using Omnibus’ GTFS (General Transit Feed Specification) Exporter.

The GTFS Exporter will take scheduled service information from the operator’s cloud-based Omnibus scheduling suite and create all the data structures and formatting required for a compliant data export. This export can be used to feed downstream systems such as journey planners and information displays that inform customers of bus times.

Tower Transit to improve access to bus services with Omnibus GTFS Exporter

Omnibus has vast experience in designing interfaces to external systems, having developed data sharing solutions to meet various standards set around the world, such as TransXChange (TXC) for the UK, VDV for Europe and TODIS for Australia.

Sam Greaves, Commercial Manager at Tower Transit, said: “It is crucial for Tower Transit to stay ahead in the evolving landscape of passenger transport. The GTFS Exporter will ensure Tower Transit can easily and accurately get fixed route service information into the hands of customers using our LibertyBus (Jersey) and buses.gg (Guernsey) brands in the Channel Islands.”

Peter Crichton, Founder of Omnibus, said: “Structuring data in the expected format within a data export file is an overwhelming task. To make this process faster and easier, our timetabling solution (OmniTIMES) automatically does this in the background. This allows users to keep their focus on writing timetables and plotting the routes, and our exporter modules do all the heavy lifting of creating compliant exports.”

 

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Tower Transit: www.towertransit.co.uk/
Omnibus Solutions: www.omnibus.solutions

Press contact
Harminder Sangha
harminder.sangha@epm-bus.com
07538 935 568

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Peter Crichton – Buses in the blood

RM1152 bus owned by Peter Crichton

Jonathan Welch chats to Omnibus founder Peter Crichton about his passion for the industry.

Monday 16 October 1978 was a very important day for a gentleman by the name of Karol Józef Wojtyła. It was the day Karol Józef, also known as Cardinal Wojtyła, then aged 58 and Archbishop of Krakow, was elected Pope, taking the more familiar name John Paul II in honour of the late John Paul I.

RM1152 bus owned by Peter Crichton
Peter inherited RM 1152 from a close friend.

Meanwhile, in the altogether more gritty environs of north west England, Monday 16 October 1978 was the day that a young northerner by the name of Peter Crichton embarked on what was to become a lifelong career in the bus industry.

Peter’s career trajectory could have been very different, had he succeeded in one of his other ambitions as a school leaver, which was to join the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company. As it was, that October day saw him start down a path involving a very different kind of ‘oily cart’ as he arrived for his first day as a Traffic Trainee, a trainee scheduler with Greater Manchester PTE.

Ominbus Founder, Peter Crichton

Having gone on to found Omnibus with the aim of helping schedulers to produce workable timetables more efficiently and effectively, and devoted his working life to the transport industry, it was no surprise that Peter was presented with a Gold Award for Services to the Bus Industry at the 2022 UK Bus Awards.

Having founded Omnibus in 1989, Peter remains in a Director’s role part time, though as I found out when we sat down for a virtual chat, his schedule remains a full one. “I don’t know how I had time to go to work,” he said, having taken a break from building (I daren’t say playing with!) his O gauge model railway in between rehearsals for a production of the classic Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera HMS Pinafore with, appropriately, the Bus Pass Opera Company at the Gilbert and Sullivan Festival in Buxton.

Read the full article in Coach and Bus Week (a subscription is required).

Read our post: Omnibus Founder Peter Crichton reflects on his career after winning UK Bus Award

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Lincolnshire County Council selects Omnibus cloud solution to improve data quality

Mablethorpe, Lincolnshire, UK. August 10, 2016. The High Street on a August summer day at Mablethorpe.

12 December 2023 – Lincolnshire County Council will migrate its Omnibus software to the cloud to improve operational efficiency, data quality and team collaboration across sites.

Its timetabling, mapping, timetable publicity, and data sharing and management solutions will be accessible through a cloud-based platform to minimise infrastructure requirements.

Mablethorpe, Lincolnshire, UK. August 10, 2016. The High Street on a August summer day at Mablethorpe.

The move will also enable continuous software updates, simplify remote access, facilitate collaboration, provide a centralised data repository for analysis and continue to provide integration with downstream systems.

Investing in proven cloud-driven technology will allow Lincolnshire County Council to work more efficiently and improve bus services to help better connect their communities and make Lincolnshire a more prosperous and attractive place for people to live, work and play.

 

Omnibus Founder, Peter Crichton

Peter Crichton, Founder of Omnibus, said: “I am pleased that the functionality of our cloud solution will bring a wealth of benefits to help ensure that passenger transport continues to play a fundamental role in ensuring Lincolnshire County Council achieves its goals for the county.

“We have extensive experience of implementing our systems into Local Transport Authorities. Comprehensive training will be provided, and assistance given in configuring the system parameters to accurately reflect Lincolnshire County Council’s operating practices.”

 

 

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Lincolnshire County Council: www.lincolnshire.gov.uk

Omnibus Solutions: www.omnibus.solutions

Press contact
Harminder Sangha
harminder.sangha@epm-bus.com
07538 935 568

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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

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CT4N to control operating costs with Omnibus automatic crew scheduling solution

image shows a blue and white bus at a bus stop.

30 October 2023 – CT4N Charitable Trust, based in Nottingham, will add automatic crew scheduling system, CrewPLAN, for controlling operational costs to its suite of Omnibus cloud solutions. 

The operator needs to achieve efficiencies to its challenging crew duty process, currently done manually. With CrewPLAN, CT4N will significantly reduce the time to produce efficient and compliant driver duties and have tighter control over costs.

image shows a blue and white bus at a bus stop.

The upgrade will provide greater computing power to drive operational efficiency and reduce costs on a secure, reliable and resilient platform. 

CrewPLAN uses advanced algorithms to automatically generate a set of drivers’ duties for a network, taking account of user-controlled parameters and allowing variations in the labour agreement rules. Elements, such as route content within duties, can be controlled and undesirable duty types minimised, enabling CT4N to create efficient schedules which are practical in operation.

Nigel Eggleton, CT4NNigel Eggleton, Commercial Director at CT4N, which recently selected Omnibus cloud solutions for scheduling and depot allocation, said: “Investing in the right digital solutions allows CT4N to tackle today’s challenges head-on and lay a solid foundation for the future growth of the charity. 

“By swapping out inefficient processes with CrewPLAN, we can reduce workloads, accomplish more with our resources by minimising costs and provide management greater visibility and transparency of operations.”

Peter Crichton, Founder of Omnibus, said: “We are delighted to extend our relationship with CT4N, and I’m pleased to be working with Nigel again. Like all our solutions, years of internal and external industry knowledge and expertise is built into CrewPLAN, and this will keep continuing, making it an essential planning tool for producing robust and efficient crew duty schedules and evaluating “what if?” scenarios.”

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CT4N: www.ct4n.co.uk
Omnibus Solutions: www.omnibus.solutions

Press contact
Harminder Sangha
harminder.sangha@epm-bus.com
07538 935 568

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The importance of accurate scheduling to driver retention rates

The importance of accurate scheduling to driver retention rates - Peter Crichton, Omnibus Founder

Many factors contribute to driver retention, one is fair duty and rota composition, writes Omnibus Founder Peter Crichton.

With the need to retain staff, it is important to ensure that duties are driver friendly.

That does not necessarily mean that they will be inefficient, but that the bus workings, crew duties and rotas are realistic and operable.

The importance of accurate scheduling to driver retention rates - Peter Crichton, Omnibus Founder

How to achieve this?

I have always held the view that you need properly trained schedulers, who understand the basics of manual scheduling. I can hear people say: “Why do we need to train schedulers when we have a computerised scheduling system?”

This is a view that I have heard many times over the years, and more so recently. But you need to make sure that the data, parameters, and agreements are entered accurately and adhered to, and that needs a fundamental knowledge of scheduling.

My response would be: “Would you let anyone untrained use accountancy software to do your year-end profit and loss accounts?” I think I know what the answer to that might be! So why would you put someone with no basic knowledge of scheduling in control of 40% of your costs and the wellbeing of your drivers?

This basic knowledge allows the scheduler to accurately enter the data to produce an efficient schedule, and make sure that what is generated adheres to these requirements with all work covered correctly, including any additional requirements such as walk times, depot trips, and minimum join-up times.

If these important items are missed, the efficiency of duties will be inaccurate, and you also do not want to risk upsetting your drivers by missing off pieces of work.

The importance of manual scheduling training

I always insisted that every member of the Omnibus team attended Jim Hulme’s TransACT manual scheduling training course. When Jim retired, Omnibus took over the course to make sure that this knowledge continues to be passed on. The course continues to this day, and it proves to be very popular.

With a firm understanding of manual scheduling, a scheduler will know what is achievable with regard to the number of bus and crew duties, and their associated costs, and will be able to benchmark the computer’s output to make sure that it is in line with what they expect.

They will also have the skills to fine-tune the generated schedule to better suit agreements, and even make it more driver friendly.

The next stage of the scheduling process is compiling the rotas. Again, a trained scheduler will be able to make sure that all agreements are correctly adhered to, and where possible, place duties in such a way as to produce rotas that are not only efficient, but, as much as possible, driver friendly.

A computer can produce automatic rotas, but they need to be checked, and sometimes fine-tuned to better suit agreements.

Drivers are unique

Not all drivers want the same thing to achieve their work-life balance. For example, when I drove buses at Hyde Road depot in Manchester in the late-1980s, a ‘one late a week’ rota was introduced.

It did not suit me, because I preferred a similar duty all week, but it suited others. So it could be better to have rotas that may be a little less efficient, but more driver friendly and suit the various lifestyle needs, which in the long run may help to cut staff turnover and all its associated costs.

So in conclusion, having efficient but realistic duties and rotas is necessary to help reduce staff turnover – and I would argue that a skilled scheduler is vitally important to help achieve that.

This article originally appeared in routeone magazine.

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Blackpool Transport streamlining processes with Omnibus’ complete cloud solution

James Clough, Blackpool Transport, which will implement Omnibus' cloud solution

12 October 2023 – Blackpool Transport will improve and streamline processes by moving its Omnibus scheduling and depot allocation software to the cloud solution.

The upgrade to the cloud solution will provide greater computing power to drive operational efficiency and reduce costs on a secure, reliable and resilient platform.

James Clough, Blackpool Transport, which will implement Omnibus' cloud solution

The scheduling suite will allow seamless collaboration on timetabling, mapping, vehicle scheduling, crew scheduling, rostering, timetable publicity and data sharing, and improved file management.

Depot allocation solution, OmniDAS, will provide complete visibility of all driver and vehicle resources from one central platform, which can integrate with other control room systems to increase productivity by removing duplicate tasks.

New driver app, OmniENGAGE, will also be implemented to improve driver communication and reduce administration around shift swaps and holiday and overtime requests.

James Clough, Commercial & Finance Director at Blackpool Transport, said: “Our goal is to provide first-class tram and bus services to Blackpool using dynamic solutions designed with the UK bus industry in mind.

“Omnibus has been an important partner for us for many years. By deepening our collaboration, we will benefit from even better resources than before. We will be better placed to improve service levels and ensure that our systems continue to meet the needs of our customers and teams in an ever-changing operating environment.”

Peter Crichton, Founder of Omnibus, said: “We are delighted to support Blackpool Transport with our full cloud solution. Our cloud applications meet the latest internet security standards, and we manage all updates centrally, so customers always have the most up-to-date version of our applications.

“We have a proud track record of delivering innovative solutions for operators of all sizes. Our combination of software, data, consultancy, insight and expertise mean we are uniquely placed to ensure operators can address their business challenges and grasp the opportunities for tomorrow.”

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Blackpool Transport: www.blackpooltransport.com

Omnibus Solutions: www.omnibus.solutions

Press contact
Harminder Sangha
harminder.sangha@epm-bus.com
07538 935 568

Empowering you with software to drive your business forward

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