Category: Case Studies

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:

Powering the future of your bus operations

Grow patronage, boost revenue, and drive operational efficiency.

Go South Coast accelerates production of bus stop publicity with Omnibus

Go South Coast bus stop publicity

Go South Coast, a subsidiary of the Go-Ahead Group, needed more control and flexibility over bus stop publicity displays. The operator is one of the largest and most diverse passenger transport companies in the UK, managing approximately 10,000 at-stop displays across its 6 bus businesses covering Dorset, Wiltshire, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

To reduce demand on the design and commercial teams, the operator turned to existing partner Omnibus for a userconfigurable solution with capability to accelerate the production of roadside publicity. The PDF output needed to be accurate, well-presented and reflect each business’s locally branded buses.

Go South Coast bus stop publicity
Go South Coast roadside publicity developed using the OmniSTOPdesign solution

Well-designed print-ready files

Omnibus implemented OmniSTOPdesign, the sophisticated publishing solution simplifying the creation of bus stop information displays. Southern Vectis was the first Go South Coast business to implement the solution in 2019. Following a smooth transition OmniSTOPdesign was rolled out to Morebus, Blue Star and Salisbury Reds in 2021, and Swindon’s Bus Company and Damory in 2022. 

Go South Coast now employs just one member of the commercial team to create bus stop publicity for all 6 brands. Proofreading the information takes less time as data is taken directly from the operator’s timetabling solution (OmniTIMES). User configurable templates allow displays to be fine-tuned to the exact requirements of each brand, and the design team is only needed for the creation of initial template graphics as the PDF outputs are print-ready. Go South Coast customers benefit from well-designed and easy-to-understand at-stop displays, which include a stop-specific QR code for real-time departure times.

“There is a noticeable saving in time and human resource. Previously, we used a graphic designer almost full-time to put the PDF output into the template for every single stop. Now, after the initial set-up, I can complete a service change in a click of a button. From pressing the button to checking the displays at stop level takes minutes rather than days or weeks.” –  Ollie Meech, Commercial Officer at Go South Coast

Increasing efficiency

By implementing OmniSTOPdesign, Go South Coast can communicate service changes quickly, easily and efficiently. 

  • 14,000 individual displays have been created between 2019 and early 2023. 
  • During the Covid-19 pandemic, a print job for 900 stops took just 30 minutes. The previous system would have taken 3 weeks. 
  • One person, instead of a team, produces roadside publicity for 6 bus businesses which all have different brand identities.
“We need to easily and quickly produce a significant number of displays which are accurate and visually attractive. OmniSTOPdesign prints one display in three seconds per stop as opposed to minutes using the previous system. The solution is highly configurable and provides the control and flexibility we need to create customer friendly displays that meet the same level of quality produced by a designer.” – Ben Bartram, Schedules Assistant Manager at Go South Coast

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Warwickshire improves efficiency and quality of roadside publicity displays with Omnibus

Image of a bus timetable in Warwickshire as they improve efficiency and quality of roadside publicity displays with Omnibus

Warwickshire County Council (WCC) identified a requirement for improved roadside publicity displays, in particular in the rural areas of the county.

Many bus stop displays were outdated and hindered the passenger journey, especially for passengers who do not have access to the internet and rely on the bus stop displays.

Previously, the council used generic design software that was not built specifically for the bus sector, which made updating timetable displays a manual and time-consuming process.

Image of a bus timetable in Warwickshire as they improve efficiency and quality of roadside publicity displays with Omnibus

With approximately 4,000 bus stops across Warwickshire, they required an efficient and flexible, user-focused solution to assist with timetable production for roadside publicity displays of varying sizes and formats.

Key areas of features included the following:

  • The ability to create and maintain complex timetables
  • Mapping capability that would enable them to efficiently create a visual perspective of bus routes and the bus stop network
  • Easier management and maintenance of bus stop assets

Minimum 99.9% uptime

Following a comprehensive tendering process, the Omnibus cloud-based scheduling suite was implemented. It includes OmniSTOPdesign, the sophisticated roadside publicity solution, as well as timetabling, mapping, roadside asset management and data-sharing software, which together improve the overall efficiency of WCC’s planning and publicity team.

A key requirement was that the solution offers a minimum 99.9% availability (uptime) during office hours (measured over a monthly basis) and is well supported by a reliable and knowledgeable support team.

Other key benefits that impressed WCC included:

  • The flexibility of OmniSTOPdesign and having the ability to set up their own templates for bus stop displays
  • Having the capability to easily update timetable data in OmniTIMES and import the data directly into OmniSTOPdesign
  • The integration between the products to further improve efficiency and streamline processes
  • Having a cloud-based system to maximise accessibility from various locations
  • The ongoing customer service support clients receive from Omnibus after implementation

Saving resource time

Since implementation, WCC has saved valuable resource time and reduced the manual entry of data, and product integration has improved efficiency across the team. Most importantly, they have received positive feedback from passengers on their new roadside publicity displays.

Derek from Warwickshire County Council improve efficiency and quality of roadside publicity displays with Omnibus

“Customer feedback was sought after the introduction of the solution, and the findings were overwhelmingly positive. We can now confidently say that passengers find the roadside timetable displays easy to read and understand and that the information is up to date, which is really important for those customers without access to the internet.”

– Derek Riley, Passenger Transport Officer

Empowering you with software to drive your business forward

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D&G Bus increases online ticket sales with Omnibus timetable publicity solution

D&G Bus use Omnibus roadside publicity solution

D&G Bus, part of Centrebus Group, operates in Cheshire, Staffordshire and extends into Derbyshire and creates roadside publicity for stops not managed by a transport authority.

Following its expansion to include Chaserider, D&G’s managed bus stops have increased to 1,000, of which the new brand accounts for 70%.

The discrepancy is due to Chaserider’s stops being closer together and responsibility for maintaining displays in Stafford, Cannock and Lichfield resting with the operator.

D&G Bus roadside publicity

Challenge

It immediately became apparent to D&G that a purpose-built solution was needed to prevent roadside publicity becoming a full-time job. As well as accelerating productivity, the solution needed to provide stop-specific displays with return journey times to reduce the high number of customer enquiries. It also required capability to combine timetables for rural stops with a case only on one side of the road. Achieving this in a spreadsheet was proving very complex with an increased risk of errors. 

Solution

An existing customer of the Omnibus scheduling suite, D&G implemented OmniSTOPdesign, which simplifies the creation of timetable publicity. Four key features stood out to D&G:  

  • Timetable data is taken directly from OmniTIMES, ensuring accuracy and data integrity 
  • In-built database to store case information and easily assign templates to stops 
  • User-configurable templates provide complete freedom over style, size and format 
  • Batch create PDF output in-house and without third-party software or support 

Result

OmniSTOPdesign has enabled D&G Bus to optimise roadside publicity, increase online sales and improve customer satisfaction.

“We wanted to make timetable publicity administration faster and more efficient. It now takes 3 seconds to create one panel instead of 15 minutes. We wanted to spend less time answering enquiries by providing better information. We generate thousands of pounds a week more in online ticket sales by adding our app to displays. Passengers can also access real-time journey information by scanning a QR code.” – Chris Almond, Centrebus Group Commercial Officer

Empowering you with software to drive your business forward

Intuitive. Seamless. Dynamic.

Yellow Buses reduces costs with timetable publicity software

Yellow Buses improves timetable publicity efficiencies

When you have 800 bus stops in your network and it takes up to three weeks to carry out a service change, you need fast and accurate timetable publicity software that you can rely on. There is simply no room for error.  

This was the case for Yellow Buses which carries approximately 14 million passengers on its 110-strong bus fleet across Bournemouth, Poole, Christchurch and East Dorset.

Yellow Buses improves timetable publicity efficiencies

Since returning to local ownership and management, the long-standing Omnibus customer recognised the need to accelerate efficiencies throughout the business, starting with its publicity material.

Challenge

Yellow Buses’ commercial team were creating a generic PDF of the timetables for each stop and inserting it into Adobe InDesign backing templates. The output looked good – but the process was slow, taking approximately three weeks for the graphic designer to do each stop. And at one point, the team were sending the PDFs to a commercial printer for final production.

Additionally, the operator has four bus stop sizes in its network. Using OmniSTOP software (now replaced with OmniSTOPdesign), the team “would get so far before having to change the templates to get the timetables to fit in, which was very difficult” – Kevin Brolan, Commercial Assistant, Yellow Buses.

The operator required a similar easy-to-use tool but one which produced displays quickly and cost-effectively. The aim was not only to adopt an efficient software solution, but to reduce costs. There were four primary objectives:

  • Reduce the time taken to create information displays
  • Ability to tailor templates to requirements
  • Promote other services – internal and external
  • Reduce production and labour costs

The next generation timetable publicity solution, OmniSTOPdesign, had already been released and successfully deployed elsewhere – and Yellow Buses was keen to procure the application.

Solution

The upgrade to OmniSTOPdesign – a sophisticated publishing application developed in consultation with bus industry experts – was seamless and Yellow Buses appreciated the smooth transition. The solution addressed the operator’s key objectives and included additional features giving Yellow Buses complete control over template design from one piece of software. The solution included:

  • Creating templates to any paper size from a range of layouts
  • Working in real-time to assess and create different outcomes
  • Automatically generate a line-of-route map for each service
  • Option to add graphics in any format to enhance the displays
  • Customising all text elements using preferred fonts and font sizes

“OmniSTOP was quick but the way we were using it, with graphic designers, meant progress was slow. OmniSTOPdesign is straightforward, very user friendly, logical and adaptive. The potential OmniSTOPdesign provides is endless. It doesn’t matter what size roadside material you have; templates can be tailored to exactly what you need,” – Kevin Brolan

Result

Since the upgrade, Yellow Buses has gained significant benefits which have improved business processes such as batch producing displays. The operator is now also utilising employees in an optimal manner.

Yellow Buses has been successful in:

  • Reducing the time taken to create displays from weeks to hours.
  • Saving a vast amount of budget in every service change by removing the need to utilise a graphic designer.
  • Using colour branding on routes to make information clearer for passengers.

“We are very satisfied with Omnibus and its solutions – OmniBASE, OmniTIMES and OmniSTOPdesign. The intuitiveness of them working together has saved us valuable time and improved our operational efficiency. Without Omnibus we wouldn’t be able to do our jobs” – Kevin Brolan

Software solutions to drive your network forward

Maximising efficiency of your drivers and vehicles

Edinburgh Trams uses Omnibus to forecast future costs

Edinburgh Trams crew duties solution

Edinburgh Trams is an award-winning operator with a fleet of 27 trams and annual ridership of 7.5 million.

Employing over 200 people across Edinburgh, the Lothians and Fife, the light rail operator runs 2,000 services every week, connecting Edinburgh Airport to the heart of the city in under 35 minutes.

The operator partnered with Omnibus as the tram line continues to extend across the city.

Edinburgh Trams crew duties solution

The latest development, Trams to Newhaven Project, is a continuation of the existing tramway network and will add 2.91 miles of track in both directions, connecting Leith and Newhaven to the current end of the line at York Place with eight new stops by 2023.

Challenge

Edinburgh Trams required a tool to produce the most efficient crew duties, model scenarios and operating patterns to forecast and budget for future operational costs. The solution had to meet the local labour agreements and be workable on the ground. Therefore, any scheduling solution had to enable the following timetable changes:

  • Facilitate the closure of York Place tram stop (the current terminus)
  • Accommodate the phased opening of the extension
  • Accommodate test running over the extension (or parts)
  • Manage the extension to the tram line
  • Adjust running times as they become better established after opening the extension

Solution

CrewPLAN is Omnibus’ next-generation automatic crew scheduling tool. It uses advanced algorithms to find the best possible solution within the parameters defined by the user. It is used throughout the passenger transport industry to quickly model multiple scenarios as well as forecast and budget for future operational costs.

“Omnibus has been key for developing a sustainable transport strategy which includes the Trams to Newhaven project. CrewPLAN will provide us with the level of control and accuracy we need to ensure optimised shift patterns. It offers tools for medium-term and long-term crew scheduling based on our organisation’s legal frameworks and guidelines” – Sarah Singh, Operations Manager, Edinburgh Trams

Result

Edinburgh Trams has a flexible and user-friendly solution designed by schedulers who understand the UK passenger transport industry. Since adopting CrewPLAN, the operator has succeeded in:

  • Establishing costs for current and future operational needs
  • Building workable crew duties using different scenarios
  • Saving time in generating multiple rosters
  • Providing time-sensitive reports for critical decisions
  • Optimising crew schedules ensuring an efficient and reliable service

Edinburgh Trams “work collaboratively with colleagues as much as possible on any project” and positive feedback from their Scheduling Manager was “absolutely important” when choosing the Omnibus solution.

Creating optimised EV scheduling scenarios

Luke Marion, finance and commercial director, Oxford Bus Company

Building on the success of their existing electric-hybrid buses, Omnibus were chosen to work in partnership with Oxford Bus Company on their decarbonisation strategy.

Part of the Go-Ahead Group, the operator sought to gain a competitive advantage by creating schedules that supported their bid for the Government’s ZEBRA funding to purchase a fully electric fleet.

Luke Marion, finance and commercial director, Oxford Bus Company

Their goal was to keep costs to a minimum by improving vehicle and driver management. In addition, Omnibus advised on the inter-urban services operated by sister company Thames Travel.

Challenge

Oxford Bus Company required scheduling scenarios to support a wide variety of work to analyse the impact of electric vehicles on operations as well as costs. Requirements included creating:

  • Multiple scheduling scenarios created and compared, to maximise the total number of miles operated per vehicle per day due to the limited range of the electric vehicles (EVs) specified, and to ensure that expensive new EV buses purchased would be effectively utilised. These are across numerous rosters at both Oxford Bus Company and Thames Travel.
  • Scheduling scenarios produced to inform on the effect that an EV operation may have on driver duty costs and content.
  • Scheduling scenarios produced to inform on the effect that a 100% EV operation may have on overall costs.

The company operates a comprehensive network of services in the city, as well as express coach services to the airports. It also operates the BROOKESbus service in partnership with Oxford Brookes University and park & ride which connects five car parks to the city centre.

Solution

Omnibus’ consultancy team proposed custom performance scenarios agreed with the operator’s vision to operate 100% zero emission vehicles on city routes by 2024. Omnibus also advised on the most cost-effective solution to roll out a fully electric bus fleet. The solution included:

  • Producing scenarios on agreed route groupings to determine:
    • Additional vehicle requirements
    • Changes to duty costs and content
    • Route branding issues
  • Highlighting the minimum cost solutions and advising on the most efficient solutions based on maintaining route groupings.
  • Highlighting requirements for opportunity charging during the day and for overnight charging.
  • Running further scenario testing for long distance inter-urban routes that were expected to be less well-suited than city services to move to an EV operation.

Luke Marion, Finance & Commercial Director of Oxford Bus Company, said: “We’ve had a long-standing partnership with Omnibus and have always highly valued their proactive and positive approach to helping us solve our scheduling challenges.

“The work they’ve done to support us on the electrification project has been invaluable in helping us understand how we will need to adapt our scheduling practices to deal with new vehicle technologies.”

Results

By using Omnibus’ consultancy services, Oxford Bus Company was able to use optimal and robust scheduling models to meet its environmental objectives. The operator succeeded in:

  • Maintaining scheduled service times
  • Smoothing the EV charging operation throughout
  • Maximising driver efficiency by re-allocating duties
  • Reducing costs by mixing vehicle workings
  • Maintaining brand identity on established routes

Key features and figures found in these results are to be used to inform and appraise future decarbonisation projects across the Go-Ahead group.

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Bringing fares data to Welsh bus passengers

Caucasian man listens to music while traveling in an urban bus

Traveline Cymru partnered with Omnibus to develop an innovative process for handling fares data and cross-referencing it with timetable information.

Omnibus has been working closely with Traveline Cymru to bring fares information to the bus users of Wales. It means that Wales is ahead of other parts of the UK in disclosing this vital information.

Caucasian man listens to music while traveling in an urban bus

In England the Bus Services Act contains regulations made under the new open data provisions and new ticketing powers that aim to make it easier for bus passengers to use buses, move between different modes of transport and access timetables, fares and routes. However, it is perhaps worthwhile noting that Wales is ahead of England when it comes to those elements regarding publicly available information about bus fares.

Software supplier Omnibus has worked closely with Traveline Cymru and its partners to develop an innovative process for handling fares information, cross-referenced with timetable data. It means that bus users, not to mention potential bus users, can access detailed bilingual bus fares information via the Traveline Cymru service, be that online, through the organisation’s Freephone number, or via its smartphone apps.

The decision to include fares information within Traveline Cymru’s service came about because in the past the organisation’s contact centre agents were frequently asked for fares information.

“At that time, they had huge bound files containing printed fare tables,” says Kevin Roderick, Traveline Cymru’s Service Delivery Manager. “This was a long-winded and cumbersome task that added considerable time to the call length.”

He adds that it had long been agreed nationally that including fares alongside journey planning information was a long-term aspiration “but there was no action being taken so we decided to go our own way and make it happen”.

Roderick believes that the full disclosure of fares data was important for the Traveline Cymru service. “With any other mode of transport, you would be able to easily get the information about what your journey was going to cost, even by car,” he says. “With bus a lot of people usually turn up and trust they can afford it.”

There were obstacles to be overcome, in particular that there was no legal requirement to force operators to disclose their fares to Traveline Cymru when registering a bus service. Fares can be changed by operators largely at will and, usually, at short notice. It means that Roderick and his colleagues rely entirely on goodwill from the operators to send Traveline Cymru updates about when fare changes are made.

Of course, that seems simple when compared to the task of processing the fares information and then presenting it in a standardised format. Initially Roderick and his colleagues tried to extract the information directly from the back offices of each operator’s Electronic Ticket Machine (ETM) supplier.

“However, as we were not direct customers, we had to have individual contracts with each bus operator,” explains Roderick. “The issues arose when back offices were updated or had patches added and we had to return to our system suppliers to make amendments to the software constantly. This became too costly to continue.”

It was at this point that Traveline Cymru began to examine a common denominator that had the potential to provide an effective one-size-fits-all solution. Roderick and his colleagues determined that the ETMs of every Welsh bus operator are effectively reading a fare chart in order to calculate a passenger’s fare, so, effectively, the ETM has the ability to print a fare table for each route.

“This means that they can supply us in electronic format either a spreadsheet, text file or PDF,” says Roderick.

Working with partners that included Omnibus, Traveline Cymru then determined a desired ‘standard’ spreadsheet format from the raw ETM fare table data. From this, software was developed that could ‘read’ Microsoft Excel, text or PDF fare table files and convert them into spreadsheets that would create a standardised data set. The software also has the benefit that it can be used to manually create fare tables for the rare file formats that the software cannot automatically ‘read’.

Rob West, Solution Architect for Omnibus, explains what the team did to enable the two sets of data, fares and timetables, to work together in the journey planner: “There is no standardised bus stop location code common to both the fare data and the timetables. We therefore developed a GIS-based tool that assists a skilled and knowledgeable user to cross reference the fare stage codes used in the standardised fare data with the NaPTAN codes used in each timetable route variant, to get the two data sets working together.”

It has been a lengthy and complex process to reach the stage where the majority of fares information is now freely available to the public.

“We started this process as far back as 2014 or 2015,” admits Roderick. “We did not make any real progress until the middle of 2016 when we set up the current system. We initially had good response from the larger operators and local authorities and were able to create around 65% of available fares quite quickly (beginning of 2017). This slowed somewhat when we went for medium operators and are currently holding around 90% of all fares.”

Traveline Cymru is now actively working with smaller operators in order to include their fare information but Roderick admits that this has its challenges. “This is likely to be slower work as they have numerous other tasks to perform and less knowledge of their ETM back office functions,” he says. “We will, in all likelihood, visit each and offer to extract the information on their behalf.”

“This has been an exciting project to have been a part of,” says Michael Meilton, Special Projects Manager for Omnibus. “There is a reason why this hasn’t been done before as it is extremely complicated to do, but Traveline Cymru is streets ahead of its counterparts in England who are faced with the challenge presented by the Open data elements of the Bus Services Act, which is still only in the planning stage. Traveline Cymru established a need to provide more comprehensive information to passengers and found a practical way to deliver results in a reasonable period of time.”

Despite these challenges, Roderick says the process has been valuable with extremely positive feedback. “All have welcomed the inclusion of this information,” he adds. “We are now in a position where we can look at a new phase of development and look at integration of tickets, rider ticket zones and improvements to how fares are displayed to customers.

“We believe that having all the information a customer needs to plan and make a bus journey improves the customer experience and, although it has been a difficult process at times, the outcome is well worth having.”

In addition to certain elements in the fares data process, Omnibus also supplies Traveline Cymru with the software to create and export timetable data for the entire country.

“The requirements on operators to provide additional data are forever increasing,” Meilton continues. “Omnibus continues to play a significant role in data exchange, by allowing operators to export data electronically (such as Electronic Registrations), and providing data tools for organisations including Traveline Cymru, to process it.”

Oldham-based Omnibus supplies scheduling software and management tools to numerous bus operators across Wales, including First, Cardiff Bus, Newport Transport and ComfortDelGro subsidiary, New Adventure Travel.

This article was first published in Passenger Transport’s special ‘Buses in Wales’ publication in 2018.

Omnibus works to solve open fares data conundrum

Jo Foxall is the operations director at Traveline Cymru

Software supplier has worked closely with Traveline Cymru to bring fares data to Welsh bus users alongside other developments.

Omnibus has worked closely with Traveline Cymru to develop an innovative process for handling fare data and cross-referencing it with timetable data.

It follows close working between the software specialist, Traveline Cymru and SilverRail.

Jo Foxall is the operations director at Traveline Cymru

The result is that bus passengers in Wales can now access detailed information about bus fares using the Traveline Cymru service via its contact centre, website and apps for iPhone and Android smartphones.

It is a widely acknowledged fact that handling fare data is highly complex for many reasons with thousands of individual fares across Wales. Operators can also be understandably wary of publishing data as fares can change frequently, meaning the information can quickly go out of date, and there may be issues with commercial sensitivity.

An added complication is the wide variety of ticket machines in use that manage fare data, each one with its own data exchange format. To add to the complexities, fare data is often managed by different staff and not always cross-referenced to timetables, so different bus stop codes or names are used in the different systems.

“It was always seen as something that was intensely difficult to do,” explains Jo Foxall, Traveline Cymru’s Operations Director. “The big issue was just how would we keep the data up-to-date as there is no legal process that requires operators to provide the information. Luckily we have very close relationships with the operators and we worked hard to build those bridges.”

While the larger operators were able to use electronic systems to transfer their fares data to Traveline Cymru, some of the smaller operators relied on paper-based systems to record their fares data.

Foxall admits that this disparity in methods to transfer information was something of a challenge. However, Omnibus worked closely with both Traveline Cymru, an organisation called Change++ and the operators to create a system that ‘reads’ fares data from the wide variety of electronic ticket machine systems deployed by Welsh operators.

Meanwhile, a special software tool was constructed that aims to harmonise those potential issues created by the disparity between locations and fare stages. It is a move that exploits the talents of Omnibus, which is the UK’s leading supplier of operational software to the passenger transport industry and backed up by more than 25 years’ experience in providing public transport operators and local authorities with systems that meet their needs.

“It has been a lengthy and complex process, but the feedback from service users has been extremely positive,” says Foxall. “It’s not that long ago that our contact centre were using bound hard copy files of fare tables; now it’s available on screen.

“The relationship with Omnibus has also been particularly rewarding as they have been extremely responsive to our needs and requirements. If we have any issues we just need to pick up the phone and they are on the case.”

This article first appeared Passenger Transport’s special Buses in Wales publication in 2017.