Category: Transport Authorities

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.” 




Halton Borough Council: Halton Borough Council
Omnibus Solutions:

Press contact at Omnibus and EPM:
Harminder Sangha
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.”




Lincolnshire County Council:

Omnibus Solutions:

Press contact
Harminder Sangha
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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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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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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

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Hull City Council to meet BSIP commitments with improved bus stop displays from Omnibus

Hull City Council timetable displays

31 January 2023 – Hull City Council has upgraded its Omnibus timetable publicity solution to produce high-quality journey information more efficiently.

The long-standing OmniSTOP user has now implemented OmniSTOPdesign, a configurable template system which greatly reduces the time and expense of creating accurate and well-presented at-stop displays.

Hull City Council timetable displays

The upgrade comes after a public consultation, which informed the city’s Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP) and identified the need for easier to understand information, real-time bus information and user-friendly journey planning tools.

Kerry Ryan, Strategic Transport Manager at Hull City Council, said: “Hull has lower car ownership than many cities, as well as areas of high deprivation, making the use of buses paramount. Bus use in Hull is high, and we are always looking to remove any barriers people may face when accessing public transport.

“One of the aims of our BSIP that OmniSTOPdesign will support us with is to provide passengers with easier to understand at-stop information, which is timely, accessible, informative and user-friendly.

“Having full design flexibility, the solution will be used to create tailored templates that fit the space available on the infrastructure. To assist with journey planning, we will take advantage of the ability to easily generate QR codes for each stop so that passengers have access to live real-time data for that stop from their smartphone.”

She added: “A large portion of my time is spent on creating bus stop displays. OmniSTOPdesign has the capability to allocate templates to specific stops and batch produce PDFs for all displays, greatly speeding up production time.”

Peter Crichton, Founder of Omnibus, said: “We are delighted to provide Hull City Council with a solution which improves efficiency and enables them to offer their customers enhanced stop displays in line with their BSIP objectives.”

Hull’s bus network is served by East Yorkshire Buses, part of the Go-Ahead Group, and Stagecoach with around 97% of the services provided being commercial. The remaining 3% is provided with council support.


Hull City Council:

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Harminder Sangha
07538 935 568

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Warwickshire County Council selects Omnibus planning and publicity solutions

Warwickshire County Council selects Omnibus cloud-based planning and publicity solutions

18 May 2022 – Warwickshire County Council will plan and publicise bus services using Omnibus’ cloud-based platform – and deliver on a commitment to increase the quality of journey information for customers.

The contract was awarded following a tender process which will see the council implementing timetabling, mapping, timetable publicity, roadside asset management and data sharing solutions.

Warwickshire County Council selects Omnibus cloud-based planning and publicity solutions

In response to the National Bus Strategy to get more people travelling by bus, the provision of quality publicity information was identified as a priority measure in Warwickshire’s Bus Service Improvement Plan (BSIP).

By using OmniSTOPdesign timetable publicity software, the council can create and maintain professional and accurate displays in multiple styles, sizes and formats without the need to use a graphic designer.

Derek Riley, Passenger Transport Officer at Warwickshire County Council, said: “Warwickshire County Council creates and maintains NaPTAN stops, timetable schedules, bus routes, roadside publicity displays, as well as analysing ‘what if’ scenarios and importing and exporting data.

“Following a county-wide survey to help shape our BSIP, better static timetable information was identified as a measure which would encourage more people to use the bus. For example, ‘easier access to bus service information’ featured as one of the top three measures in the results from both regular users and infrequent or non-users.”

“OmniSTOPdesign offers us new possibilities in timetable publicity that can take things to a whole new level. We will be able to manage roadside and online publicity information for local bus services, from improving roadside/in-street route and timetable information, including the use of digital displays, to integrating bus services and timetables in order to maximise scope for multi-modal connections.”

Peter Crichton, Founder of Omnibus, said: “I’m delighted that Omnibus has been successful in being awarded this tender. Our software solutions have been designed with the needs of transport authorities and bus operators in mind to improve operational efficiency.

“Our timetabling system provides flexible modelling tools that provide high-level timetables and schedules to give a quick view of effectiveness for different scenarios. Our timetable publicity software for stop displays enables users to produce information displays quickly and cost-effectively, whilst our communications and infrastructure applications provide accurate transport data to all internal and external downstream systems.”

– ENDS –

Omnibus Solutions:

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Harminder Sangha
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Merseytravel selects Omnibus cloud-based scheduling solution

Merseytravel selects Omnibus cloud-based scheduling solution

Merseytravel has extended its software partnership with Velociti Group (EPM and Omnibus) through the adoption of the Omnibus cloud-based scheduling suite.

Omnibus’ solution provides users with a range of flexible and easy-to-use tools aimed at improving efficiency and reducing the margin for error when timetabling and scheduling and is accessible from any location.

Merseytravel selects Omnibus cloud-based scheduling solution

Merseytravel is the transport delivery arm of the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and has previously worked with EPM on the deployment of contract management solution ETM DAS to monitor the performance of tendered routes in a central hub – reducing administration time and providing data to make cost-effective decisions. In addition, Merseytravel also implemented the interactive analytics platform EPM Insights which offers strategic insight through real-time management information and dashboards.

The scheduling suite integrates seamlessly with both products, removing the need for manual entry of timetables when preparing to issue a new tender. Timetables and scheduling data is then fed into EPM Insights for visual reporting and analysis.

The Omnibus TransXchange viewer tools can also be utilised to review submissions from operators to ensure compliance with the tender specification, making this process as efficient as possible when dealing with multiple tender submissions.

Jeanette Townson, Bus Development Manager at MerseytravelJeanette Townson, Bus Development Manager at Merseytravel, said: “The implementation of Omnibus scheduling suite will help streamline and increase the efficiency of the tendering process by removing the need for manual data entry.

“Previously this process involved creating timetables in Microsoft Word and Excel which was time consuming and difficult to update. The integration of the products and automation capabilities will help ensure data quality and provide significant time savings – freeing up valuable resources to focus on other priorities.”

Ian Churchill, CEO at Velociti Group, said: “We are thrilled to expand our partnership with Merseytravel, and this new integration is testament to the software’s capabilities as well as the value which is achieved with the two businesses, EPM and Omnibus, working together.

“Driving efficiency is the key goal behind our software solutions and we are committed to helping Transport Authorities improve the effectiveness of their organisation and the success of their networks.”

– END –

Press contact
Harminder Sangha
07538 935 568

Empowering transport authorities with software solutions

Grow patronage, improve efficiency and deliver outstanding customer service

Challenging time ahead for scheduling?

Challenging time ahead for scheduling

Scheduling is an art and there are concerns about an emerging skills gap that is about to hit the industry.

Much has been written about the bus industry’s skills gap – the missing generation of managers brought about by the sector’s deregulation in the mid-1980s. However, it seems that there are issues looming in other segments of the industry, specifically the increasing number of schedulers who have reached a certain age and are choosing to retire.

Challenging time ahead for scheduling

“We have a real and significant issue,” warns Peter Crichton, founder of Omnibus. “Schedulers tend to be of a certain age and more and more of them are retiring. Just how do we replace that talent that is now starting to leave the industry in increasing numbers?”

While the skills gap in industry management teams has been largely plugged with the profusion of graduate and internal management training schemes, Crichton expresses concerns about how the looming skills gaps in the scheduling function will be tackled.

“You can’t just pop people down in front of a computer and expect them to get on with it,” he says. “Scheduling is an art and a skill and it takes time to train people up to meet expectations.”

With staff costs roughly accounting for 45% of the cost base of the industry, even a 1% saving in resource can lead to significant cost savings. With a good, well-trained scheduler having the ability to save bus operators thousands of pounds, Crichton notes that good, thorough training is key as well as a thorough knowledge of the job and the tools of the trade.

“You can’t just expect people to take on scheduling within five minutes,” he says. “It takes time, training, knowledge and expertise. I wouldn’t sit someone fresh out of school or college in front of a computer and expect him or her to run my financial year-end. You need training and skills to be able to do that and scheduling is just the same.”

He contrasts the training that many of today’s new schedulers experience with his own training in the area in the late seventies in Greater Manchester. Crichton’s starting points was an intensive 4 weeks of training that gave him the nuts and bolts of the job. This was then followed by 12 months of on-the-job training under the wing of an experienced scheduler, where Crichton admits that he was given every drudge job going, but he learnt the scheduler’s art “from the ground up”. His career then progressed.

“It was just an excellent way of learning,” he says. “Back then there was a demographic time bomb that was about to explode too. The generation of schedulers who joined the industry in the immediate post-war era was on the verge of retirement, but there was structured training and there was a very clear path. What we have now is very similar – that generation is now coming up to retirement, but I’m not sure there’s that succession planning there today. I’m also not entirely convinced that the industry, on the whole, has the skills to provide a good level of training.”

Crichton remembers the paper-based systems that were in use when he began his career in the late seventies. “Back then we had four people scheduling just two depots as a full-time job,” he remembers.

“The advent of computers to assist with the scheduling process has really, really cut that down. I know of some companies where there’s just one or two people responsible for scheduling whole companies and there isn’t any form of structured succession strategy.”

He points to the management training schemes that the major groups and even some smaller operators have developed in recent years. Crichton feels that this is all well and good but it is structured towards people looking to reach the top in operational and engineering roles. As he says, there’s nobody thinking about recruiting and training the next generation of schedulers in any meaningful way.

“Those management training schemes aren’t really attractive to people who would be interested in scheduling, “Crichton says. “More and more operators are getting involved in apprenticeships for engineering staff to solve the problem of a generation retiring there, so why don’t we, as an industry, have some sort of formal training scheme for schedulers? Perhaps we need to think about almost a scheduling apprenticeship.”

This article originally appeared in the ALBUM magazine.