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.”
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.”
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.