school transport planning consultancy
The best bus networks are those which run where passengers want to travel! For a school, this means making sure that your routes are running where your pupils actually live - alongside the introduction of additional routes / stops on a more strategic basis, in order to widen your catchment area and grow demand for your school. Whether you’re introducing transport services for the first time, you want to improve your existing provision or you need some advice on safe routing and stop selection, we’re here to help.
We’ve used Geographic Information System (GIS) technology to develop detailed route and network planning tools, which we use in our consultancy commissions. Created by our in-house technical development team, the technology gives us the capability to map and understand your transport network, alongside visualising where your students live. This helps us to make sure that the transport network that we plan for you meets the needs of your families. We don’t just rely on technology however; we’re big believers in developing local knowledge and collecting feedback from drivers and operators to inform the route planning process and optimise your transport network.
Postcode mapping and visualisation
One of the most important parts of our technology is our postcode mapping module. Integrated with Royal Mail’s Postcode Address File (PAF), we can quickly and easily map out the geographical distribution of your families. This helps us to understand the scope of your catchment, and we also ensure that your transport routes serve areas with denser concentrations of pupils at your school.
These maps are also available as a stand-alone service to support marketing, admissions and other research activities. Maps can be supplied in printed form or as an interactive Google Map via a secure online portal. Get in touch now for a free quotation.
Network planning and route setting
We can provide detailed network planning services, setting out where we think your network should operate based on our data analysis and visualisation. Alternatively, you might already know some key areas to target, but not the best way to add them to your network. Maybe you also need to respond to specific requests from current or prospective parents to new routes or stops.
We use our GIS to plot efficient routes that meet your objectives for your transport services. Our transport planning consultants are qualified Transport Managers, giving them the experience and knowledge required to plot safe and suitable routes for you.
Route testing and bus stop risk assessments
Commercial bus and coach operators have rigorous procedures in place to risk assess the routes they operate along, and local authorities have a duty to ensure that bus stops are safe locations for large vehicles to pick up and set down passengers. School buses and coaches aren’t always given the same treatment, but we believe that a detail-focused route and stop survey is the best way to deliver the safest transport service to your passengers.
We use consultants who hold full bus/coach driving licences to conduct these risk assessments, which involve driving along the route in an appropriately sized vehicle (minibus / coach / double decker) and ensuring that larger vehicles can operate safely.
We check for height obstructions along the route (low bridges, overhanging trees etc.), make sure that all the twists and turns are achievable for the proposed vehicle(s) and identify any challenging sections of route to warn drivers about. We’ll also try and conduct the tests as close to the normal time of operation as possible, so that issues such as parked cars and other obstructions can be identified and a proactive solution can be found.
We’ll stop at every bus stop, check that it is a safe place for passengers to wait and also that it is a safe place for a bus to pull in. This is particularly useful where stops being proposed are not official bus stops - where this is the case, the stopping location won’t have had any kind of suitability assessment conducted.
The results of all of these checks and tests are then summarised in a clear and comprehensive report, for you to refer back to and use for driver training and incident investigation purposes as required.
Scheduling and timetable creation
The final stage, once the routes have been selected and checked, is to create realistic and achievable timetables for drivers to run to. Scheduling school bus services is very challenging, because they tend to run at rush hour, when traffic is at its worst - and at its most variable. However, modern technology is making it easier to create timetables that can be used consistently from day to day. This improves the quality of passengers’ journeys to and from school.
We use average traffic flow data to build our timetables, focusing on data from the precise times of day when the route will be running. We can also feed in any other data that you might have - our driver app also collects journey time data to help here.
We record journey times when we do route testing as well, because there are two main things which increase journey times for bus and coach services compared to making the same journey by car. The first is the need to travel slower on certain sections of route when in a larger vehicle - for example, buses and coaches cannot exceed 62 miles per hour because they all have speed limiters fitted, so on a dual carriageway they are slower than cars.
There are also other special speed limits that apply only to buses and coaches, and certain manoeuvres (e.g. turning at a T Junction) also take longer. The other thing to factor in is time to pick up and drop off passengers at each stop, How long this takes depends on the type of vehicle you use and how many passengers you have.
Once we’ve taken all of this into account, we check that the timetables are compliant with Drivers’ hours regulations and then produce public and driver facing timetables for easy reference.