MTC presented Transport Survey findings at ISBA Conference
Last week MTC was at the ISBA annual conference in Manchester. We were speaking about the results of the School Transport Survey we conducted among ISBA members in April, as well as talking to bursars and exhibitors involved in the provision of transport.
The Survey was the first of its kind, designed to provide useful benchmarks about school transport services. For example: how many regular routes do schools run for day pupils and boarders; at what times of day; and what proportion of pupils use them? We also got into the nitty-gritty of operations; who operates the services; what vehicles are used; the level of subsidy; how fares are charged; how routes are varied in response to demand; as well as the structure of decision-making and day-to-day organisation.
To request your free copy of the Survey Report email firstname.lastname@example.org giving your name, school and your role, by doing so you consent to receiving further information, including for marketing purposes, from MTC.
One of the questions that we asked respondents was how they see school transport changing in the future. Replies could be categorised largely under the headings of rising costs and rising demand.
Rising costs could include rising parental expectations about service levels, higher fuel prices, the repeal of Section 19 exemptions, changes to D1 entitlements, a shortage of drivers, more outsourcing, the need for electric vehicles because of ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ) charges and the spread of congestion charging.
ULEZ and congestion charging will also apply to parents and, together with increasing traffic congestion and busier lifestyles, are expected to contribute to an increase in demand for school transport. The schools that responded expect to add 14% more routes to their networks over the next three years.
This tension between rising costs and rising demand will play out in the changing levels of subsidy, which are generally expected to rise. While some routes will become uneconomic, others could be restructured with lower charges, larger coaches, fewer stops and/or serving hubs rather than individuals. There could also be more joint services shared between schools. At the same time new, more bespoke routes will emerge with smaller vehicles, door-to-door service and premium pricing.
It is all going to get become more complicated, and many of the conversations we had reflected on this theme. A few of the things we learned by talking to delegates were that:
- Not all governing bodies appreciate that most schools’ transport does not break even overall. One bursar said “I’m going to show this report to my governors to prove that others subsidise their services”.
- Many bursars wonder why schools continue to run their own transport, when catering and other activities have already largely been contracted out.
- There are an increasing number of operational models, with emerging hybrids such as schools leasing their fleet but subcontracting the driving.
- For schools with extended days it might be necessary to add some of the extra activities (e.g. tablet-based revision aids such as Quizlet) to any transport services that leave earlier, so that parents don’t feel their child is missing out.
- Better ways are needed to get parents to sign up to services in good time, rather than at the last minute or indeed after any reasonable deadline has passed.
- Restrictions on driving to the school gate may be needed to stop a) some parents only wanting to show off their 4×4 or b) sixth formers abandoning public/school transport in favour of driving their own cars!
MTC can provide detailed maps showing where your target markets are within the school’s catchment, right down to the level of individual neighbourhoods and villages. This allows us to plan school transport effectively, suggesting new routes or alterations to existing services.