Bedford Borough Council has used planning software from QRoutes to try and improve the efficiency of its transport services after the reorganisation of its schools.

Transformation of Bedford's schools from a three-tier to a two-tier structure meant the council's home-to-school transport network had to be reorganised. The council says the re-structured services are set to save more than £200,000 a year in transport costs.

Bedford uses QRoutes, which is provided as an easy to use cloud-based service, to plan transport for 3,000 school children, as well as 700 special educational needs and 1000 social care users.  The council operates a fleet of approximately 50 in-house vehicles ' mainly for transporting the most vulnerable people ' with mainstream school transport largely contracted out.

Although Bedford had tried other systems in the past, the task of building routes was still very much a manual process because of the complexity of the many variables affecting services.  With the transformation of education coupled with budget reductions, the council had to find a way to improve the transport efficiency with minimal impact on service provision.

'We needed software that could support this process of the best routes and vehicle suitability in view of all the complexities of school, special needs and social care transport,' said Chris Pettifer, chief officer for transport at Bedford Borough Council. 

'Over the years we have tried different systems but none really delivered what we needed and were also costly. QRoutes has conversely been fantastic in providing an easy to use interface that cannot only re-plan our network in minutes but was also available as an affordable solution over the web'  

By improving routes Bedford has been able to reduce the number of routes, removing eight large buses from the network by improved use of vehicles. 

'With reorganisation and budget cuts, we had to save £150,000 a year but by optimising operations with the help of QRoutes we were able to realise another £65,000 in savings, reducing transport expenditure by £215k a year,' said Chris Pettifer.  

'For us, QRoutes arrived just at the right time. It fitted in perfectly to scope new school routes as Bedford reorganised its schools organisation. It used to take days or weeks to re-plan routes but with QRoutes we can run a new plan for 3,000 school bus children in minutes. 

'We manually intervene sometimes as some individual requirements can be very unusual but the system saves a lot of time and we can run different what if scenarios to work out the best options'

Daniel Barrett, Bedford's client transport officer (Education), said: 'QRoutes has been a tremendous asset, making it so much easier and quicker to re-plan mainstream transport routes and the user interface is really simple to us.

'People at QRoutes have been brilliant and listened to our requirements and they have taken a very flexible approach to developing the software to meet our needs'