Schedulers are the unsung heroes of the bus depot, so we're delighted to team up with Passenger Transport magazine to give them the credit they deserve.
The Joe Wood Scheduler of the Year Award seeks to raise awareness of the important work done by schedulers, and celebrate leaders in the field. It's also a tribute to our friend and colleague Joe Wood.
We received nominations from bus companies large and small, from across the UK. The judges, which include Ben Colson MBE, Go North East MD Martijn Gilbert and Passenger Transport's Andrew Garnett, have reviewed all the entries and selected their shortlist:
Andrew Eyles, Go South Coast
Andrew identified the various issues affecting a difficult route, then considered the multiple ways in which those issues could be addressed. He created draft timetables and estimated their effects on cost, revenue and operability, before narrowing down the options and discussing them with internal and external stakeholders. This led to the production of an achievable schedule which successfully balanced the economic requirements of the business with operational constraints and the needs and aspirations of drivers.
Andrew makes the most of the multiple data sources at his disposal. Ticket machine information is extracted, manipulated and interpreted in myriad ways. This is combined with reliability data and external sources such competitor timetables to ensure an appropriate commercial response.
Andrew makes the most of the multiple data sources at his disposal. Ticket machine information is extracted, manipulated and interpreted in myriad ways.
Chris Suggitt, Metrobus
Tasked with improving reliability and profitability on one of his main routes, Chris reviewed usage and loading data, and liaised with drivers and depot colleagues. After considering various options, he chose to re-route the service in the town centre to save 6 minutes of the 75 minute cycle time. This saving was reinvested in extended running times, and on-time performance and patronage both increased significantly in the months following the change.
Since 2003, Chris has used historical GPS tracking data to create more reliable schedules. He combines this with stop-level patronage data and anecdotal feedback from drivers and depot staff for an understanding of demand and traffic levels at different times.
Since 2003, Chris has used historical GPS tracking data to create more reliable schedules. He combines this with stop-level patronage data and anecdotal feedback from drivers and depot staff.
Iain McMillan, Stagecoach East
Iain identified that there were a number of anomalies within some existing schedules, and a number of shifts that were efficient but inoperable in reality. Through discussions with internal stakeholders, a full list of concerns were identified and Iain investigated these one by one. With a programme of regular dialogue and workshops with all stakeholders, Iain made changes that improved staff morale and allowed for more reliable services.
While Iain is very comfortable in the ‘digital scheduling world’, he initially approaches new projects using traditional methods to identify any obstacles that need to be overcome. He then introduces technology to manipulate the inputs and work through potential solutions. Iain uses ticketing data to identify the demand of certain corridors and journeys on specific routes, coupled with analysis of real-time bus information. But he also collects anecdotal evidence to ensure all decisions are made on a sound basis.
Iain uses ticketing data to identify the demand of certain corridors and journeys on specific routes, coupled with analysis of real-time bus information.
John Andrews, National Express West Midlands
When developing a new schedule for an existing route, John began by studying reliability reports and engaging with the depot team, drivers and inspectors, to gather their feedback on the challenges and where improvements could be made. He then interrogated months of real-time information for every journey at every stop, balancing this data with detailed route knowledge. The effort was worthwhile: Punctuality improved overnight and patronage swelled – with thousands of additional trips made during the month following the implementation of his new schedule.
John combines his detailed local knowledge with information from reliability and revenue databases. He studies every shred of data and listens to feedback from colleagues and customers. Recently, he has introduced CitySwift’s data-driven scheduling platform into his repertoire.
John combines his detailed local knowledge with information from reliability and revenue databases. He studies every shred of data and listens to feedback from colleagues and customers.
Richard Sherratt, Trentbarton
When a route suffered issues with capacity and punctuality, Richard was asked to investigate. He looked at information provided by the depot, revenue figures, stop-level data and windows of tolerance to provide a clear picture of all of the demands the route was facing. Richard discovered a pricing strategy disbalance between peak and off-peak was causing a fluctuation in PVR demand at critical times of the day. Fare changes were made and some PVR was removed from the cycle, which resulted in considerable passenger growth with reduced costs and a top performing operating index.
Richard knows that a schedule is more than what can be achieved on paper. He makes a point of understanding the demographics, traffic and significant movements on every route, and uses telematics to assess the driving styles of the team. He’s not afraid to challenge the status quo and has the data to back up his decisions in an informed way.
Richard makes a point of understanding the demographics, traffic and significant movements on every route, and uses telematics to assess the driving styles of the team.
The winner will be announced at a free online event on Thursday, 19th November
Since the Scheduler of the Year award was originally announced, the world has changed. Bus schedules have had to be adjusted more frequently than ever before, with services required to support key workers, enable social distancing and deal with the closure, reopening and reclosure of shops, schools and workplaces – all with very little notice.
Now, more than ever, we need to celebrate the art of bus scheduling and the people that help keep our towns and cities moving – even during the deepest lockdown. We hope that you’ll join us.
Watch a recording of the Scheduler of the Year event and see the winner crowned below: