Four cogs which fit together in a row held up against a sunlit sky

Milton Keynes City Council cuts school transport costs through efficient routing and increased competition

Like many local authorities, Milton Keynes City Council has also faced significant challenges including rising pupil numbers and pressure on budgets. Therefore they wanted to manage their costs without sacrificing the quality of the service.

Investing in the Access Adam Transport Commissioning solution and QRoutes transport technology has helped the Council to significantly increase competition in its operator supply base and improve the efficiency of their transport routes. This has helped the Council perform better against the budget and save over £750k since the project began.

“The systems are very efficient for users and in an area that is always changing, requests and alterations are quick to do so staff can then concentrate on all aspects of their role, and aren’t overcome with time consuming tasks. The new systems give our team clarity and confidence which have helped them feel more secure in their roles.”

Milton Keynes City Council School Transport Strategic Lead

A small team tackling a big task

The Council’s two travel coordinators manage transport for approximately 1,400 children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

Milton Keynes has six large SEND schools, although some of the children also travel out of the area. Like all local authorities, it is seeing the amount of children placed on Education Health and Care Plans (EHCP) increasing each year across England (35% between 2014-2018, County Councils Network).

They needed a solution that would help to manage the increasing budget pressures but also save the team time when onboarding and managing suppliers.

Increasing competition in supply by making it easy for providers

In 2017, the Council introduced the Access Adam transport solution. This technology makes it much easier for small local operators to become a registered council supplier and subsequently the Council was able to grow its provider market by 31%.

The cloud-based software allows the service to be accessed from anywhere, meaning suppliers and the team can operate while on the go, from any location.

By making it easier for providers to onboard as a supplier in as little as 10 minutes, the system protects the Council if a supplier can no longer provide its services, by quickly redistributing routes fairly to the rest of the market.

The increased competition also gives Milton Keynes City Council a greater pool of providers and subsequently, drives down the costs of each trip.

Keeping prices low by unbundling contracts

The flexibility of the Access Adam system allowed the Council to ‘unbundle’ some contracts. Rather than grouping all routes and tendering for them under one contract, therefore, the council was able to get prices for individual routes.

Smaller operators were able to bid for routes that previously would have been beyond their capacity, thereby increasing competition and delivering better prices across the market. 

Routing was the missing piece of the jigsaw

Once implemented, the Access Adam solution began to deliver goals by providing a wider network of suppliers for each route. The technology allowed the Council to enter each required route into the system and any conditions that needed to be met by a provider i.e. SEND transport requirements.

However, it revealed that the routes themselves had become inefficient and were taking colleagues too much time to create, including the need to use printed maps and notes.

The Council decided to invest further in another home to school transport technology to tackle this. Following word-of-mouth recommendations from other authorities, Milton Keynes City Council adopted QRoutes.

Together, the technologies mean the Council team can optimise routes at the click of a button, and it has reduced its number of routes from 195 to 171.

“At one school we were able to reduce the number of routes from 34 to 21. However, this combined primary and secondary school which had introduced staggered start times during Covid and opted to continue, pushing the final number of required routes up to 27. Nevertheless, a saving of seven routes.”

Ian Fraser, Strategic Lead – Children’s Transport, Milton Keynes Council

The routes created by QRoutes are working out better for the children by ensuring consistency of service especially among SEND transport provision.

Summary and impact

Through the project, Milton Keynes City Council has:

  • Managed its costs in light of increased service demand, saving more than £750,000.
  • Made sure every child travelling was eligible and the vehicle was appropriate for the child’s needs.
  • Scrutinised every contract on price, requirements, and suitability while gaining clarity of spare seats to plan and prioritise future placements.
  • Migrated and managed suppliers on the new technology platform, from onboarding through to contract placement and payment.
  • Continued investment in Access Adam and QRoutes to ensure challenges within the market are tackled head on.
  • Enabled the small team to focus on priorities rather than time consuming tasks.

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