Deborah Squire joins QRoutes

QRoutes is delighted to welcome senior transport planning consultant Deborah Squire to the team. Deborah has more than 25 years home-to-school route planning experience in mainstream and SEND education.

She has worked for both small and large local authorities and started her career as a transport assistant in Wrexham in 1996.

She then moved to Flintshire County Council where she was transport manager in social services. Her most recent job was at Birmingham City Council, the UK’s largest local authority, where she managed a team of more than 40 transport staff.

Shrinking budgets

Deborah says the role of the planner is “ever changing” with teams coming under more pressure as local authorities struggle with shrinking budgets and a rise in students with special needs.

Referring to the specific challenges planners face in organising home-to-school journeys for SEND children, Deborah says: “Understanding the needs of the pupil and ensuring the correct information is provided is key.

“Especially with children who struggle with change, it is really important to get the transport right first time. Any changes can cause disruption, which could lead to behaviour problems which may result in one-to-one transport at great expense to the council.”

Driver shortage

The pandemic created more challenges for planners who often had to deal with last minute operational changes without warning.

Deborah says: “Due to Covid especially, there is a driver shortage as contractors struggle to retain and recruit drivers. This has had a significant impact on contractors, resulting in increased costs.

“This is where QRoutes benefits to maximise the use of vehicles, reduce the demand for drivers and bring down expenditure.”

Managing relationships

She says she has seen many things over the years – including a day when she was monitoring vehicles arriving at a day centre and to her “amazement” a saloon car arrived with its boot flapping up and down due to a wheelchair wedged in the boot. Or the time when she had to deal with children upset by their bus driver holding up a dead rabbit. He thought they’d be interested in “some recent roadkill” he was taking home for his dinner.

Deborah’s tips for a smoother ride when managing relationships between local authority planning teams, politicians and contractors involve being open and realistic about what can be done.

“In previous roles working in transport, expectations would need to be managed between parents, contractors, councillors and schools.

“My tip would be to be honest about what can be done and what can’t be done but be open to ideas and options within certain parameters.”

A fantastic addition to our expert team

QRoutes’ CEO David Stewart says: “We’re thrilled Deborah has joined us. Customers tell us that one of our strengths as a software supplier is that we understand school transport. And Deborah’s wealth of experience makes her a fantastic addition to our expert team.”

See About Us to find out more about QRoutes team

QRoutes features in INNOVATE Bristol & Bath

QRoutes has been listed in the latest INNOVATE™ BRISTOL & BATH, from Global Village Publishing.

This 380-page premium coffee-table book showcases Bristol & Bath’s innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem.

“We’re thrilled to be included in this year’s edition” says Liz Davidson, CMO. “The West of England is one of the most dynamic regions for tech. It is an exciting to be part of it.”

“Every single one of the stories has been carefully chosen to guide you on a journey across the region and offer you a glimpse into the future.” says Natalia Rodríguez Novás, Publishing Partner for Global Village Publishing.

And QRoutes is one of them. Based in Future Space, QRoutes is the UK’s leading many-to-few routing engine for passenger transport.

It is primarily used by local authorities for home-to-school transport, including the complex and sensitive area of special educational needs and disabilities.

The company has grown rapidly since its launch in 2016 and now supplies 20% of the UK authorities that provide home-to-school provision.

During the pandemic, it free support to any not-for-profit organisation which found itself facing routing tasks (such as the delivery of food to vulnerable households) as part of their emergency response.

One of those was Manchester City Council. Victoria Harper who as coordinating the response said “The support from QRoutes has been a huge help in enabling efficiencies with daily driver planning.”

In the last year, the company also launched QPaths. This new tool calculates the door-to-door distance of safe home-to-school walking routes faster and with greater accuracy than existing methods.

“With 150 success stories with this publication alone, The West of England certainly has plenty of good news to share. We are immensely grateful to the West of England Combined Authority for making this book possible.” adds Natalia.

INNOVATE™ BRISTOL & BATH is also available as an e-book and an online platform, representing a network with a common goal of ensuring the region’s best innovations and innovation enablers connect and succeed.

How Pax-QR can make managing home-to-school transport easier

We recently hosted a webinar to give local authority transport teams a chance to find out how Pax-QR can help them work out the most efficient home-to-school journeys. 

Pax Systems created the transport data management system which integrates seamlessly with the QRoutes digital planning tool. Phil Dyson, from Pax, said it was a unique product and was designed “very specifically for local authority transport teams”. He explained they were able to do this because he and other Pax team members had worked in local authority transport planning departments.

Pax provides the cloud-based software to manage all the required data  – this includes customer and school details, contract management, financial information and operators. This data is then combined with QRoutes to optimise the routes.  

A flexible approach that integrates with existing systems

Phil said most councils dealt with their educational management and financial information differently and that “one size does not fit all”. Pax is able to integrate data management software with several systems such as Capita, Jalen, SEEMISgroup, SAP and Agresso.

In the webinar, Phil demonstrated how optimisation software offers the best value for home-to-school journeys, as planners can calculate the most efficient route allocation. And to make things even easier, there’s also a visual representation of the journey using maps.

When asked whether the software allowed for different arrival times for students at different times of the week, he said they could build in “any mix of times”. He added they were currently developing a specific timetable design with one of the local authorities who use Pax-QR.

The financial insight authorities need

With council budgets being under constant pressure, another advantage of the software is its financial forecasting system. This has been designed to give a flexible view on transport spend in different ways. For example, it’s possible to look at contract spend against eligibility or even from a seat type or service area. 

It’s also possible to see the forecast in a single report, allowing the authority to compare one month to the next, which can support monthly budget processing. This allows teams to provide a monthly update and forecast to the corporate finance team.

A popular question at the webinar was about compliance workflow and how that could be accessed. Phil explained the system includes a process for recording all of the compliance steps and this can be used on one single issue, which can then be updated. Or if a new issue arises, a new compliance tab can be opened. 

If you missed the broadcast, you can access it by getting in touch or sign up for the next webinar on Tuesday 29th June at 9.30am, when Pax will be presenting again.