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  • We are seeing efficiency gains in the region of £200,000, far in excess of the costs of the solution.

    Phil Peddle, Research and Information Team, Schools and Lifelong Learning Services

The Schools and Lifelong Learning Service is responsible for planning the free school bus service, administering the schools admission process and facilitating the weekly collection of internal mail by 140 schools from the council offices in central Cardiff.

The challenge

When eligibility for free transport to school is based on the walking distance from a pupil’s home and entrance to an oversubscribed school is dependent on catchment area, the council needs to be accurate in its measurements. Likewise, it needs to be efficient and cost-effective when organising bus routes and courier services.

The solution

Cardiff Council makes extensive use of MapInfo® for mapping and geographic analysis, with over 100 users across the organisation. The council has linked its Capita ONE management information system, RouteFinder network analysis system and MapInfo geographical information system (GIS) and is currently using a number of datasets in the Schools and Lifelong Learning Service. These include OS MasterMap® Integrated Transport Network™ (ITN) Layer, which provides the council with a single unambiguous and comprehensive network of roads and their classes.

When determining available walking routes to schools, staff look at contextual maps and aerial photography to see where footpaths or road-crossing points are. The council is also able to incorporate additional local footpath information into OS MasterMap ITN Layer.

Cardiff Council is expanding the use of intelligent geographic information to support the school admissions policy through catchment-area analysis, because admission to oversubscribed schools is based to some extent on the travel-to-school distance.

The Schools and Lifelong Learning Service also assessed different options for reducing the cost of school mail collections. By carrying out a simple analysis using OS MasterMap ITN Layer, the council calculated the current cost per mile and the travel time. It then looked at the location of all schools, the travelling distance from each one and evaluated the possibilities of a single vehicle delivering mail either to every school or to delivering to secondary schools for collection by primary schools.

The benefits

  • The process to determine free transport entitlement is much quicker and easier than measuring routes with a trundle wheel or from a paper map.
  • Walking routes are accurate to the school gates; parents can see the exact route that has been calculated.
  • Buses are routed more logically and pupils are quickly assigned to a particular bus because links to the pupil database show residential locations on a map.
  • Routes and pick-up positions easily adjusted to meet annual changes in demand.
  • Front-line staff able to deal with the admissions process more effectively.
  • More effective methods of delivering mailbags to the schools.

Return on investment

'Using Ordnance Survey data has allowed us to identify the children eligible for the free school bus service quickly and accurately. This has allowed us to organise transport provision in a far more proactive way. We’ve been able to optimise the number of buses we need, accurately tailor bus routes to suit where the city’s children live and assign them to their closest and best route. We were able to fund the increase in contract prices for using high-capacity coaches fitted with seat belts, high-backed seats and CCTV, which replaced the old double-decker buses on the school transport contracts and we were able to absorb those costs from the savings and efficiencies we had generated. Taken with the potential savings in the courier service of around £10,000 per year, we are seeing efficiency gains in the region of £200,000, far in excess of the costs of the solution.'

The products used

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