An innovative smart web-based transport planning service for local authorities has been bringing improved service and cost savings for a number of UK local authorities in a key service area of transporting Special Education Needs or Disabilities (SEND) from their homes to schools. QRoutes is a Smart web-based transport planning service for local authorities that aims to cut the cost of providing SEND transport whilst improving student safety.
Developed by the frontierCities SEND-TO project under the EU FIWARE programme (www.fiware.org), QRoutes sought to address a number of challenges faced by local authorities. Local authorities would previously often plan SEND-To transport routes using a variety of online tools and paper maps. This required considerable staff time and resources, and did not necessarily create the shortest or most time-efficient school runs, thereby wasting expenditure and causing unnecessary carbon emissions. Another problem was the inability to quickly and regularly update the planned routes during the year as pupils joined or left the schools.
QRoutes Co-Founder and Managing Director Jeff Duffell knows these challenges well, having sold IT solutions to local government for a number of years. “Existing solutions just didn’t provide a fast and customised resource for local authority staff”, comments Duffell. “I know this from first-hand experience, and this frustration was a big motivation in trying to develop a better solution. Our philosophy for QRoutes was to have a fast, easy-to-use solution that would not only generate savings but would be affordable for local authorities and municipal cities”.
Some of the first results look more than promising. Kent County Council (KCC) was one of the first local authorities to take a subscription on QRoutes and is already realising significant expenditure savings as a result. KCC estimate those savings to be in the order of £1.5 million annually. But the benefits have not just been financial, but also include reduced traffic and carbon emissions – in the case of one school for example Qroutes has resulted in an 11% decrease in usage of SEND transport vehicles and the attendant reduced carbon emission.
“QRoutes improves the routing and reduces the number of contracts we need” comments Shane Bushell, KCC’s Client Transport Manager for Public Transport - “now we can route as often as we like, even during the academic year we are able to quickly re-plan to ensure the contracts remain efficient”.
Kent County Council were so impressed by QRoutes that it supported the public launch of the product at the UK Smarter Travel LIVE! Conference for sustainable towns & cities in March 2016. Other UK local authorities are now investigating using QRoutes, with Bedford being amongst those that have purchased QRoutes.