It’s every bus company’s dream to become the preferred operator of their local transport authority and community. Once they’ve successfully won and retained business in their own backyard, it’s common to move on to tendering for new routes in the surrounding areas as well in order to grow. But once you’re at the top of the heap in your local market, where else is there to go?
International, of course.
The Go-Ahead Group needs little introduction. Providing over a billion journeys every year on both bus and rail, it is one of the United Kingdom’s top public transport providers. It runs the busiest rail operation in the UK, overseeing 35% of all passenger rail journeys, and has been the largest operator of bus services in London for as long as people can remember London having buses.
Today, Go-Ahead Group remains the leading operator in London, running roughly 25% of the iconic red buses. Not bad for a company that traces its roots back to running horse-drawn buses well over a century ago!
Having successfully grown into a position of dominance in two modes of transport in the UK, Go-Ahead decided to look beyond the UK’s borders for its next opportunity in 2014. The company identified Singapore as the ideal place to start.
David Cutts, the Managing Director of Go-Ahead Singapore and former Operations Director of Go-Ahead London, explains why:
“We were already familiar with the Singapore Land Transport Authority (LTA) as their delegates visited London to see how the buses are run there.
“As we are the largest bus operator in London, we were one of the companies that they met with to learn more about what we do.
“So when the LTA eventually made the decision to move over to a bus franchising model that was similar to London’s model of operating buses, which we are obviously very familiar with, it was a natural choice for us to tender in Singapore and start our global journey there.”
An additional consideration was that the buses and depots were owned by the LTA and would be operated by the winner of the tender, reducing the amount of start-up costs that Go-Ahead would otherwise have to pay for.
Go-Ahead was interested in bidding for a package of routes in the northeast of Singapore, serving the Pasir Ris and Punggul area. With the tender open to local as well as international operators, competition was fierce and Go-Ahead sought assistance from Trapeze Group to produce an attractive proposal to the Singapore LTA.
“We use the Trapeze Planning & Scheduling solution at Go-Ahead London and it is considered the best solution there,” said David.
“This is because of the flexibility it gives in terms of duty scheduling and its powerful algorithms – it produces the most efficient result for bus driver scheduling based on the parameters you set.
“It enables us to run various scheduling scenarios fairly quickly and compare the outcomes. This helps us reduce costs whilst balancing driver welfare.
“Since the Singapore model is a lot like London’s, it flowed naturally for us to use Trapeze’s Planning & Scheduling solution in creating our bid.”
“The Trapeze Planning & Scheduling tool is a good technical solution for a regulated public transport operation,” concurred Paul Hartigan, Head of Bus Applications for the wider Go-Ahead Group.
The Trapeze team provided a hosted environment for the Go-Ahead team to model timetables, hours and other elements required for the bid. They also performed additional bureau scheduling services to help Go-Ahead put together the most efficient combination of crew duties, vehicle usage and driver rosters.
As a result of the hard work by both Go-Ahead and Trapeze Group schedulers, the organisation was successful in winning their first international tender and were given the green light to start operating in the LTA-owned Loyang Bus Depot.
Go-Ahead began running its new routes in 2016 and retained the use of the Trapeze Planning & Scheduling solution for ongoing work.
The solution is now utilised on a day-to-day basis for timetabling, mapping, duty scheduling for crew, rotas and reporting to the Singapore LTA, as well as making incremental improvements to increase efficiency and bus driver morale.
“Over time we have visited and revisited our scenarios to find a better balance between the amount of driver (or bus captains, as we call them here) time on duty, staff morale and cost-efficiency,” said David.
“I find the Trapeze Planning & Scheduling solution good because I can interact with my schedulers and ask them what-if questions, and they come back to me with a list of options that allow us to find the best possible solution to achieve our aims.
“Often they’ll come to me with answers to a problem and I’ll have them reinvestigate options – the software allows us to do that flexibly and quickly.”
Go-Ahead is also continuing to use the Trapeze Planning & Scheduling solution to determine costs and scenarios for tender applications in other regions as the company expands abroad.
“Singapore is our stepping stone for further international expansion,” said David. “We look forward to growing in Singapore as well as other countries in Asia Pacific and Europe.”
Read Go-Ahead Singapore’s full story: