School bus app gives parents peace of mind

News stories are free to read. Click here for full access to all the features, articles and archive from only £2.99.

Aimed at further enhancing the safety of school children and giving parents and carers peace of mind, Nottinghamshire operator Skills Group has turned to ticketing specialist TransMach to introduce a bespoke smartphone travel app.

Once the child boards the bus and validates their journey via TransMach’s contactless handheld TM920 ticket machine, a notification is sent to the parent or carer’s smartphone to confirm that their child is aboard, as well as providing the estimated time of arrival.

For those children who do not possess a smartphone, TransMach has developed a smartcard as an alternative option with the same functionality. Alongside the Search My Coach app, TransMach created an online booking portal for parents and carers which enables the user to book either single tickets, a carnet package of up to ten trips, or a whole term’s worth of school bus travel. There’s also an automatic payment facility, so that any booking interruptions are avoided, as well as a seat management function, to ensure that services are never over-booked.

Having been operating for over 100 years, and providing bus and coach services for local schools and educational establishments across Nottinghamshire, Skills Group said it saw the pandemic as both a challenge but also an opportunity to harness technology to deliver even safer and more seamless private hire transport. Following four months of development and testing, the new app has been rolled out across the firm’s fleet of 30 vehicles that operate school and college services. Each one was fitted with TransMach’s mobile TM920 ticket machine, which provides contactless validation, thereby also reducing the risk of spreading Covid-19.

TransMach’s Android-based mobile TM920 contactless unit replaced Skills Group’s legacy manual ticketing system. In addition to converting all of its vehicles used on educational contracted routes, TransMach’s TM500 On-bus contactless ticket machines have been installed in Skills’ remaining fleet of 20 buses which operate scheduled services across the county, ensuring the whole operation is fully contactless.

Commenting on its three-phase project to deliver the app, booking portal and integration of contactless ticketing machines, TransMach Director Minesh Vandra said: “TransMach has been very proud to work with such a long established and respected operator as Skills Group. Ensuring the safety of children using bus services is of paramount importance and we are now able to provide reassurance to parents and carers through our specially designed travel app. The added benefit of contactless ticketing adds a further layer of protection as operators continue to mitigate the risks associated with Covid-19.

“As well as playing our part to support public health, TransMach’s mission is to make bus and coach travel more cost-efficient for our customers, by removing the administrative burden associated with manual ticketing machines. We believe that almost 90% of smaller, regional operators are still using outdated equipment, so our focus in 2022 will be to support these operators in the transition to a fully contactless, all-in-one solution.”

Rupert Skill, Skills’ Contracts & Private Hire Manager, said: “Skills is proud to boast a modern fleet and a forward-thinking approach to our operations. We have always kept our eye on emerging technology to help complement our business and continually look to improve the level of service we offer to our clients. We approached several providers but the team at TransMach stuck out as a company willing to go above and beyond in order to satisfy our needs. At no point from pitching our ideas, into developing and eventually to launch, were any questions or requests left unanswered or not achieved. At times, we even tried to find nuisances to the service, to see if it would phase the team at TransMach but to this day we failed in such endeavours. As a result, we have been able to launch a fully adaptable booking system with a complementary client application, which has been delivered without a hitch. This has received praise from our clients and most importantly from the parents who use the service. Our focus was on providing an easy to book, safe service, whereby a parent can monitor when a pupil has boarded and where the vehicle is, so providing a transparent experience. Our back-office system offers live data for schools to monitor loadings and live registers so they know who is on the service and when. We would highly recommend the team at TransMach and look forward to continuing to do business with them.”

TransMach’s contactless handheld TM920 ticket machine. TRANSMECH