FE Transport Costs Comprise Two Categories: Staff Transport Costs and Student Transport Costs
The number of sites and the location of those sites are the biggest factors influencing a providers FE Transport costs. Clearly the costs associated with the need for staff to travel between campuses can be significant. This is especially true in rural areas and where county boundaries may have to be crossed. Whereas in cities, such as London, there is usually a good level of public service transport available. However the sparsity of transport in rural areas is a major problem. Even in cities such as London transport is not always as frequent or low-cost as might be hoped for. Sometimes getting from A to B is not a straight line and several changes need to be made to get between points that may not be so far as the crow flies. This can be time-consuming.
FE Transport: Student Transport
Over the years the availability of “school buses” and other means of transport has cut both in the UK and the US. At first glance this might seem to be logical and offer obvious savings. However logic and savings do not always go together.
One provider we researched had found that increased expenditure on transport actually increased their bottom line. The provider, based in the south-east, had seen several villages within its catchment area expand with the building of new estates. The population rose but the local transport infrastructure didn’t adapt to the growth. The result was that residents of several new estates found it easier to travel 20 miles to a competitor college despite the fact their local college was just five miles away.
The local provider decided to run a minibus service to service the local estates and promoted this with door drops of leaflets, social media campaigns and PR via the local papers. On analysing the postcodes of the next years intake it was found that several courses would have been unviable without the students from the new estates. Should those courses have been dropped some students would have migrated to similar courses whilst others would have taken other options. The provider concluded that without the provision of the mini buses they would have lost several courses and a significant number of students.
FE Transport: Subsidised Transport
Many providers in our research find it cost-effective to subsidise transport. Some do this on a route by route basis. Others do it as a travel pass that can be used on all the routes the bus company runs. In one case the pass was available for use on any route, seven days a week for 30 weeks a year. This provider promotes the fact it can also be used to go shopping, to undertake travel to a workplacement and to get to the beach at the weekend!
FE Transport: Staff Transport
Some providers expect staff to use their own transport to travel between centres. They only provide transport where a staff member has no transport of their own. Others insist on provider supplied transport being used as they find it costs less.
The type and quality of service vehicle provided varies a lot between providers. Some vehicles are quite old and show their age whilst others are modern new electric vehicles that are ideal for town use and easy parking.
FE Transport: The Money Factor
There are considerable sums to be wasted under the transport banner. Some providers seem to have little idea on the true costs of their transport policy. Others have given it little consideration until we queried it. Others have conducted full financial appraisals with breakeven budgets for various options. Sometimes an initial capital bid can save considerable sums very quickly.
FE Transport: Working Together
What is very apparent is the need for those responsible for transport to work closely with curriculum and management. Holding physical meetings in a given campus over another can reduce transportation costs. Aiming for the campus where most attendees are based makes good sense from this perspective. Holding the meetings online via Skype or Zoom makes even or sense in some cases. Likewise when curriculum decides who teaches a class giving consideration to where staff are located can make sense. Of course other considerations will always impinge and transport costs are just part of the mix.
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