Tendring Community Transport (TCT) is a well-established Community Transport scheme based in Clacton-on-Sea, Essex. It operates in an area east of Colchester comprising a mixture of rural communities as well as coastal towns and villages. All in all, the Tendring district comprises approximately 130 square miles.
Together with their six social car scheme partners, Tendring provides wheelchair accessible and door-to-door transport for people of all ages who either find it difficult or impossible to access public transport. In 2015/16, TCT’s “Can do” approach delivered an impressive 166,422 passenger journeys.
“Our ongoing aim is to provide creative solutions to complex transport problems.” Says TCT’s CEO, Pauline Mann. And that’s where switching to CATSS comes in…
“We first started looking for a new scheduling system when the support ceased from our previous provider, Special Needs Transport.” Pauline continues. “We’d been using it for around 15 years and, until the support stopped, it was great.”
Faced with having to replace SNT, Tendring first looked to see which systems other local operators were using. “We decided on a system used by other CT schemes in Essex. It’s a web based booking system but it did not suit our needs and we only used it for six months before we had to stop.”
After another review of the market TCT chose CATSS as the ideal replacement for the SNT software they’d previously used so successfully. Because CATSS is developed by CT operators, for CT operators, we were able to set up the CATSS software to complement the way TCT already worked: their organisation, vehicle types and the range of journeys they made. As well as avoiding upheaval and inconvenience, it meant that TCT’s system wasn’t loaded with anything they’d never use.
“We selected CATSS as the software was very similar to SNT.” says Pauline. “It gave us flexibility, allowed us to pick suitable time slots for our users rather than being allocated slots by the system – and everything was so user friendly.”
We wanted to get TCT benefitting from our software as quickly as possible. “All our staff received onsite training and were confidently using CATSS the next day.” Pauline continues. “Now, if we experience any problems with the booking system the CATSS support team is always there to deal with it, very quickly and efficiently.”
Tendring is one of the most deprived areas in Essex and, based on the overall deprivation measures, is within the top 20% of most deprived local authorities in England. With a high demand for health services, TCT’s hospital transport service is especially vital. We knew the pressures TCT faced as a CT operator so simple, transparent pricing, with a fixed licence fee and set up charge with no on-going or hidden costs, guaranteed there’d be no unexpected bills later.
TCT are more than happy with their CATSS system. “We find Daily Manager especially useful because we’re able to see exactly what is happening on a daily basis at a glance. The Report feature makes information readily available for STATS.”
“I’d definitely recommend CATSS – the system is easy to use, the support is brilliant and by making our service more efficient it’s also boosted our passenger numbers.”
Pauline Mann, CEO, Tendring Community Transport
Originally a volunteer bureau, Shire Community Services has been providing transport and mobility support to the local communities of Wellingborough and surrounding Northamptonshire villages since 1973. They operate a fleet of five minibuses as well as managing a team of 30 volunteer car drivers.
Before switching to CATSS, Shire was making bookings and organising journeys using SNT (Special Needs Transport) software. However, when SNT were no longer able to provide vital support and updates, it was time to look for a new provider.
“CATSS was a natural progression for us from SNT. Both programmes were created by some of the same writers and so it was an obvious choice.” says Rosemarie O’Reilly, Shire’s Senior Transport co-ordinator. “After having a demonstration of the system, the decision was unanimous: we didn’t need to shop around and look at any other software because this was the one.”
CATSS provides comprehensive set up, installation and training to ensure the software is configured to each client’s needs and that they’re 100% happy using it. For Shire Community Services this was a major benefit.
“We found CATSS to be intuitive and user friendly which made it easy to train new staff. But the back up and online support during and after installation was superb – and it still is.” Rosemarie continues. “Questions and queries are answered very promptly. Quite recently we had a major incident and all our systems were encrypted and we were held to ransom. We lost two PCs including the CATSS manager, causing mayhem and major panic in our office. CATSS support were fabulous and had us back up and running within hours and we only lost that morning’s work. As a charity, with the potential problems for users and cost, this could have been so damaging for us. Words cannot express the gratitude we felt that day.”
A feature that Shire find especially useful is our mobile communication app, KITTENS, which operates on the GPRS mobile network using Android mobiles or tablets. It integrates with CATSS to provide real-time information exchange between their drivers and vehicles.
“The computers talking directly to the buses is both a time saving and a cost advantage for us. We no longer have the problem of contacting drivers while they’re out and about to tell them about cancellations and alterations to journeys. It also allows us to keep passengers up to date with exactly where the bus is at any given time.” says Rosemarie.
“The Reports function is also helpful.” Rosemarie continues. “We use the reports daily to enable us to ensure we are running in the most cost-effective manner. We love the fact we can keep a close eye on the demographics and this is so useful to us when we are looking to do publicity within certain areas.”
As the UK population ages, CT usage seems set to rise, whilst pressures on budgets increase. By providing a smarter way to schedule and monitor journeys, CATSS is already helping Shire not just survive – but expand. “CATSS enables us to keep a constant eye on efficiency, scheduling the buses is much easier and the knowledge it holds on each passenger helps us to instil confidence with our members.” Rosemarie says. “Since having CATSS we have expanded our business into other areas of the county and this has been made easier to use with the mapping systems.”
I personally love CATSS and all its features and I’ve demonstrated the programme on more than one occasion to other organisations that have asked what system we use. I’d like to say a huge thank you to all the staff at CATSS that clearly work so hard to keep us on the road and help us to help so many elderly and disabled people within our community.
Rosemarie O’Reilly, Senior Transport co-ordinator, Shire Community Services
Imago provides a range of services that support independence and reduce social isolation for some of the most vulnerable people in Kent, Medway, East Sussex and London. Their Dial2Drive community transport scheme operates across Sevenoaks, Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells for people unable to access public transport due to older age, illness or disability.
Before switching to CATSS in 2015 Imago was making bookings using separate handwritten paper diaries for each of the three areas they operated in. They had many volunteers and mistakes would often occur due to illegible handwriting or failure to allocate a specific driver to each drive. The result was duplication of bookings, wasting volunteer drivers’ precious time.
“All the different clients from all three areas were written on index cards in a box. Finding the client’s details when they were on the phone meant rummaging through the box. Often the card was missing, or someone had filed it back in the wrong order. It was mayhem.” Says Imago IT Development Officer, Gareth Day. “There was no driver sheet email confirmation either and a driver would sometimes misinterpret what you said and turn up for a job they weren’t needed for!”
Another issue Imago experienced with the paper diary system was it relied on volunteers having a good knowledge of the local area. “A volunteer might not know the geography and book a driver way too far away. Clients then complained the journey was too much when they got billed.” Says Gareth.
Imago realised it was time to move to a software-based solution but initially tried working with a developer to create their own transport database. This was difficult and proved a thankless task so Imnago then began looking for alternative solutions. What first attracted them to CATSS was that it was created by CT operators, for CT operators and was already being used successfully by organisations like theirs up and down the UK.
“It was appealing that CATSS was created by three schemes like ours that pooled their resources and that it was used by 68 or so others around the country.” Gareth says. Imago also liked CATSS collaborative, flexible approach that could match the system to their specific needs. “It was pleasing to hear that any suggestions or enhancements could be considered and if feasible, implemented into the system. We then visited someone who was using CATSS and he spent a morning showing how he used it and explaining the difference it had made. We decided to go ahead with it straight away!”
CATSS software was installed at Imago in 2015. For the first month they ran both the old diary scheme and the new software side by side. “But as we got used to it we threw the paper diaries away. Some volunteers were using it independently of staff guidance after 2 sessions, others took a bit longer.”
Thanks to CATSS everybody at Imago now works on the same page as one unified Kent scheme. Drivers are matched geographically to each drive and to each client’s bespoke requirements. Drivers are no longer double booked and receive all the information they need for each job via email with the driver sheets. Another significant advantage of using CATSS has been the invoicing function. This was previously done manually in Excel spreadsheets and took weeks to produce because the figures given for monitoring were inaccurate and timely to collate.
“All the figures are accurate and the invoicing more streamlined, there are fewer errors from everybody. When something goes wrong, we can just click on the change log and can see what has happened. All in all it’s a much swifter, more professional service and my volunteers say it’s transformed us into the 21st century.”
CATSS enabled us to move from a paper-based booking process that produced lots of errors to a swifter, more accurate system fit for the 21st Century. We’ve also received friendly support whenever we’ve needed it. I’d recommend CATSS.
Gareth Day, IT Development Officer, Dial2Drive, Imago