Shefford and District Bus Association
Transporting your child in a safe and cost effective way

SHEFFORD AND DISTRICT BUS ASSOCIATION

 

TREASURER'S REPORT TO THE 2018 AGM

 The accounts for the year are healthy, with the costs of the service remaining constant therefore the cost of full tickets remaining the same. The committee agree that one way and occasional day ticket prices should be higher than directly comparable to discourage the use of these as they are becoming increasingly difficult to work with, especially as the bus is now full with a number of families on a waiting list to join the service. We do not plan to run a larger bus or dual service

The service continued to provide a solid service to the schools, with Herbert’s only facing 2 late arrival penalties, and the non-running of the bus when the beast from the east hit on that Friday morning.

This year, due to a number of late applications we would always receive a day or two before the actual start of the new school year. We decided to move the application, deposit and payment date to before all schools broke up for the summer holidays. This proved to be successful and is something that we will be repeating in future years.

Thank you for attending the AGM.

 

CHAIR'S REPORT TO THE 2018 AGM

 I would like to begin by acknowledging the work done by Manoj Katargamwala, my predecessor who stepped down from his position as Treasurer and acting Chair at this meeting last October.

I would like to thank Berni and Alex for the fantastic work that they do for SABDA and to announce that as my daughter will be finishing school next summer, I shall be stepping down from the committee at Easter. We would be delighted to hear from any parents interested in joining the committee.

2017-2018

Last September, the SABDA service went from two buses to one bus operating on a single route originating in Letchworth. This has meant that we have lost some passengers, particularly from the Arlesey and Stotfold areas. However, passenger numbers were healthy for the 2017-2018 academic year, mainly because we were all on one bus. This also meant that the fare came down substantially.

In December 2017, Herberts’ Travel was taken over by Chiltern Travel but continued to operate under Herberts’ name. We were assured that the service, which was on a yearly rolling contract, would continue for the year.

In February 2018, the committee began planning for the 2018-2019 academic year. We contacted Herberts and it was agreed that they would continue to provide the service for SABDA, again on a yearly basis. Herberts had increased the daily rate the previous year and it was agreed that the rate would remain the same. No contract was signed at the time because until the committee has established that there are sufficient passenger numbers and collected deposits/annual fares, we are not in a position to sign anything.

A major problem for the committee in recent years has been establishing the actual number of passengers so that we can calculate whether the revenue will cover the cost of the service. In 2016-2017, a registration fee was introduced, but Manoj still spent weeks chasing parents for responses before establishing that the service would have to go down to one route/one bus. In 2017-2018, a late application/late payment of balance surcharge was introduced and this was much more effective in getting applications in by the deadline set. This meant that the committee was able to calculate the fare per passenger much earlier than in previous years and the intention was that passes would be sent out before the summer holidays rather than in mid-August as in previous years.

On June 18th, I received an email from Herberts terminating the service ‘due to upcoming driver retirements’. We contacted ten bus companies for quotations to run the service. Of those that replied, it was clear that their pricing was very much influenced by the proximity of their depot to the starting point in the morning (which would also be the end point in the evening). The only company that we had a reasonable chance of negotiating with was Landmark Travel. We initially asked for a quotation for a 76-seater double-decker bus and the daily rate quoted would have put our fares up to £960 per passenger. (Double-deckers apparently do six miles to the gallon.) Landmark offered a 70-seater coach at the rate we had previously agreed with Herberts. A three-year contract was signed on Thursday 19th July, 2018. Passes were issued that weekend to those who had applied and paid by the deadline.

Strangely, we have had a double-decker every day since the start of term.

2018 – 2019 to date

There have been delays to the service since the start of term. Some can be attributed to roadworks in Cotton End which at one stage had four-way controls. Landmark also took a different route through Bedford than Herberts after dropping off at Bedford Girls’ School. Discussions about the route through Bedford and the optimum dropping-off point at BGS are ongoing.

The future: 2019 - 2020

We have a three-year contract with Landmark Coaches and under that contract they will continue to provide the service for the next two academic years. However, both parties have right of termination of the contract within the three-year period.

SABDA is a parent-run association and as an association cannot run at a loss. When calculating fares, the committee has to maintain a surplus in case passengers leave the service during the year and claim refunds for unused terms. The surplus is also maintained in case the service provider increases the day rate to cover extraordinary costs. Last spring, the committee reviewed the surplus required for the year and moved some of it into our operating account so that there was no fare increase for this year.

When contacting bus companies for quotations, it became apparent that the SABDA service is extremely good value for our parents and passengers. There is no comparable service that I know of that has fares as low as £795 per year, or even the £895 paid by those who applied late. The going rate for services from Luton to the Bedford schools is £450 per term for services that charge termly. Some companies charge an up-front fare of £1350 per year and do not give refunds when passengers leave the service. We hope that parents will bear this in mind if there is a fare increase next year.

There are four risks for the viability of SABDA. These are:

    1. Landmark Coaches terminates the contract at the end of this year. Like Herberts, the company could be sold or just decide to terminate services that are awkward or not as profitable as others.
    2. Sufficient committee members cannot be recruited.
    3. Passenger numbers fall and the cost per passenger becomes too high.
    4. Landmark Coaches increase their day rate to something comparable to that of their competitors and parents are unwilling to pay what appears to be the market rate.