Transport Commissioning: Overcoming the prevailing issues

You may recognise a number of the prevailing issues facing transport teams in the challenges and existing approaches breakdown. Overcoming these requires you and your council to dig beneath the visible issues and uncover the actual causes.

Here we identify, align and provide commentary around each of the issues in isolation and begin to uncover the actual causes to help you overcome them.


The cause reducing a councils’ ability to condense or meet their budget isn’t actually a budget problem after all. It is actually an internal capacity problem. In the way your commissioning team currently operate, they can’t manage a broader, diverse provider base due to the manual processes currently involved in the existing placement process.

This internal capacity problem impacts your team’s ability to:

  • deliver safe, quality and compliant services within budget
  • collaborate, support and manage more quality providers
  • encourage competition and proactive safeguarding

Instead, as demand continues to rise we often see:

  • routes continuing to fail
  • little competition or value on routes that are commissioned
  • commissioning teams constantly firefighting as they are forced to place routes outside of the existing framework agreement

The issue with internal capacity isn’t actually a body count problem. The cause is actually a process problem and demand problem. Instead of evaluating the effectiveness of existing process design, councils have instead decided to work around those processes. This approach worked to some degree, until rising demand compounded it out of proportion.

Demand compounding this process issue means councils struggle to deliver Passenger and SEN Transport within their available resources.

The longer this goes unaddressed, the greater the impact on:

  • costs going up
  • needs going unmet
  • providers remaining disengaged
  • teams continuing to be stretched

Demand in itself isn’t the cause either. The cause is actually internal infrastructure. Many transport teams around the country can cope with rising demand and complex needs whilst meeting their objectives because they have an approach that is built to meet the demands of today’s market. The right internal infrastructure gives transport teams the time they need to support their community.

What we often see is councils deciding to make decisions based on visible symptoms they recognise. Sadly, using preferred suppliers, one provider per school or using a routing system without an effective commissioning model to underpin it actually:

  • reduces their ability to deliver the service within their available resource
  • compounds the challenge overtime as it doesn't support the changing needs of the child
  • ensures your team continue to work around the commissioning process and exposes them to compliance and safeguarding issues

It’s a really tough job to manage changing needs on a weekly basis. Especially when the infrastructure isn’t in place with the right audit trail or the ability to work with diverse, specialist providers who can support those needs.

Having infrastructure in place to support the demands of today’s market branches wider than the commissioning team. The cause comes from the commissioner’s relationship with and previous choices a council’s procurement team have made about the infrastructure and approach they use.

Often, we see procurement teams who aren’t fully informed about the reality of the placement process undertaken. They may have embedded what looks like a compliant approach which should deliver value in terms of price and quality, but most often this isn’t the case.

Instead, we usually see councils struggling to have:

  • a single view of category performance
  • a seamless placement process from identifying a requirement, finding and matching the right provider, to the fulfilment of the route
  • trust in new approaches because they have been bitten by other vendors in the past

A council’s procurement team have a real opportunity to alleviate these issues and ensure Transport teams and other people-based spend categories meet their objectives. However, in our experience, the issues mentioned haven’t yet reached procurement. In some cases when procurement do become aware, they don’t seem compelling enough to warrant adoption of a new or established approach.

At this point, councils that have solved the challenge have diagnosed the real cost of continuing down the path they currently use. In this instance, the specific details will vary by council. Usually the diagnostic process covers a variety of challenges, priorities and worse case scenarios that align to the cost of one of more of the following:

  • commissioners working around the processes put in place
  • exposure to non-compliance
  • little competition in the market
  • a disengaged market
  • commissioning teams having to manage more providers (in the instance of using a DPS), without the additional resource and infrastructure to do that effectively
  • the impact on other categories aligned to SEN and Passenger Transport in the short, medium and long-term
  • unmet service user needs

The councils and transport teams that have overcome these, focused their efforts on three areas:

Embedding these has equipped those councils and transport teams with:

  • A simplified, compliant process that allows teams to focus on matching the right provider to the services user’s needs, at the right price each and everyday
  • The ability to work with more diverse, engaged and compliant capacity to drive collaboration, competition and quality from the market
  • A complete view of category performance

Our expertise rest in helping councils diagnose the impact the challenges they face have on their team, their market and their service user. We do this on a daily basis. We also provide the relevant tools they need to overcome them.

To start an exploratory conversation about the ramifications at your council, open a conversation with us.