Fyfield: A rural school with big mobility needs.


Ongar (United Kingdom)

Challenge area:

Accessibility & Inclusivity

Implementation period:


The Challenge

On paper, fixed-route-and-schedule transit is perfect for schools. After all, timetables, routes and passengers are the same day in, day out. Easy to plan for, easy to program, right? Nevertheless, every year finds cash-strapped local authorities juggling increasingly tight budgets with the need to provide safe, reliable and efficient services. In rural areas, the problem is compounded by large catchment areas with scattered populations, making optimizing linear routes and sticking to strict timetables a challenge.

This was certainly the case for Ongar Academy in Essex, UK, which had to move some 130 students over an area of nearly 200 sq km with only a handful of minibuses. And when the school expanded in 2019, the pressure only increased. Having already exhausted all options to cut costs, Essex County Council reached out to Jacobs Consultancy. Jacobs then partnered with Shotl, challenging us to find an innovative solution to the school’s growing mobility needs while still keeping costs down.


The Solution

Using the existing fleet of 7 minibuses, we adapted our algorithm and on-demand platform to meet the strict pick-up and drop-off-time requirements of home-to-school transit. Rides were pre-programed in bulk and students collected from virtual stops placed at the optimal distance between each home. Phase II of the pilot gave parents the flexibility to cancel unwanted rides via the Passenger App.

We provided the Passenger App, Driver App, Central Control Console, driver and user training, marketing materials and support. Essex County Council funded the service and provided drivers and vehicles.

Passenger App allows parents and students to get real-time pick-up and drop-off estimate updates and a more convenient, personalized service that adapts to their needs, not the other way round.

Algorithms constantly optimize all passenger bookings and vehicles routes to provide the best possible service for all users.

Driver App alerts drivers to changes and cancellations in real-time, directs them to virtual pick-up and drop-off points and allows them to monitor on-board capacity.

Dashboard allows transport operators to set service parameters, monitor operations in real time via the Control Panel and get detailed data and analytics on user behavior, taking the guesswork out of getting it right.