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Distinctive Systems
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April 25 2018
By Jessica Barton

Jessica writes for routeone, Group Tourism & Travel, and is the Editor of Coach Drivers Club News

An answer to contract problems

With a solution that frees operators from the strains of managing contract work, is keen to dispel the ‘broker’ myth

When it comes to bidding for contracts, coach operators can often find themselves in a minefield.

With the plethora of rules and regulations and paperwork they face, the process can not only be time consuming, but also requires the manpower to submit the tender and manage it if it’s won. offers a solution that eliminates the stress of bidding for and managing contracts, as well as helping operators to get optimum use of their vehicles and stay compliant – and it’s all free.

Group demand

Acquired in 2012, worked with 750 coach operators in 2017, a figure it expects to increase to 1,000 this year.

Managing Director Mathew Hassell (l) and Chief Operating Officer Martin Andrew

Says CEO Mathew Hassell: “What we’re offering is a way for operators that don’t have the capability and the resources, to bid for contracts – whether they be government, school or corporate contracts – themselves.”

The management team has ample experience in tendering and bidding and putting in place managed services.

“We were building platforms for mostly the big banks and the big blue chips, that spend millions of pounds a year on taxis and chauffeur drive, to help them manage that supply and spend,” says Mathew.

“When we worked out there was a similar demand with groups, we started to apply some of what we knew into that service.”

Working with you recruits reputable operators to take on new contracts and routes or it takes over the management of operators on existing contracts.

Says Mathew: “What we usually do for school contracts is review what the school currently has and make recommendations about what they should have in place.”

This enables to find the right services for both the school and the operator.

“Operators can pick up contracts or one-off events, and then there’s the ad hoc jobs that are still going on where they can fill in their dead mileage and spare capacity,” says Mathew.

“What we can offer operators is some certainty – we can offer them three- to five-year contracts by working with us.”

School safety

In March 2016, won its first big school contract.

MD Mathew Hassell with Andy Macfie, Souter Investment MD

“Schools can end up spending a lot of time managing their coach services,” says Mathew. “So we can put together a managed service solution for them.

“We’re now moving around 2,500-3,000 schoolchildren to school across the UK every morning.”

With this understanding, launched its SchoolSafe apps last year after securing multi-million-pound funding from Souter Investments [routeone/News/6 December 2017].

Says Mathew: “We met Sir Brian Souter and he showed an interest in what we are doing.

“He believes that technology is a key enabler and that it’s changing the way transport operates. Everything that we’re doing is part of that overall movement to the future.”

A game changer

The SchoolSafe technology integrates tracking and communication via apps for drivers, parents and school staff to safeguard schoolchildren on home-to-school transport.

The SchoolSafe apps give peace of mind to parents, school staff and operators

Says business developer Gareth Evans: “The vehicle is tracked as soon as it leaves the depot, which gives everyone peace of mind.”

At the start of their shift, the driver logs into the pre-programmed app which includes each stop and who they should be picking up.  

“All the students have their own ID cards, which they swipe when they get on the vehicle,” says Gareth.

The parent then gets an alert to say their child has boarded. If a child hasn’t boarded, the parent will get a notification telling them so.

“From a safeguarding perspective, this is a game-changer,” says Mathew.

He adds: “The most important thing for operators to know is it doesn’t cost them anything. We provide the tablet and the app. We also provide training for drivers and a user guide. All we ask them to do is turn the device on every morning.

“This also cuts out their admin – all of what we do is part of a managed solution, so operators can focus on what they do best.”

Efficient and compliant plans to give operators a live version of its technology to improve efficiencies, says Mathew.

“A lot of operators are still using pen and paper, but by using our supplier portal, operators are able to join our network, access bookings and upload documentation for free.” also continues to operate its core leisure business to corporates and consumers, and operators can access this work via

As well as offering this platform to operators, also wants to support operators with new data obligations.

Says Mathew: “By working with us and using our technology, we can provide a GDPR-compliant solution for operators to collect and store data.

“Then there are walk-round checks, which will be integrated via an app into our systems and is due to come out in September 2018.”

Changing perceptions

The aim of’s technology is to grow the market by bringing it up-to-date.

“There’s a perception that I really want to overcome,” says Mathew. “We’re not about just driving the price down for work that operators already had. We’re about offering operators long-term contracts and certainty.

“What we want to do is invest heavily on behalf of the industry to help grow it and to get people out of cars, off trains, and onto coaches.”

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