The Costs and Challenges of Changing the Specifications for School Transport in Scotland



6.1 To allow Transport Scotland to understand the cost implications of changes in school transport demand, industry costs and structure, and the effect of changes in stipulations, a new demand and costs forecasting model was developed, underpinned by the evidence garnered from the quantitative and qualitative research.

6.2 A user manual, embedded within the model, has been prepared to provide detailed guidance on the use and operation of the model. This Chapter provides an overview of functionality and example outputs from the model.

Model Overview

6.3 The Scottish School Transport Specifications Costing Model (STCM) is a spreadsheet developed in Microsoft Excel which employs a series of calculations to estimate the demand for, and cost of, school transport. Figure 6.1 summarises the basic operation of the model.

Figure 6.1: School Transport Specifications Costing Model Structure

Figure 6.1: School Transport Specifications Costing Model Structure

6.4 The STCM prepares 20-year forecast estimates for the following scenarios:

  • a 'Reference Case' scenario, which is based on current statutory school transport provision and expected changes in background influences on demand and costs; and
  • a 'Do Something Test' scenario where the model user can define changes in statutory school transport provision and specification, which may change the demand and costs.

6.5 A reference case (RC) scenario has been supplied with the model which has been prepared based on an analysis of statutory school transport in 2013 and predicted changes over the next 20 years. The model user may define a series of 'Test' scenarios, each of which will be saved in a separate Excel workbook.

6.6 Figure 6.2 shows a screenshot of SCTM's main screen, from which the user can navigate to all other main components of the model.

Figure 6.2: SCTM Main Screen

Figure 6.2: SCTM Main Screen

Model Dimensions

6.7 The SCTM undertakes detailed forecasts at the following level of disaggregation:

  • 5 regions, each split into urban and rural areas;
  • each year to 2032;
  • 3 school types - primary, secondary and ASN;
  • 6 different school contract types, which are assumed to be mutually exclusive of each other; and
  • 5 bus vehicle types.

Model Functionality

6.8 When specifying a new scenario, the user is able to edit forecasts, inputs and assumptions:


  • the additional costs associated with stipulations on new vehicles;
  • the additional costs associated with retrofitting stipulations on existing vehicles;
  • costs of different bus driver and monitor training and stipulations; and
  • forecast trends in different components of operator costs, including attributes related to potential future stipulations.

External Influences

  • population projections for different pupil groups by region and area;
  • levels of state school participation - long term trend;
  • the mode share for bus for travel to/from school; and
  • operators' fleet renewal rate.

Policy Inputs

  • end of travel passes or the use of PSV buses for statutory school transport; and
  • change in the proportion of pupils requiring statutory school transport, to reflect the number and location of schools influencing the distance travelled by pupils.

Bus Policy Levers

  • changes in stipulations on the size of vehicles which can be used on school transport contracts;
  • specification of seatbelts, and their type;
  • specification of engine type (Euro Class or 'other green' engine);
  • specification of yellow school buses, low-floor accessibility, Wi-Fi, CCTV and additional hazard signs;
  • changes in the level of competition and operator response to new stipulations;
  • specification of bus driver training, and minimum requirements; and
  • specification of bus monitors and their training.

6.9 Each of the above bus policy levers can be implemented in one of four ways:

  • advanced funding;
  • advanced notice;
  • honour contracts [before stipulation introduced]; and
  • break contracts [and introduce stipulation].

6.10 Each implementation strategy has different implications for the future cost of school transport provision.

Model Outputs

6.11 SCTM produces absolute and percentage outputs for all key metrics relative to the reference case scenario. Figure 6.3 shows projected year-on-year cost trends, real term (2013 prices), by region, for both a reference ('Ref') and test case.

Figure 6.3: Example Year-on-Year Changes in Statutory School Transport Costs

Figure 6.3: Example Year-on-Year Changes in Statutory School Transport Costs

6.12 Figure 6.4 shows the corresponding projected trend in total pupil numbers by area.

Figure 6.4: Example Year-on-Year Changes in Statutory School Transport Pupils by Region

Figure 6.4: Example Year-on-Year Changes in Statutory School Transport Pupils by Region

6.13 Other standard outputs, disaggregated by region and area type, include:

  • cost of statutory transport by contract type;
  • pupil numbers by contract type;
  • details on the fleet and their specification;
  • changes in costs due to any additional stipulations; and
  • changes in the number of drivers and monitors with different specifications

6.14 A copy of the model is available on request from Transport Scotland.

Further copies of this document are available, on request, in audio and large print formats and in community languages (Urdu; Bengali; Gaelic; Hindi; Punjabi; Cantonese; Arabic; Polish).

Transport Scotland, Buchanan House,
58 Port Dundas Road, Glasgow, G4 0HF
0141 272 7100