Perfect nationwide coverage for Qbuzz BOAs
Qbuzz is constantly on the move to offer the best service and service in public transport. Arjan van der Hoeven, service and safety manager and (ultimately) responsible for employee service and safety, supervises two team managers and together they are responsible for approximately 70 Special Investigations Officers (BOAs) and supervisors. The staff all guarantee good service and safety on the different vehicles, stations, platforms and stops. They are supported by the central control room ‘Travel Control’ where their colleagues from the Central Supervision Room (CTR) guarantee the safety of all staff day and night. With Flash Smart Com, they found perfect nationwide coverage with various options that optimise safety and service.
Arjan van der Hoeven, Service and Safety Manager, manages 70 enforcement employees at two concessions: Utrecht and DMG (Drechtsteden-Molenlanden-Gorinchem). The coverage of the two-way radio system was not equally good across all areas when he joined as a temporary staff member on 6 January 2020. Arjan explains: “With the old two-way radio system, we did not have the same good coverage everywhere, which is very important to guarantee the safety of our employees, travellers and equipment. With the construction of our new travel control centre in the pipeline, it seemed like a good time to start thinking about innovation in the area of radio traffic. At the end of 2020, the Travel Control department launched a study to improve the coverage of the two-way radio system. Flash recommended Smart Com, a Push-To-Talk service characterised by priority and guaranteed availability, on the best tested network in the Netherlands, namely T-Mobile. This means we always have good coverage and guaranteed availability when the network is very busy. And for the advanced control room in the new building with steel construction, Smart Com combined with a DAS system also provides perfect coverage.”
Safety for the BOAs
Arjan was introduced to Flash because they already supplied the two-way radios; at the time, Qbuzz was still using a different network. Arjan explains: “Flash listened to our questions and presented the perfect solution. After their presentation, we assessed the costs and benefits and went for their solution. Now, coverage is perfect everywhere, the control room works smoothly and the devices are very user-friendly. Service and safety are now even more important and the BOAs are satisfied with this new solution.”
Qbuzz switched from the traditional two-way radio system to Smart Com. How did the follow-up go? Arjan explains: “It went very well, there was clarity in terms of organisation and good contact with technical support. If there were problems, they were dealt with immediately and the transition did not take more than three months. We received assistance from start to finish and it was worth the investment.”
BOAs’ everyday experiences
To understand what BOAs actually experience on a daily basis, Arjan also participated in the project. “That way I know what’s going on. The devices are user-friendly, robust and so far we have not received any damage.”
The bus driver, train driver, or tram driver are the ones in charge of the vehicles, but the BOA also has an important role. Arjan explains: The BOAs’ duties vary and are mainly focused on service and safety and supporting the staff in charge of driving. The BOAs are in direct contact with the control room, just like the bus driver. As soon as they press the emergency button on their two-way radio, there is an immediately open line connection and the control room listens in live. The employee in the control room can see where the incident occurs and can take appropriate action immediately. Our BOAs are authorised to perform enforcement tasks for which they have been specifically certified. In addition, they also provide assistance, surveillance, handle traffic matters and are authorised to issue an official report if someone commits an offence, for example travelling without a valid ticket. All tasks such as penalty administration in connection with issued UVBs (deferred payments) or checking personal data when establishing identity are also included.
Travel director control room
A look behind the scenes at the control room is an interesting look at the future. Arjan explains: “Here you can see what the travel director does in reality when a call comes in, either from the driver or from the BOA. Those calls can be anything from a medical emergency, for example, if someone is unwell or has a heart attack, to cases that involve a violent confrontation, like fare evasion for example. When the control room receives such a call, they assess the situation on the spot and call in any emergency services like the police or an ambulance. If the activity has gone well, the travel director can sign off the process and it is completed. By following up on the registration in our system, it is possible to review and evaluate the call and situation afterwards.”
The end result of the transition from traditional two-way radios to Smart Com went as expected. Arjan explains: “The support from start to finish is very valuable. You know in advance that the IT department will ask difficult questions and we received good guidance on this. Flash always listens and offers a good solution, which is very valuable. All I have to do is pick up the phone and they are there for us, they always think along with us and have a good answer to everything; the communication is very satisfying. And believe me, if it were truly bad, I’d tell you! So I don’t see any points for improvement, it’s going very well.”
Guaranteed data communication
The trend in the future is to do all the work on a single device. What are Arjan’s thoughts on this? “We’ll probably use body cams in the future, there is already a plan in progress for this. In the vehicles, on platforms and at stops, we’re already working with cameras and the images are sent to the control room. In the near future, we intend to innovate by using debit cards to make payments. It may be possible to combine more applications so that the work can be done even more efficiently.”
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