Centro’s use of interactive mapping software and how it has created an evidence base to support spending decisions


After the 1985 Transport Act deregulated and privatised bus services across the UK, the West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive (WMPTE) assumed a new role co-ordinating the services of all local private bus operators. It soon adopted the name of Centro to distinguish itself from its previous role as an operator.

Centro now promotes and develops public transport across the West Midlands. It is funded by council taxes but it is also able to raise revenue from government, as well as the European Community through various grants and it also receives income from the private sector.

Councilors from the seven District Councils which make up the West Midlands County – Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton guide the policies and work of Centro.

Gurjit Dulai, Principal Research & Intelligence Analyst, says sound research and intelligence is vital for the organisation. As a result, Centro has a dedicated research and intelligence unit which provides analytical support for anyone within the organisation. “This could be for a bid document that would explain how government funding is likely to be spent,” says Gurjit.

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Part of the unit’s work involves producing maps using a range of data sources. This could include MOSAIC data, Index of Multiple Deprivation data, Jobseekers Allowance data and congestion data. The unit found that it was getting identical requests from different people for the same sort of analysis which was labour intensive. It felt that by developing a single resource, Centro employees could find data themselves in an accessible and understandable format.

Meeting the need

The team has created a portal which can be accessed by Centro employees. The starting point is a map of the region from where users can start to access data at district and ward level. For instance, users can access Jobseekers Allowance data by super output area (SOA). A series of briefing notes was created to help users make the most of the resource and Gurjit says the reaction so far has been positive. He says: “We haven’t been up and running long but we are already getting feedback that it is simple to use and is giving people what they want.”

Future developments

Gurjit believes there is still work to do to promote the resource within Centro. In addition further data sets will be added. “The data can drive the projects we work on so it is important that we try to get as much data as we can,” he adds. There is also likely to be closer working with the The Safer Travel Partnership. This consists of a number of agencies who work together to make the public transport network even safer for passengers by deterring crime and anti-social behaviour.


Key benefits

  • Centro employees can access a wide range of data sets with ease
  • Users can manipulate the data in any way they want to create bespoke reports
  • Mapping and data skills are not needed to make the most of the new resource
  • Requests for further analysis are more specific, the unit is spending less time carrying out repeated analysis
  • InstantAtlas has helped to create a clean and well-presented portal which is not overcomplicated

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