Capitalising on emerging data by TfL’s Vernon Everitt, Managing Director for Customers, Communication and Technology

Consumer technology has radically changed how people live their lives. Take the example of how people navigate the road network: in the space of a few short years, drivers went from purchasing printed maps annually, to replacing them with satnavs that needed to be updated regularly, to replacing satnavs with free apps on their phones that show traffic conditions in real-time and, increasingly, predict what conditions may be later on.

Transport authorities have always gathered rich and complex data. We once collected this manually at great expensive and with a significant time-lag. We now do so in real-time, from ticketing and other systems, and make travel information freely and openly available to developers and others who use it to bring new products and services to our customers.

If we ask the right questions of that data, we can transform how people travel.

Data can help us obtain every ounce of capacity from the transport networks we have, helping to spread peak demand in public transport and roads and encouraging even more people to leave their cars at home and take public transport, walk or cycle.

Urban Transport Group members across the country are using the data they generate to improve the service they offer, and we are taking care not to get lost in data for data’s sake. It is being used for a clear purpose – to improve delivery for customers and help with investment decisions.

The report we have published today highlights some of the key questions we as transport authorities have to answer:

  • who is best placed to hold, develop and share our data?
  • how do we protect customers’ privacy?
  • how do we ensure the data is of the highest quality?
  • what skills do we need to develop to make the most of the data we generate?

We also call on national policy to keep pace through the Bus Services Bill and Modern Transport Bill, for example by, ensuring that the government clarifies ownership of bus supply data, including over fares, routes, frequencies, real-time data and other measures of service performance.

It also marks a new era within Urban Transport Group. We have established a smart-futures professional network, which will bring together our members to answer strategic and technical questions raised by big data.

One thing is certain: harnessing technology will never actually be “done”. And in any case, it isn’t the technology that matters. It is the purpose to which it is put we are interested in.

Through close co-operation and new partnerships with the technology and other sectors, we will ensure that we draw upon the data at our disposal to improve journeys for customers and plan our urban transport networks more effectively.

Vernon Everitt is Board member on Smart Futures for Urban Transport Group.


It’s not so smart if it’s not simple


In recent years it’s been frustrating to see the discussion on smart ticketing bedeviled by confusion over the terms of the debate and a lack of clarity over where we have got to and where we should be aiming for. A new Government offers the opportunity to draw breath and take stock.

So where have we got to and what should be the next steps? Firstly, it’s important to recognise that there has been significant progress. The city regions are rolling out smart tickets which are covering more modes and more ticketing products with every passing month. Pop card in Tyne and Wear, M-Card in West Yorkshire, Swift in the West Midlands may not be familiar to decision makers down in London but they are increasingly part of everyday life for public transport users in our areas.

However, key challenges remain. The current fragmented provision of public transport in our areas means that ticketing may be going smart – but it is not necessarily simple, nor is it integrated. This is because bus operators have their own parallel competing fare structures and smartcards, and too often ensure that the pricing of tickets that can be used across all operators is uncompetitive and poorly promoted. All too often the end result falls short of what passengers want and expect – which is something that looks and feels more like Oyster. Something where they don’t have to think twice about which bus, train or tram they are using because their smart card gives them access to everything at a fair price. The danger is that instead we may have smart ticketing but passengers may still need more than one smart card in their pocket to get the best deal. This is nonsense – and it’s time to face the fact that the existing legislative framework on ticketing is not fit for purpose.

We also need a greater ambition from Government on smart, simple and integrated ticketing for the city regions. The DfT has stood behind Oyster in London and smart ticketing on the South East rail network. The city regions should be next in line for that kind of support – which in turn should be integrated with pan-regional initiatives like Rail North, Transport for the North and Midlands Connect. That way urban rail and bus ticketing can also be joined up rather than inhabit separate worlds as tends to be the case at present. The document we launched yesterday is short and concise and keeps it simple, because keeping it simple is what passengers want and it’s what Government, the city regions and the private sector should also focus on to get to where we need to be.

Click here to read ‘Our vision for Smart Ticketing in the City Regions’.

Jonathan Bray