UK government wants real-time bus data to improve public transport in England


Under plans to be announced today (July 5) by the UK’s secretary of state for transport, transit passengers across England are due to benefit from easier journeys with up-to-the-minute information.

UK Transport Secretary Minister Nusrat Ghani will visit Reading Buses to launch a consultation on legally requiring bus operators to share their data so that passengers can get real-time information on bus routes, timetables and fares at their fingertips.

The proposed legislation will also look at making companies provide audio and visual information on buses, ensuring disabled people and the elderly are able to travel confidently.

Together, the two initiatives will ensure that passengers have the information they need, when they need it, regardless of their location and the company running the service.

The proposals are part of the UK government’s long-term aim of reducing traffic congestion, and the effect of ensuing vehicle emissions on the country’s air quality, by encouraging people to use public transportation rather than private vehicles.

Requiring bus companies to share their data would pave the way for improved information across all modes of transportation, meaning quicker, easier journeys for passengers traveling on more than one form of transportation.

Transportation data is already widely shared within the UK rail industry and across multiple modes in the biggest cities, with apps such as Trainline and City Mapper helping passengers make informed choices about their method of travel.

“Nobody enjoys waiting at a bus stop for 20 minutes, not knowing when the next bus is going to turn up, only for two to then pull up at the same time. By requiring bus operators to share their data, we can make sure that passengers have the information they need to catch the bus with ease, equipped with the right information about the time and cost,” explained Ghani. “This move will also open up opportunities for innovation within the industry, support local services where demand is falling, and help increase bus usage across the country.”

Widespread data sharing across the transportation community is also likely to accelerate the move toward the adoption of Mobility as a Service (MaaS) and Mobility on Demand (MoD) concepts. Reading Buses is already using open data to improve bus journeys for people in the area.

Through a number of initiatives to make information more easily available, the company has seen a 48% increase in passenger numbers since 2009. During her visit, the minister will travel on a Reading bus that includes accessibility features such as next stop screens, voice announcements, and two wheelchair spaces.

John Bickerton, head of engineering and innovation at Reading Buses, said, “We are delighted that the Department for Transport is highlighting the importance of open data for the bus industry. We have long been advocates of giving customers more information to help them on their journey; and importantly to help them decide to travel with us in the first place.

“We have long had a commitment to onboard audio and visual next-stop announcements, and have put information literally in our customers’ hands with the Reading Buses app, which not only shows when buses are due, but can also show the buses moving in real time on a map of the route.”

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About Author


Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).