UK Government’s ‘big data’ project to revitalise bus usage

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As part of its long-term ambition to reduce the number of private vehicles using the country’s road network, the UK Government has launched an open ‘big data’ project to help improve journeys for bus passengers across England.

UK Transport Minister with responsibility for buses, Baroness Vere, has announced a ground-breaking project to standardise and publish information from operators, which will enable bus users to plan routes, estimate journey times, and understand costs in advance. The new Bus Open Data Service will also provide real-time bus location data so that passengers can travel with confidence. Information on routes and timetables will be available from early 2020, followed by location and fares data by 2021, encouraging more people to choose buses by making them easier to use. Developers will be able to add the information into existing apps or develop new products to improve connectivity for communities and encourage more people turn to public transport.

The Bus Open Data Service will be underpinned by new regulations that will mean bus operators are legally required to provide route and timetable data by the end of 2020 and fare, ticket and location data by 2021. The new regulations will make it easier for people to use the bus to visit friends, commute to work or get out and about in their local community by providing live information on location, while helping to keep fares down by providing greater transparency across different operators.

The government will work with technology companies, app developers and information providers to ensure a range of innovative products are designed to make the most of the new data and help all bus users make informed choices. Full data on fares and locations will be available from January 2021, by which point it is expected that a range of apps will be on the market, allowing passengers to manage journeys from start to finish from their smartphones.

“Buses are the most frequently used form of public transport; to get to work, to the library, to the doctors or to see family and friends,” noted Baroness Vere. “By harnessing the transforming power of data and technology we could be on the threshold of a golden age for buses. Sharing data on routes, bus locations and fares will give passengers even more confidence to ride.”

David Beardmore, commercial director of the Open Data Institute, said, “Having been involved in the bus open data programme from the start, we’re delighted to see this significant step forward with the launch of the bus open data service in early 2020 as planned. This marks the start of a digital transformation for the delivery of bus services across England and will benefit both the tech industry who will use the data to innovate and develop new products and services, but fundamentally consumers are the ultimate winners; armed with better information they can plan their journeys more easily and make better choices about tickets.”

David Sidebottom, director of the Transport Focus watchdog, said, “Making it easier for passengers to find bus times and fares is good news. Ensuring that information is accurate and timely will be crucial to the success of the open data service.”

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Adam joined the company in 1994, and has been News Editor of TTT since 2009. In his other role as Circulation Manager, he helped create the original Traffic Technology International distribution list 23 years ago, and has been working on it ever since. Outside of work, he is a keen fisherman, runs a drumming band, and plays an ancient version of cricket.

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