WORLD FIRST: New bus-mounted VMS to display real-time traffic updates in London


Transport for London (TfL) has started the world’s first trial of a system that displays live traffic information on the back of buses, in order to inform following drivers of the current situation and improve journey reliability on the city’s roads.

The iconic London bus is now helping to improve traffic in the UK capital as TfL starts a trial on a number of buses on route 344 that are displaying real-time traffic information using digital information boards, in a world-first test of the new technology. The innovative scheme is being trialed on buses that run between Clapham Junction and Liverpool Street to provide London’s drivers with a new source of information to help them avoid congestion and speed up their journeys, while simultaneously improving the reliability and efficiency of the city’s road network. The buses have been fitted with electronic message boards by Equitech IT Solutions, which use GPS technology to give accurate and up-to-date traffic information. The information is taken from the TfL Variable Message Sign (VMS) network, which is fed by TfL’s 24-hour traffic control center.

The ground-breaking approach will be used on a further bus route, 415 that runs between Tulse Hill and Liverpool Street, in the autumn. Each route will run the pilot for six months and, if successful, the scheme could be expanded across London. The new pilot follows the successful trial of live traffic information being displayed on roof-mounted taxi advertising boards by Brightmove Media Limited, which proved the concept of real-time traffic information delivered in this form.

“This innovative use of one of the capital’s most iconic features, the London bus, will help all road users,” explained Garrett Emmerson, TfL’s chief operating officer for surface transport. “We’re focused on keeping London moving, and on giving drivers real-time information through a range of channels, to help them avoid congested roads and reduce wasted time and needless pollution from idling cars.”

Craig Holloway, chief executive of Equitech IT Solutions, said, “We are delighted to be partnering with TfL to trial this new technology. We know how beneficial having real-time traffic information can be for road users, and the technology we have developed will hopefully make life for Londoners easier, by having up-to-date information provided to them when travelling on the capital’s roads.”

Tony Wilson, managing director of Abellio London, which operates buses on the 344 and 415 routes, commented, “At Abellio, we aim to take travel ‘beyond A-to-B’ and believe that this innovation can help achieve that goal. Initiatives which help keep traffic moving will also help those travelling by bus.”

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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).