Transport for the North has announced the public launch of a new ‘Create Fares Data Service’ which will help bus operators across the country more easily publish fares online and in journey planning apps.
The aim of the initiative is to provide passengers across the North and nationwide with better access to information about how much their next bus journey will cost.
Passenger insight research commissioned by Transport for the North shows an increasing number of people are using smartphones to navigate to their destination (69% in 2020, up from 64% in 2019). However, research also shows bus fares have long been seen as one of the key pieces of missing digital travel information; and uncertainty about how much a journey will cost is an important factor in dissuading many people from choosing to use bus.
The Create Fares Data Service aims to resolve this by providing the technological capability for any bus operator to publish fares in a standardised data format than can be used by industry-leading companies such as Google, Citymapper, Moovit and other data-driven developers and provided back to customers via their preferred digital information channel.
The tool has been delivered in partnership with the Department for Transport and Traveline as part of Transport for the North’s Integrated and Smart Travel programme.
Transport for the North’s Integrated and Smart Travel Director, Jeremy Acklam, said: “In an era where we can use our smartphones to order a taxi, the weekly shop or a takeaway and track it right to our doors, we really should be easily able to find out how much a bus journey will cost before we jump onboard.
“Harnessing the power of open data, the Create Fares Data Service will help unlock this information and make it more readily available online and in travel apps so passengers can better plan their journeys and choose bus as a convenient and sustainable way to travel.”
The service has been developed in time to support bus operators nationwide in complying with upcoming Government legislature which requires the publication of fares, and other travel information, as standardised open data from January 2021. This legislation has been spearheaded by the Department for Transport’s Bus Open Data Programme which has developed its own Digital Service to support the open publication of this data.
Transport for the North will be handing over ownership of the Create Fares Data Service to the Department for Transport to provide it as a national solution before the end of the year.
A spokesperson for the Department for Transport said: “High quality, accurate and timely data is the cornerstone of future transport systems. The Create Fares Data Service will significantly further the ability of Bus Open Data Service to deliver national datasets for timetables, fares and location information; and ultimately digitally transform the delivery of bus services and enhance the passenger experience.”
The service has been developed in collaboration with Leeds-based digital transformation consultancy, Infinity Works. Bus operators from across the country have been involved in design and testing of the tool to ensure it is easy and simple to use.
The Transport for the North-led project team has also driven forward innovative work to ensure the fares data can be created in NeTEx format – a multi-purpose data standard that has never been widely used in the UK before, and provides tech experts with further scope to innovate with how fares can be used in journey planning apps and other operational services.
Infinity Works Director, Pete Cotton, said: “We’re delighted that our successful partnership with Transport for the North has reached this significant milestone.
“The Create Fares Data Service is an important building block in the industry’s digital evolution and is an example of how digital transformation can offer enhanced convenience for end users. It will be incredibly exciting and rewarding to see this service make a difference to people across the country, ensuring public transport is viewed as a practical and affordable alternative to private transport.”
Transport for the North is currently progressing several initiatives to enhance the digital information available to public transport passengers across their region, including making journey disruptions messaging more widely available. Earlier this year they also launched their own Open Data Hub which provides a central source for developers to access this information.
Mr Acklam added: “With ongoing travel restrictions, it’s more important now than ever before that passengers – particularly key workers – have reliable and timely information available at their fingertips so they can travel safely and with confidence on public transport when necessary. Working in collaboration with the Department for Transport, local authorities, operators and the wider technology sector, we are pleased to be driving forward enhancements to the digital travel information available across bus, tram and rail in the North of England and beyond.”