Lancashire County Council and Atkins complete new trial using software-based machine learning to analyse pinch points to improve bus services

Lancashire County Council and Atkins have announced the completion of a trial of Alchera’s Pinch Point Analysis Tool across 59 junctions of East Lancashire.

The tool is a software-based machine learning application that identifies and helps to lessen the impact of bus pinch points on the network, ultimately making buses faster and more reliable. This is scheduled to migrate into a full rollout later in the year across all of Lancashire’s junctions on existing bus routes.

Lancashire County Council (LCC) has been working closely with local bus operators to develop plans on how to improve the reliability of bus services across the county following the government’s launch of The National Bus Strategy, “Bus Back Better” in March 2021. The aim is to create services that are more frequent, reliable and affordable while making them easier for passengers to understand and use.

Martin Porter, Principal Engineer (Network Management) at Lancashire County Council, commented: “Improving the performance of the bus network is a top priority for LCC. We know there are issues at some junctions across the network but we need evidence – objective data – to back up our assumptions so we can secure the government funding we need to make improvements. We also need to be able to measure the interventions to see how well they are working and avoid similar issues in the future. Alchera gives us the capability to do that in real-time.”

Alchera specialises in enabling transport network operators to maximise the operational and commercial value of fragmented mobility data to make better data-driven decisions. Using its cloud-based, proprietary AI software platform ‘Alpha’, Alchera unlocks data-driven decision-making across council transport and mobility operations, giving absolute, real-time and predicted data on vehicle and pedestrian movements around cities and major infrastructure.

Alchera’s Pinch-Point Analysis Tool (PPAT) fuses data from several sources including the Bus Open Data System (BODS) and existing transport sensors to analyse the impact each junction has on the average speed of buses on individual routes as well as the observed impact on the consistency of the bus schedules moving through intersections. The analysed data can then be used for various useful tasks such as identifying high-priority junctions that need interventions, enabling data-driven decisions and providing much-needed objective data to support applications for road improvement funding.

Tony Brown, Technical Director at Atkins, said: “Alchera has not only given us the insight to understand where the problems are across the network but also to understand the economic impact of those delays.”

In addition to simply looking at delays and consistency across the network, PPAT can, by using standard UK government values and assumptions, estimate the economic impact inefficient junctions are having on the wider community as well as the environmental impact from increased emissions while idling at signals.

Anna Jordan, Co-Founder at Alchera, added: “When you are trying to deal with complex, congested cities, reacting to situations in real-time is key. Our largest system integration combines thousands of sensor sources and performs hundreds of thousands of measurements every day. This represents the only demonstration of absolute, real-time traffic counts and classifications, at a city scale, in the UK today. Data in the system is handled in a fully transparent and auditable way – recognising that data ownership and usage will be critical in future smart cities.”


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