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Collaboration – it’s not high-tech but it’s smart

Wednesday 8th August 2018

Pippa Ambrose, lead for Phase One of our Integrated and Smart Travel programme (IST), delivered the closing keynote speech at the TRANSPORT Smart Class North of England 2018 conference. She shared her thoughts on the crucial role played by stakeholder engagement and cross-industry collaboration in moving towards project delivery and making smartcards on rail a reality for the North.

Smart cards on rail will undoubtedly improve the passenger experience for regular rail travellers. To ensure it is a solution that works for the North of England – and make sure it is in alignment with our IST programme and wider 30-year Strategic Transport Plan – Transport for the North (TfN) is playing a unique role in overseeing its regional implementation.

The North poses a vast and varied stakeholder landscape. TfN sits above 5 combined authorities and 19 local transport authorities, each with their own transport powers, strategies and improvement plans. However, for this first phase of our work, our focus has been on working with Northern and TransPennine Express (TPE) train operating companies (TOCs), along with the Merseytravel rail concession, Merseyrail. We have also needed to consider the 10 key suppliers who will be delivering the various Smart upgrades to existing equipment – including ticket office machines, ticket vending machines, websites and gatelines – to support smart ticketing. Within each of these organisations, we have had to work with a range of contacts from chief executives and board members to commercial managers and marketing & communication teams.

Collaboration is not the norm within the rail industry. There has been some experience of TOCs coming together for shared projects, but it would be fair to say this way of working has not been widely embraced. TOCs are, after all, private companies, each with their own priorities and agendas. In this sense, our challenge has been to keep efforts focused on the end goal: bringing smart ticketing to the North for the benefit of all rail passengers. Whether boarding a Northern train at a TPE station or a TPE train at a Northern station, or travelling using a combination of train operator services, we want customers to be able to enjoy a simple, easy and smart ticketing experience.

Coming together as ‘one team’ has been fundamental to successfully moving the project forwards towards delivery. As part of this, suppliers and the train operating companies committed to a set of agreed principles on ways of working together. These were developed at the ITSO on Rail project launch event and were the result of collaborative discussion and sharing of ideas.

Getting everyone – TfN, TOCs and suppliers – around the same table has proved invaluable to establishing positive working relationships. Sometimes, simply talking to each other works. Ultimately, it is also enabling us to communicate to the customer and other stakeholders with ‘one voice’ – vital if we are to convince them to change behaviour and have trust in the new smart ticketing scheme.

Underlying this collaborative approach, the group have also been working from one coordinated plan, to support a transparent delivery plan, one version of the truth. It is true cross-industry team work, the worth of which will hopefully be evident when the new Smartcards start to go live from this September, providing regular rail customers across the North with one integrated and smart solution.

You can find out more about the Integrated and Smart Travel programme here