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Fares tool to unlock benefits of Government’s ‘big data’ ambitions for region’s bus passengers

Wednesday 5th February 2020

Following the Government’s recent announcement on the launch of the Bus Open Data Service, Transport for the North have confirmed the development of a new ‘Fares Data Build Tool’ which will help regional bus operators comply with upcoming national regulations requiring the ‘open’ publication of bus journey information, including fares data.

The Fares Data Build Tool will be free to use for bus operators and local transport authorities (LTAs) who are responsible for publishing this data. Ultimately, it will benefit bus passengers by making it easier for them to find out how much a journey will cost and compare options before they travel.

The tool is being developed in collaborative partnership between Transport for the North, the Department for Transport’s (DfT) Bus Open Data programme and Traveline Information Ltd. The shared approach has been agreed to complement and enhance industry aspirations for better data provision to make public transport, especially buses, more accessible. It is being delivered as part of Phase Two of Transport for the North’s £150 million DfT-funded Integrated and Smart Travel programme.

Leeds-based software developers Infinity Works have now been awarded the supplier contract after a competitive procurement process.

The tool will help bus operators comply with upcoming Government regulations – being introduced under the Bus Services Act 2017 – that will require fares data for local bus services across England to be published in a standardised, open-source data format from January 2021. It is part of a wider digital transformation programme to make bus information available to leading journey planning app providers – such as Google, Moovit and Citymapper and other open data developers who can deliver it to customers via existing platforms and innovative methods.

With the regulations soon to be enshrined in law, Transport for the North market research identified the need for a tool to support bus operators who do not already have adequate specialist software or technical capabilities to easily comply.

The proposed solution will be able to combine fares tables and rules with timetable data and output this in the emerging UK NeTEx profile. This standardised NeTEx data will then allow users to match fare information to routes and determine the cost for any given journey.

Once created, the fares data will be published and accessible via both the DfT’s Bus Open Data Service and Transport for the North’s own regional Open Data Hub (also currently under development for launch later this year).

The Fares Data Build Tool will be delivered first in the North, but subject to a final decision from the DfT could be rolled out as a national solution. Transport for the North and Infinity Works will work with both operators and LTAs throughout the development and testing of the tool. Delivery is expected be completed by late 2020.

Steve Howes, Integrated and Smart Travel Director at Transport for the North, said: “We are looking forward to collaborating with Infinity Works to deliver our innovative Fares Data Build Tool.

“By helping operators and local authorities improve the provision of bus fares information, passengers will benefit from knowing more about how much their journey will cost and being able to more easily compare different options available to them. Combined with the Department for Transport and Transport for the North’s wider ‘smart’ initiatives, this will make planning journeys on public transport easier than ever and help make it the preferred choice for travel across our region.”

Baroness Vere, Roads and Buses Minister at the Department for Transport, said: “We want to make sure people get value for money from their journeys, and today’s announcement – a result of our £150 million fund for integrated smart travel – is a significant step forward in making sure they have better information about the public transport they’re taking.

“This tool could ultimately help make people more aware of the benefits of the bus and encourage people to use public transport more, helping tackle issues from congestion to carbon emissions and air quality. We look forward to continuing to work with Transport for the North to deliver this pioneering product.”

Pete Cotton, Operations Director at Infinity Works, said: “We’re incredibly proud of the opportunity to collaborate on what promises to be a fantastic project with significant benefits first to the North and then, hopefully, nationally. We see this as the start of an exciting new partnership and look forward to working with our colleagues at Transport for the North over the coming months and beyond.”

John S Threlfall, Specialist Transport Advisor at Pilkington Buses, said: “Pilkington Buses are looking forward to working with Transport for the North to design and develop a tool that will help us, and other bus operators easily comply with the upcoming legal requirement to publish fares information. We also hope it will help passengers stay in the know about their journey and access our services more easily.”