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More bus stops going digital with real time passenger information

Bit by bit, bus passengers up and down the country will be gaining an increasing sense of empowerment - through provision of better information at bus stops.

South East Scotland Transport Partnership (SEStran) today launched its new real time passenger information system (RTPI), with funding from the Scottish Government and the EU.

Last week Staffordshire County Council received funding to extend its system, with help from the UK Governments’ Local Sustainable Transport Fund, while even further south, the pioneering Brighton & Hove City Council is upgrading its passenger data systems also with help from the Local Sustainable Transport Fund.


Avoiding mental torture at bus stops

Passenger Focus's most recent survey last April, found that bus passengers feel powerless when faced with delays - or as one passenger put it: “It’s mental torture sometimes at bus stops working out whether to stay or whether to go.”

The Independent passenger watchdog said it found a clear preference for real-time departure displays at bus stops.

It recommended that it should become a specific Government objective to establish the ‘back of house’ infrastructure that will allow real-time bus departures information to be provided in all parts of the country. It also suggested that communication with passengers already on board a bus could be dramatically improved.


South East Scotland Transport Partnership's bustrackerSEStran

South East Scotland Transport Partnership's (SEStran) bustrackerSEStran real time passenger information system (RTPI) was developed by French Software company INEO.

BustrackerSEStran provides updated information on buses as they proceed along their routes, which is accessible via the internet and a free smartphone app (“SEStranbus”, available from the I-Phone App store & Google Play store). The system is compatible with Edinburgh’s existing RTPI system, meaning passengers living outside the city will have access to up-to-the-minute information on local services.

Initially, bustrackerSEStran is installed on over 300 vehicles operating on selected First Scotland East and Stagecoach services throughout East Lothian, Scottish Borders, Fife and West Lothian, and services between Dumfries & Galloway and Scottish Borders.

Additional services will be added to the system as appropriate. In the longer term, as funds become available, it will grow to include most of the services throughout the south-east of Scotland and integrate with existing and future services in other parts of the country and south of the Border.

SEStran Chair Cllr Russell Imrie said: “SEStran believes that extending real-time passenger information throughout south-east Scotland is a major step towards achieving our goal of creating a sustainable transportation system for the region”.

“Working in co-operation with our local authority partners and bus companies First and Stagecoach, SEStran have committed almost £5 million to developing bustrackerSEStran”.

“The Scottish Government has supplied substantial backing, including almost £1 million from the Bus Investment Fund. There has also been a 40% contribution from the EU European Regional Development Fund, together with contributions from our local authority partners – not least West Lothian Council, which has invested £420,000 into the project”.

“Our sister organisation SWEStrans, the regional transport partnership for Dumfries & Galloway, has also contributed £100,000 to the project, to develop linking services”.

Cllr Russell Imrie added, “BustrackerSEStran has evolved to build upon the success of the existing system in Edinburgh. It is flexible and can be extended and developed to mesh with future systems as they come online across the country, with the potential to eventually become part of a national system”.

Scotland’s Minister for Transport & Veterans, Keith Brown MSP, said the launch was the first stage towards regional delivery of real time information.

“Like the Intelligent Transport Systems we are installing on our motorways, it’s another instance of how we are investing in smart technologies to make the best use of our transport networks and give travellers fuller and more up to date information”, he said.

“From the passengers perspective the provision of this technology will help inform passengers and allow journey choices to be made, and hopefully encourage more people to take the bus rather than the car."

The bustrackerSEStran app provides information solely on buses that are included in the bustrackerSEStran system (First & Stagecoach at present).


Staffordshire's New Travel Options display screens

South of the border, Staffordshire County Council last week announced funding to extend its real time passenger information for all bus services serving Stafford, to provide passengers predicted arrival times for buses.

The Council’s Inspiring New Travel Options team received an additional £85,000 from the Governments’ Local Sustainable Transport Fund. Electronic display screens have already been fitted to over 20 bus stops around Stafford, giving people scheduled arrival times for their bus journeys, and in partnership with local bus companies, the next stage of the project in the summer, will see the introduction of RTPI.

The initiative is being rolled out by Staffordshire County Council and is part of the £4m Inspiring New Travel Options (INTO) project to get more people using greener travel in the town.

Cllr Mark Winnington, Cabinet Member for Economy and Infrastructure with Staffordshire County Council said:

“Knowing exactly what time the next bus will arrive will allow people to plan their journey much better, with passengers being able to get the real time information at the bus stop or on their smart phone".

“The more reliable and attractive we can make public transport, the more likely we are to get people to use it and that’s what our INTO project is all about.”

Staffordshire is one of nine local authorities who have been awarded a share of the additional £2m funding from the Department for Transport.


Real time passenger information said to be deployed in ‘half of UK’

According to Wikipedia, the deployment of real-time bus information systems “currently” extends to around half of the national bus fleet and a high proportion of town-centre stops, but relatively few suburban and rural stops.


Brighton Digital Bus Stops upgrade

The same Wikiepedia article claims the first RTPI system was installed in Brighton and HoveLast October it was announced that the systems, first deployed in 2001, was to be upgraded across Brighton & Hove and upgraded and expanded in East Sussex.

Brighton & Hove City Council in partnership with East Sussex County Council and Brighton & Hove Bus and Coach Company awarded Trapeze ITS (UK) Ltd a five year contract to supply and install the real time passenger information system.

The system will use the GPRS technology to improve the accuracy and signal reception for the Real Time Passenger Information, and upgrade the existing award winning system which has been operating in Brighton and Hove, Newhaven and Seaford since 2001 and Eastbourne since 2006.

The upgrade will offer more accurate information about services is relayed to bus passengers.

Brighton & Hove Bus and Coach Company will be paying for an improved fleet management system for their buses across the city.

Improvements to the existing system are being funded by money awarded to Brighton & Hove City Council and East Sussex County Council from the Department for Transport’s Local Sustainable Transport Fund.

Real time information about bus services will also be available on the internet, smartphones and via text messaging in the city and will also be introduced for bus services in East Sussex.

The upgrade across Brighton & Hove will be complete before the end of 2014, while other bus operators will also have the opportunity to display their services on the bus stop displays as the project proceeds, which is not possible with the existing system.


The Real Time Information Group

The Real Time Information Group is a UK organisation supporting the development of bus passenger information systems. Again according to Wikipedia, its 85 members include local authorities, bus operators and system suppliers together with representatives from the UK government and other key industry groups such as ITS (UK), Travel Information Highway, and the UTMC Development Group (UDG).


Innovation in location-based services competition now open

The Technology Strategy Board is to invest up to £5m in projects that stimulate innovation in the UK location-based services sector

The Innovation in location-based services competition opens for registration on 28 April 2014, with a final closing date for collaborative research and development projects of 18 June.

The aim of the competition is to support projects that capitalise on the increasing accuracy, coverage and speed of global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) such as GPS and other non-satellite technologies such as iBeacon, Wi-Fi and radio frequency identification (RFID) to build innovative location-based services or improve the user experience of existing services. 

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