Government will open up bus data to improve rural services

Buses minister announces a £4 million digital platform for developers

Girl waiting for a bus

The government is hoping to transform rural bus services with a digital system that opens up bus location data to developers.

Buses minister Nusrat Ghani, announced the plans for a 4 million platform which will provide location information about services that gives greater certainty to passengers about when their bus will arrive.

The platform will enable app developers to use information from GPS trackers, of which about 97% of buses have been fitted with, according to the government. This type of information is already available in some major cities and it's hoped it will give people in more rural and remote areas in the UK the ability to plan journeys more easily and reduce their waiting times.

"People expect to turn up to a bus stop knowing when their next service will arrive, particularly in rural areas," said Ghani. "We're investing in systems to make it easier for people to find out where their bus is, how much it will cost and how long it will take.

"This will save the time people waste waiting, give more people certainty over services and help increase passenger numbers."

The lack of information is a barrier to young people, according to the government. Having times, fares and arrival information readily available will hopefully cut out the uncertainty of bus travel and encourage more to use it.

This drive towards improved and open data for bus services across England is the first step for the government to introducing mobility-as-a-service, one-stop-ticketing products and applications, in a bid to increase usage.

On-demand bus travel is already available in Liverpool, run by ArrivaClick, that takes passengers between the city centre and John Lennon Airport. These services are driven by high-quality data and computer-based algorithms.

The government is also implementing bus open data regulations as part of the Bus Services Act, which gives local authorities additional powers to partner with bus operators and shape services in their areas to deliver improvements to passengers.

A great example of open data being used for public transport is the live tube map a Birmingham-based programmer built. Matthew Somerville used TfL's open API to track trains in real time as they moved around London's underground. 

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