Our live coverage from Eurotransport’s fifth annual European Bus Forum in Manchester, hosted by Transport for Greater Manchester. The annual transport conference brings together over 300 transport delegates from all over Europe.
08:30 - Registration
Morning everyone! I am live from The University of Manchester, where the annual European Bus Forum is taking place. The conference brings together key stakeholders from bus operating companies, together with local authorities, passenger transport executives and vehicle manufacturers, to present bus investment and development plans and case studies, as well as share best practice in delivering efficient and cost effective bus services.
08:42 - Background Information
Representatives at the event range from Arriva UK Bus, Go-Ahead Group, Stagecoach, Malta Public Transport, First Group, Transport for Greater Manchester and TfL. Speakers include Jon Lamonte, Chief Executive Officer at TfGM, Giles Fearnley, Managing Director of First Group’s UK Bus Division, Mike Waters, Head of Policy & Strategy at Transport for West Midlands, as well as Giorgio Ambrosino, General Manager at MemEx Italy, Sampo Hietanen, CEO of MaaS Global Ltd and Stijn Lewyllie, Secretary-General at European Passengers’ Federation.
08:54 - Further Information
The idea of the forum is for industry professionals to discuss topics such as changes and developments to bus operations across the UK and Europe, as well as how exciting new transport technologies will impact the bus sector. The European Bus Forum is a great chance to network with industry experts and discuss and debate the important topics that are prevalent within the industry.
09:09 - Welcome from the Host
Dr. Jon Lamonte, Chief Executive Officer Welcomes Delegates
He outlines that TfGM is one of the UK’s biggest transport authorities. As a metropolis of 2.5 million people, and the result of centuries of urban development, the city has parallels with many in Europe. Dr. Lamonte welcomes the delegation and explores Manchester’s current use of the bus, and how it will be contributing to the city’s transport mix in coming decades.
09:09 - Talk from the Host
Jon Lamont is talking about the Devolution deal that came with £6 billion pounds for social and health care for the city region. The bus services act came into effect on the 27th June 2017, the importance of growing passenger numbers, tackling air quality and helping the economy. The authority looks to exploring bus franchising but it must be audited and there is a great risk that everything must be looked at carefully.
09:24 - Talk from John Birtwistle
John Birtwistle, President of Confederation of Passenger Transport is talking about the Bus Services Bill, his first point is the provision of “Talking Buses” the implementation of audio visual technology on buses. It is easy to specify when the manufacturer is making the vehicle but much costlier and logistically challenging to retrofit.
Congestion is one of the biggest threats to bus services, as traffic congestion increases, bus service reliability suffers because of it. Congestion makes the bus look unattractive to prospective passengers.
09:38 - Talk from Nicolas Pocard
Director of Marketing, Ballard Power Systems, Nicolas Pocard is talking about Fuel Cell Technology. There will be more fuel cell buses on the road over the next 18 months than there have been on the roads throughout the last 2o years. The cost of fuel cell buses has been reduced by roughly 100% since 2010.
10:00 - Panel Talk
Can Bus Adapt to the New World of Transport
As more of the population migrates to ideas of shared and on-demand transport some of the drawbacks of car usage, such as cost and inconvenience in urban areas, will vanish. This could lead to a further decrease in overall bus journeys as passengers have access to a variety of transport choices.
Speakers are Professor Aristotelis Nanlopoulos from Artistole University of Thessaloniki, Mike Waters from Transport for West Midlands and Robert Montgomery former Managing Director of Stagecoach UK Bus.
Congestion is a common theme of today’s talks, coming from a passenger perspective it is notable that congestion is increasingly becoming a big problem in the daily operation of a bus company.
For the bus to survive over the next 20 years, the bus must evolve. Uber, Lyft and other ride-sharing services must be looked at for inspiration, picked apart and evolved to make a modern bus service for today and for the future.
The culture of the bus industry must change, bus operators are generally stuck in their ways – it has to change! If the bus industry doesn’t change it makes the car and other forms of transport look increasingly attractive to people. There needs to be convenient, cheap integration with other modes of transport.
Integrated ticketing between buses and the railway must be implemented. Smart and mobile ticketing is one major part in the process of offering integrated ticking to customers.
A great discussion on rural transport, “Why doesn’t Uber service the countryside?“. Uber is, what is coined, a disruptive service by the panellists, that said, an interesting point was made by Mike Waters saying his relative has a bus out of their village on one day but doesn’t have a bus that returns on the same day. It is apparent that despite austerity, there is still work to be done to keep rural villages and towns connected.
10:48 - Panel Talk
A panel discussion from Sami Pippuri from MaaS Global, Dr Steve Cassidy from ESP Group and Simon Pilgrim from Corethree. Maas foresees all modes fo transport, be it train, bike, car or bus, available for use by the passenger through a single access point or app. It marks a turning point away from private transport and towards the utilisation of ‘transport credits’ that can be used across a range of public transport.
Whim, “The Netflix of Transportation” is the app developed by MaaS. It brings together the multi-modal transport opportunities to the customer by utilising one app and their use of ‘transport credits’ for passengers to use transport using just one device.
ESP Group: Navigogo
We’re looking at NaviGoGo, a travel app aimed at youths (16-25 year olds). It enables younger passengers to plan their journeys, deal matching with different fares, payment and booking via account booking, taxi fare splitter and much more. It will enable a multi-modal travel service to the customer by implementing services from different companies, like rental bikes, national travel entitlement and so on.
Some interesting questions: What is the key factor that will improve the customer experience by using an app? Do you explore gamification in an app to get people on to transport? How do you get people that don’t know there is a bus every 10 minutes around the corner from them on the bus? Implementing MaaS to make mobile apps beneficial to customers is a must for app development and customer growth,
11:15 - Coffee & Networking
We’ll be taking a short break from blogging until 11:45 for coffee ☕
11:56 - Connectivity
I’m back feeling fully refreshed after a short coffee break. I’m now listening to Giorgio Ambrosino from MemEx, Italy, Mariano Majan of Remix and Jenny Milne Director of JLM. They are discussing the importance of RTPI, delivered via digital screen or mobile, are the technologies bus companies are most keen to roll out to enhance the passenger experience and speed up boarding times. TfL is trialling battery powered LED screens to provide RTPI in even the most disconnected of stops.
Companies must try to improve the transport network for the passengers, this includes integration with other modes of transport like trains, trams, ferries and taxis.
What is important to citizens?
Implement services where people live, it’s common sense when planning the transport network that often is wrong from the outset. The citizens want to be comfortable, in order to do this the travel experience must be smooth. In order to accomplish this, operators need to evaluate passenger travel patterns, either by ticketing, boarding monitoring or other means like Bluetooth beacons.
Use case and best practices!
HART in Honolulu, used Remix to restructure their bus system to align it with a 20-mile railway line from Waikiki beach to Kapolei. Plan bus and rail networks together, use the data that is available to you and communicate with your team with visuals that show your data that gives a better perception of the data available.
12:06 - Connectivity with Red Funnel
The successful deployment by Red Funnel of a multi-modal traveller information experience. The company has integrated the bus, train and ferry service to provide a combined offering to their passengers to make travelling as seamless as possible.
They looked at the data available to them, journey planning, passenger numbers, customer service statistics and how the staff communicated with its team.
The company implemented a traveller information management system, this integrated weather sources, social media, bus and rail real-time information. The outcome was to be able to give passengers information on their journey, weather, disruptions, rail and bus journeys, text messages and much more.
12:45 - Lunch
We’ll be taking a short break from blogging until 13:55 for lunch 🥪
13:55 - Asset Management & Maintenance
This talk is focusing on how and why effective asset management and maintenance will improve ROI for bus operators and will include why it is important to have the correct strategy/programme in place when it comes to inspection, maintenance, renewal, improvement, and disposal of assets in order to maximise customer satisfaction, maintain high levels of safety, manage risks, minimise whole life costs and enable delivery of our outcomes and priorities.
14:40 - Smart Ticketing with First Bus
Giles Fearnley, Managing Director, First Bus is talking about how the company has reported a 75% improvement in boarding times when passengers use mTickets as opposed to cash. They give their experience of mTicketing and why they want to transition their bus service to one that encourages mobile payments in order to enhance efficiencies.
The company now offers cheaper fares through its Mobile Ticketing App than it does if you were to walk up and buy a paper ticket. The company currently has a ticketing app and a travel planning app, they hope to merge these in September. First Bus does not yet see contactless payments take over from mobile payments, but it is good to have a choice of both to give the passengers more options to pay.
Giles is now talking about the trial that the company did last year when passengers boarded using different payment methods. Using mobile ticketing is on average 9 seconds faster than using cash, contactless or smart cards.
14:55 - Smart Ticketing with Rambus
Rambus is explaining their next development in moving into Host Card Emulation (HCE). The next generation of bus travellers is accustomed to using their phones to do most things, but why shouldn’t it include bus tickets too?
The benefits of HCE include no need to apply for a smart card, just download the app and register your details and immediately have a bus ticket after a few menu options. One of the better plus points is that once you have purchased the ticket, it is there on the phone, ready to use – unlike some smart card solutions.
15:08 - Smart Ticketing with Vix
Digital natives are not used to waiting for services. Many of the traditional ticketing techniques are outdated, clunky and not very helpful to the passenger at all. Why hasn’t the bus industry adopted bots on various platforms like Facebook Messenger and other similar platforms to get tickets to customers? An interesting question being raised by Vix Technology.
Interestingly this comes in light with the recent introduction of the Transport for London Messenger Bot, Travelbot on Facebook. Their app lets you know the next bus or train departure without human to human interaction, but could ticketing be included to these systems?
15:25 - Coffee & Networking
We’ll be taking a short break from blogging until 15:45 for coffee ☕
15:50 - Bus's Crucial Role in Society
As urban land prices rise across Europe, it has forced workers of varying means to relocate to more suburban or extra urban areas. If people are unable to afford private transport, public transport becomes crucial if they are to find and retain employment in urban areas.
Steve Kearns of Transport for London: The biggest issue of the recent fire at Grenfell Tower for Transport for London was maintaining the bus service in the area, despite the tragic situation. The people who live around the Grenfell Tower area are predominantly bus users, quite a few work in affluent areas of London and the vast majority of the people prefer the bus over using the tube.
Duncan Cameron of First Manchester: Working as a bus operator it is very easy to fall into the trap to accept that you know what is best for your passengers. You really do need to take a look outside of the industry to see how you can learn from other industries to make your offering better for your customers.
Phillip Smith of Rosso: The bus is certainly going to be here in 10 years, it is just about adapting the bus to suit the customers’ needs. There needs to be more awareness to prospective passengers about what the bus companies are doing to try and combat congestion and make their fleets more environmentally friendly.
Dora Ramazzotti of RSM Bologna: Reliable data collection of the passenger needs is the only way to proceed with keeping the bus network relevant to passengers. People’s travel patterns can often change and collecting accurate data is crucial.
16:30 - Mobility as a Service
It has taken MaaS Global nearly 18 months to develop Mobility as a Service. It is close to a soft launch shortly, but it must be remembered that it isn’t just as one product, it is a multi-modal transport solution to make travelling around much easier to the passenger.
What does MaaS offer? Looking back at Manchester nearly 31 years ago, there were many minibuses roaming around the city. There hasn’t been a successful project or pilot that has managed to get the mix of products right for the consumer. There is great momentum today with MaaS because the technology has matured enough to enable customers to use multiple mobility options from a single mobile phone app.
Transport for Greater Manchester predicts that some 800,000 additional journeys will be made in Manchester in the next 20 years. In their prospective, it is putting something together that is more than just transport planning. The solution is to have something that combines reliable multi-modal transport solutions from bike hire to railways to the end user by one means, making it convenient.
It is fundamental that buses remain to provide transportation throughout rural areas in the UK. Changing the image of the bus is a difficult challenge that needs to be overcome, either it needs to change to make it even more attractive to passengers or does the industry need to disrupt itself before the industry itself gets disrupted.
17:00 - Forum Close
I would like to thank those of you who have been following along with my notes from this year’s European Bus Forum at The University of Manchester today.
It has been an interesting day, learning predominantly about MaaS – Mobility as a Service for bus passengers and how the bus industry is trying to change the perception of bus travel to passengers.
I would like to thank Eurotransport for their fantastic hospitality throughout the event and I look forward to reporting from next year’s event.