ENHANCING RURAL PUBLIC TRANSPORT ACCESSIBILITY THROUGH IMPLEMENTING A SMART SCAN-ON M-TICKETING SOLUTION: : A UNITED KINGDOM CASE STUDY APPROACH WITHIN RURAL DEREGULATED ENVIRONMENTS
The aim of this paper is to demonstrate how two UK Local Authorities (Hertfordshire and Northamptonshire), the two Universities of Hertfordshire and Northampton and public transport providers have worked in partnership to develop a smart scan-on m-ticketing solution, that integrates into a wider ‘smart city’ solution delivering social good through connected value propositions. Based on the initial success of a Hertfordshire pilot, a specific objective of this work is to establish smart integrated multi-operator/modal solutions. This pilot is subsequently being collaboratively expanded upon, through the UK Department for Transport funded ‘Network Northamptonshire Total Transport’ initiative, a transformative project to improve connectivity, integration and accessibility for rural transport networks. This forms part of the recently signed ‘Heart of England’ economic tri-county alliance agreement, which aims to work collaboratively across three local authority regions (Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire), consolidating £3bn of spending. This provides a further future platform for innovative transport solutions being rolled out across wider geographical areas. The initial Hertfordshire demonstrator pilot project explored how a ‘smart’ m-ticketing platform could provide a sustainable financial business model for implementing ticketing solutions for small and medium bus operators within rural Shires, outside of large urban settings. This unique project was the first scan-on bus mobile ticket product used in the UK (outside of London). It offers a partnership model and governance structure for local authorities, commercial operators and other stakeholders with an interest in integrated sustainable transport to take forward, and leads to the possibility of new, socially innovative models for procuring and delivering transport solutions. Initial user reactions have been positive, generating large digital data sets, analysis of which indicates rapid user uptake in comparison to other schemes. This data enables detailed analysis such as precise user geo-spatial distribution, supporting targeted marketing and route-specific promotions to encourage further service uptake. A critical success factor of the project was to target a reduction of on-bus cash handling by five per cent within the first 12 months. This would aid in reducing bus loading times, improve reliability and operator efficiencies. After an initial 16 month operational use, uptake growth in excess of 7 per cent of total revenue has been achieved, on specific routes the transfer to m-ticket has exceeded 12 per cent, with targets of 10 per cent of total cash to mobile conversion predicted by the middle of 2017, likely to be realised. The effectiveness of marketing campaigns, technical development aspects and implementation issues will be reported. These projects have a wider context. Public transport services in rural areas in England are deregulated, and have at present no effective statutory backing or ring-fenced funding. As a result, with reductions in funding to local authorities, funding for non-commercial bus services is being sharply reduced and many authorities are proposing to cease all funding for local bus services (Campaign for Better Transport, 2016). These projects may offer alternative cost-effective ways of providing local transport services in non-metropolitan areas, and thus provide the potential for unique future research opportunities. These include understanding the uptake of smart multi-modal solutions in rural areas to improve accessibility and connectivity through enhanced services for new users and for those with restricted or reduced mobility networks, whilst also offering efficiencies for operators. This research has added importance, because the UK Government is proposing legislation on bus services in England, which would confer significant extra powers on local authorities to intervene in the bus market in various ways. These projects may act as pathfinders for the use of these powers in non-metropolitan areas. Structures supporting a partnership approach involving all those with an interest in public transport are a critical part of improving rural connectivity and accessibility. Through the experience of establishing quality partnership models in Hertfordshire, this paper will go on to detail the subsequent work now underway developing a Social Enterprise model involving local government, universities, operators, health and education services in Northamptonshire, which will form the basis of the transformation of rural integrated sustainable transport delivery.