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Helen Norman looks at the pace of Mobility-as-a-Service adoption in the UK as more authorities recognise the benefits of the integrated transport service…

Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) adoption in the UK has been slow to date, with only a few regions throughout the state exploring how the concept can benefit the local area and the people within it. According to Conor Chaplin, innovation strategy officer and MaaS development lead at Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM), part of the reason why MaaS adoption has been slow is a tendency for the transport sector to be quite siloed, both in terms of mode and geographic location.

“In somewhere like the UK, where the transport market is largely unregulated, this can be exacerbated by conflicting priorities between local authorities and mobility operators, as well as between mobility operators offering different modes for similar journeys,” he explains. “In both the public and private sector, the scale of investment in smarter ticketing systems has also limited the geographic extent to which new services can be offered, aggravating the siloed nature of development.”

Chaplin notes that this can limit authorities’ ability to implement solutions like MaaS that rely on collaboration and integration between organisations. “The technology to deliver MaaS is not so much of a barrier as the cultural shift required to enable greater working between public and private sector, and between mobility operators, in order to deliver the best possible service to passengers,” he adds.

Chaplin, does stress, however, that the benefits of MaaS far outweigh implementation challenges. “MaaS has the potential to revolutionise not only the way we travel but, especially in the wake of Covid-19 and the resulting changes in working patterns, how people organise their lives,” he notes. “There is an opportunity now to capitalise on these changes and adopt innovative approaches to the transport services we offer and how our transport network is planned and managed.”

The Manchester approach
In line with the Greater Manchester Transport Strategy 2040, since 2018 TfGM has undertaken three trials of MaaS in the region. “By 2040 we want 50% of all journeys in Greater Manchester to be made by sustainable modes and MaaS has a big role to play in this,” Chaplin adds.

TfGM’s MaaS journey started in 2018 when, supported by Atkins, a MaaS solution was simulated with a small team of back-office staff. The trail ran for four weeks and more than 600 individual journey plans were generated to provide personalised journey planning, real-time information and integrated ticketing to trial participants. Around a sixth of these journey plans were updated in real time to avoid disruption, while a series of ‘nudges’ to encourage more active travel behaviour had an acceptance rate of more than 25%. Over 73% of journeys made included two or more modes of transport and, following the trial, 40% of participants said they would travel using new routes and modes as a result. The proof of concept included eight travel modes and support from 13 partner organisations.

“Greater Manchester has also been home to two living labs as part of major European MaaS trials IMOVE and MaaS4EU,” Chaplin continues. “The IMOVE lab offered a wide range of transport modes, but with fragmented timetables and ticketing. The IMOVE trial sought to better integrate these services for passengers, demonstrating the greater convenience and more sustainable journeys that MaaS can offer.”

In parallel with this pilot, TfGM also acted as the MaaS operator in the MaaS4EU Greater Manchester Living Lab, providing a testbed for door-to-door urban, multimodal trips, testing both B2C and B2B models. This project involved the piloting of shared access minibuses, provided by Hayfield Sustainable Transport, and integrating with a number of other services including car clubs, ride hailing, the Local Link demand-responsive travel service, and more conventional fixed-route services such as bus and tram, all provided through a MaaS platform developed by Intrasoft, ICCS and the University of Wolverhampton.

“Based on the lessons learned from these trials, we have now embarked on a more detailed programme of work to assess the feasibility for a large-scale MaaS solution to be deployed across Greater Manchester,” Chaplin comments. “This will seek to maximise the benefits of other improvements to travel in the region, including the introduction of contactless payment on Metrolink, bus reform, and account-based ticketing.”

North of the border
While TfGM continues work on defining its specific MaaS approach, the Scottish government is also looking at how it can promote the use of alternative ways to travel. In January 2021, Transport Scotland announced the second and final round of its MaaS Investment Fund (MIF) to expand MaaS solutions in the country. The £2m investment fund, which was launched in 2018 by the Scottish government, aims to foster creativity in the sector and grow the evidence base for the global MaaS concept.

“MIF was developed with a wide range of stakeholders to create a fund that could be accessed by public, private and/or third sector organisations looking to undertake a MaaS pilot in Scotland,” explains Laura McCaig, MaaS delivery manager, Transport Scotland. “Since the fund was launched, we have developed a pilot programme, with currently three projects using digital technology to test the concept of MaaS on three different scenarios and locations.”

The three projects include the GO-HI HITRANS MaaS solution (see sidebar, right), GetGo Dundee, and ENABLE. GetGo Dundee from the city council focuses on addressing many of the barriers to using public or active transport for travelling to events in the city and wider region. It explores how technology can enhance the experience of visitors to Dundee through the use of smart ticketing, improved information across a variety of channels, improved booking and transaction, model integration and service optimisation.

Meanwhile, ENABLE is Tactran’s project designed to assist users to co-ordinate the planning, booking, and paying for a range of transport services, therefore making it easier for them to access more destinations in a sustainable manner. The principle of the project is that the user interfaces are designed for, and with, specific user groups to reflect their needs, making the tool as relevant and easy to use by focusing on the functions users want and want most.

“In the long-term, Transport Scotland sees MaaS as supporting the Scottish government’s aspirations for a healthier, more sustainable Scotland, by providing better and more comprehensive travel information, more people feel empowered to use alternative ways to travel, encouraging them out of cars and private car ownership, and thereby reducing emissions,” adds McCaig.

Overcoming challenges
Transport Scotland and TfGM are both leading the way in MaaS adoption. Other regions are, however, also starting to explore the benefits of the service. The Solent Transport MaaS project, for example, part the Solent Future Transport Zone (FTZ) funded by £29m from the UK Department for Transport, will see the implementation of innovative future transport solutions around personal mobility and freight movement. The aim of the MaaS project is to test the use of MaaS products as a tool for reducing car use and improving access to a range of transport options. This specific details of this project are due to be launched in Summer 2021.

According to Richard Dilks, chief executive of CoMoUK – the charity for the public benefit of shared mobility, the move toward MaaS will gather pace over the coming years, but he stresses that there are a number of challenges that must first be considered. “Authorities must ensure they have accurate data to integrate into an app and that there are sustainable transport options available,” he explains. “It’s also extremely important for an authority to consider what role they intend to play. There are a number of high-quality white label MaaS apps out there now, so it’s not necessarily the best route for authorities to create their own; but I do think they have an important role to play in guidance and goal setting. Lastly, don’t let the perfect tomorrow be the enemy of the good today.”

That final point is echoed by Yovav Meydad, chief growth and marketing officer at Moovit – a leading MaaS solutions provider. Moovit’s MaaS app serves over one billion users in 3,400 cities across 112 countries. “It’s a slow and steady race to get people out of their private cars and into public and shared transport, and too much information or complexity can make it seem more complicated.” he says. “Also, it isn’t the core business of a local authority to begin developing its own app or MaaS solution. Authorities should work with the market and MaaS professionals to find the best solutions for the needs of its audience.”

Launch of GO-HI transport accessibility app
In Scotland in June 2021, the Highlands and Islands launched the new GO-HI app, which provides instant access to information on buses, trains, taxis, car hire, car clubs, bicycle hire, air travel and ferries. This allows users to plan their journeys and find, book and pay for all modes of transport in one place using a mobile device.

The app, developed by the HITRANS regional transport partnership, is powered by Fleetondemand’s Mobilleo MaaS platform and funded by the EU North Sea Region Stronger Combined project and the Scottish government’s MaaS Investment Fund. Since the project began nearly a year ago, a significant amount of data from a wide range of transport users has been gathered to enable GO-HI to go live and in the coming weeks and months much more information will be added.

Highland councillor Allan Henderson, and HITRANS chair, says, “This project is an ambitious region-wide solution that has the potential to make a significant contribution to improve accessibility for residents and visitors. It also addresses government ambitions to reduce carbon emissions by encouraging a modal shift from sole occupancy cars to shared cars and public transport alternatives. It will also help to create healthier lifestyles by improving the sustainable travel choices people can make in the region including active travel opportunities.”

The GO-HI pilot went live on 21 June and will run for 12 months.

This article was originally published in the September 2021 issue of CiTTi magazine. 

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