Bus Open Data Service to go live this month

Operators across England to follow Transport for London in publishing data on routes, fares and bus locations

Credit: Edward Higgens/PA Archive/PA Images

Bus operators in England will start publishing route and timetable information online later this month, with fare and real-time location data following in early 2021.

The Bus Open Data Service will allow third-party developers to use the information in apps and other online services, as is already the case for public transport in London. The government will legally require operators to use the system by the end of this year, using open-data powers in the Bus Services Act 2017.

The Department for Transport published a contract for an alpha version of the service in June 2018, describing it as “the one-stop shop for operators of local bus services to index links to data files”. The work, worth £449,000, was awarded to consultancy KPMG, according to information published on the government’s Digital Marketplace site. More recently, the department has run engagement work to prepare travel operators for the new regulations, including through a Twitter account.

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“Buses are the most frequently used form of public transport – to get to work, to the library, to the doctors or to see family and friends,” said buses minister Baroness Vere. “By harnessing the transforming power of data and technology we could be on the threshold of a golden age for buses. Sharing data on routes, bus locations and fares will give passengers even more confidence to ride.”

Transport for London (TfL) has progressively opened access to a wide range of its data over the last decade, with an application programming interface (API) for live bus arrivals in place in time for the London Olympics and Paralympics in 2012. A 2017 report by consultancy Deloitte for the organisation said that 42% of Londoners used one of more than 600 apps powered by TfL’s open data. It estimated that the release of open data by the organisation was generating annual benefits and savings of up to £130m. Bristol City Council set up a similar service, covering buses, trains, car-park occupancy and electric vehicle charging locations, in 2015.

Sam Trendall

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