London to trial on-demand buses

Written by Sam Trendall on 21 February 2019 in News
News

Borough of Sutton to conduct 12-month experiment with flexible routes and app-based booking

Credit: Wolfram Kastl/DPA/PA Images

Transport for London is to conduct a year-long trial of a “demand-responsive” bus service that will provide users with flexible routes and an app-based booking system.

The experiment, which is due to launch in May, offers travellers to chance to use an app to request a pick-up time and location, as well as to guarantee a seat. The technology can then provide live updates on arrival time. The app will be available for free for both iPhones and Android devices. Anyone not wishing to use it will be able to call an operator to make pick-up requests and pay for services.

The trial will not integrate London’s contactless Oyster card system, with all payments made upfront via the app or over the phone. TfL expects that fares will not exceed those for existing services. 

The 12-month trial will initially cover an area in the south London borough of Sutton, and all buses will start their journeys from the bus garage near the town centre. Subject to “public response and demand patterns”, the scheme may be extended to cover a larger area, including a part of Sutton’s eastern neighbour Croydon. TfL said that it wanted to test the demand-responsive system in outer London, in places where car usage was high and existing public transport options were limited.


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It said: “The aim of the research trial is to test the impact of a flexible route and schedule and a technology-based booking system to see if this can improve public transport outcomes, while also improving accessibility and air quality (through reduced car usage). The key target markets for the service are those who usually use their car and who are not, for various reasons, using conventional public transport, walking or cycling. In the area identified, the service will provide access to key destinations and trip attractors within the local area, such as healthcare, education and leisure facilities.”

The project will not require any “new infrastructure or signage”, according to the transport authority, and buses will use existing stops or “approved stops which could be identified by nearest junction, address or business”. 

“These approved stopping points will be designed to be approximately every 200m within the designated service area, creating several hundred approved stopping locations across the service area,” TfL said. “One of the benefits of the service is that stops can be easily added and removed during the trial period.”

TfL will run the trial in partnership with bus operator Go Ahead London and ViaVan Technologies – creator of a ride-sharing platform.

Ahead of the trial’s launch, the transport authority is inviting submissions to a month-long consultation that commenced this week.

About the author

Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology

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