Nexus, the Tyne and Wear Passenger Transport Executive, helped secure £100 million of Government investment after using data to help improve its public transport system.
Stephen Bellamy, Nexus (Tyne and Wear Passenger Transport Executive) interim head of commercial, spoke at the recent Virtual Smart Transport Conference.
He gave examples of how important gathering data has been to help inform decisions for improving the region’s light rail Metro system.
Nexus uses data from the North East Data Hub, which includes metro, bus and rail punctuality, park and ride occupancy, motor vehicle traffic levels, economic data, vehicle speeds and road casualties.
It also has its own Nexus Insight Panel, which is an in-house data gathering service, which gives members of the public the opportunity to shape decisions it is making.
Members of the panel are asked to complete one survey a month and in return they are entered into a prize draw for shopping vouchers.
To ensure full transparency, the results are published online.
Passenger data showed that frequency of the Metro service was the most important factor for improvement.
This data was used in the business case to the Government which helped secure £100m to increase services to every 10 minutes and deliver capacity for an extra 30,000 passengers a day.
Before Covid-19, data was showing the Metro already had a 29% decrease among leisure and retail passenger groups.
Bellamy said: “We decided we needed to target the family market to improve our offering to passengers.
“Before we introduced our new family offer in January 2020, it would cost £14.60 for a day of travel for two adults and three children, which was quite expensive compared with a competing bus offer, which was £10.
"We estimated we could lose 148,000 child passengers in 2020 alone if we took no action.
“So we proposed allowing children 11 and under to travel for free on weekends when travelling with a fare paying adult.”
Bellamy said this was a huge departure, as Metro had never offered free travel before.
Using data modelling, Nexus estimated Metro would gain an additional 200,000 passengers.
Bellamy said: “Taking the patronage figures and linking it with revenue, we found that by even giving away free travel, by making it more attractive to families, we could increase the revenue from adult passengers to offset the loss in revenue from child passengers.”
Nexus is also using data to get feedback on the new Metro fleet which is going to be renewed with a new £362m fleet over the next two years. This is the first time new Metro cars will be added to the service in 40 years.
Nexus launched its biggest ever consultation with over 20,000 respondents offering data on granular details like the colour of the Metro cars, what the trim on the seats should look like, but also on decisions around accessibility.
Respondents could rank different aspects of the Metro car by using 360 degree digital photgraphy and provide comments.
Bellamy said: “We have gained significant amounts of data from the travelling public about what they think of our new fleet and how they want to see change in order to make it better.
“It’s extremely useful to get the fleet design right. These decisions will impact the experience passengers will have over at latest the next 10 years.”
Bellamy believes the next big data opportunity will be for the Bus Open Data Service regulations, which will unlock data from bus operators, which had previously not been made available to transport planners and app developers.
The new regulations will require all bus operators and certain local authorities in England outside Greater London to make their bus data available to the Department for Transport who will in turn publish it online.
Part of the data will include details on routes, operators, stopping places, pricing, ticketing and timetables of bus services.
Bellamy added: “We must continue to embrace open data and big data.
“Going forward, we have to recognise the fantastic opportunities it will bring in helping us to make better and more informed decisions to benefit the public.”
For those registered for the free Virtual Smart Transport Conference, you can now access all of the video presentations and live Q&A sessions for the next 60 days after logging in at virtualsmarttransportconference.com.
Smart Transport would like to thank its Headline Strategic Partners for their support with this virtual event including ABB, AECOM, Centrica, DAF Trucks, Enterprise, FedEx, Geotab, LeasePlan, Liberty Global, Macquarie, PJA, Raleigh, Renault and Worldline.