Demand Responsive Bus Trial (Ealing)

Closed 23 Aug 2019

Opened 19 Jul 2019

Overview

Transport for London (TfL) believes demand responsive bus services may have the potential to complement the established bus network to contribute to sustainable travel and reduce car dependency in the future. 

Demand responsive services operate flexibly in response to local demand. These services can change routing and scheduling depending on when and where customers want to travel. This has the potential to increase the use of and attract new users to public transport.

The exploration of these services is a commitment in the Mayor’s Transport Strategy under chapter five and six (proposal 92 and104). We want to explore whether these services can support good growth and improve public transport while improving accessibility and air quality (by reducing car use) in an area of outer London where car dependency is high and other forms of public transport have limited availability. To achieve this, we are delivering two small-scale 12 month research trials. These trials will operate in addition to the existing local public transport.

The first research trial was recently launched in Sutton. The second research trial and the focus of this consultation will be delivered in the London Borough of Ealing with a potential expansion into the London Borough of Brent.

We are committed to delivering a trial in Ealing. This consultation seeks to aid in the planning and delivery of this service by:

  • Understanding the level of interest for this type of service
  • Understanding any concerns or objections to the details of the proposed service area
  • Identifying any issues not yet already considered in delivery of this trial

The consultation opens on 19 July 2019 and runs for four weeks. We will then report on the outcome ahead of the launch of the 12 month trial.

It should be noted that as a research trial, collecting feedback from users as well as non–users too will continue throughout the 12 month trial.  

Background

Trialling these services in outer London is a commitment of the MTS. From May to November 2018, we undertook a competitive procurement process to secure an operator and identify the location for the trial, engaging a number of stakeholders through the process to ensure core requirements would be met. Operators bidding through the procurement process had to meet strict criteria in proposing a service area for the trial including:

  • Must be in an outer London borough that identified themselves in scope for the trial, where car dependency is high and public transport accessibility levels are low
  • Must complement and not compete with existing public transport and demonstrate demand from car users
  • Must be specifically supported by the boroughs covered    

We awarded two 12 month contracts as a result of this procurement process. The first contract was awarded to ViaVan and Go Ahead who have recently launched their GoSutton demand responsive bus trial in May 2019.  The second contract, and the focus of this consultation, was awarded to bus operator RATP who will operate in partnership with MOIA as their technology provider. Their service proposal differs compared to the first trial, in its customer experience, operations and outer London service area, so the two trials together will further TfL’s demand responsive bus research objectives.

The proposed service launch area for this second trial covers a large part of the London Borough of Ealing and includes the potential to expand to cover more of the borough and a small part of the London Borough of Brent. Both boroughs have been engaged in the process and are supportive of the trial.  

What are we proposing?

This is a trial service that does not have a fixed route or schedule, but ‘responds’ to the request to be picked up by the customer. It can be booked at the desired time of travel, primarily through an app, and provide real time updates to customers of vehicle arrival time and guarantees a seat for confirmed bookings.  

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 links to other public transport as well as access to key destinations and trip attractors such as hospitals, places of worship and the University.

There will be similarities to the other demand responsive bus trial service that is currently operating in Sutton, please see here for further details about the app and service.  

Vehicles      

The service will run with a fleet of new TGE MAN L4H3 ten-seater mini-buses. The mini-buses will be Euro VI compliant bringing them in line with the Ultra Low Emission Zone vehicle standards, and will be fully wheelchair accessible.  

Operating hours and service area

The current trial proposal is for the vehicles to operate between 06:00 and 01:00, seven days-a-week. However, these operating hours may be adjusted according to demand.

The area that could be covered by the vehicles is outlined in the map below. 

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Demand responsive bus trial map (PDF 155KB)

The service would begin in the proposed launch service area.

We will assess the public response and demand patterns in the initial operational period to determine if extending the service area into any part of the purple shaded area would be beneficial for the service.  

Buses will operate from the Twickenham Bus Garage, around 5km from the service area.

There will be number of primary standing points for vehicles not carrying or going to pick up a customer. Standing locations may differ from usual bus operations and may vary according to demand for the service and other real-world conditions. Any additional standing points will be agreed with the local authority and TfL in advance of the service starting to run. The service will be operated with up to nine vehicles in service during the peak hours.

No new infrastructure or signage will be required for stopping points. With customers able to see vehicle arrival times in real-time via the app, it is not expected that customers would be waiting long at stopping points. The service will use a mix of existing bus stops and approved stops which could be identified by the nearest junction, address or business. These approved stopping points will be designed to be approximately every 200m within the designated service area. The result will be the creation of up to several hundred approved stopping locations across the service area. All proposed stops will be individually checked to ensure they satisfy all critical criteria of being safe, secure, accessible and avoiding disruption to other road users.

Stopping points will be monitored during service operation with any comments or feedback potentially resulting in the removal, alteration or addition of stopping points, as well as informing the process of determining any future stopping points. One of the benefits of the service is that stops can be easily added, updated, and removed during the trial period.

Drivers of the service will be trained to the full standard of a London bus operator (holding a Category D Licence); ensuring drivers are well-placed to determine when it is safe to stop.

Drivers will be based at Twickenham Garage, TW1 1DQ, directly employed by RATP London Sovereign, who already operates some bus services for TfL in London.  The London Bus Driver Professional Wage and Licence for London will apply to this trial, for further details please see here.

Duration of the trial

This research trial will run for 12 months to collect the data required to meet our trial objectives. It is expected the service will launch in late 2019 and run for 12 months from the launch date. Advanced notice will be provided to customers ahead of launching and closing the service. 

How will this demand responsive bus trial operate?

This service is designed to be booked through an app, although non-smartphone booking will also be available. To book a journey on this trial service through the app, passengers will use a free downloaded app obtained through the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.

High-level information about how the service can be booked is included below to give you some understanding of the service. User-friendly guidelines of how to book will be available when the service launches. 

Fares

The cost of the service will start at a flat fare per trip of £3.50.

We do not propose to integrate the trial service with the TfL Oyster card payment system. Unlike our other services, payment for this bus will need to be made via the app in advance of the trip and it would be too costly to integrate payment systems for such a small-scale and short-term trial.

Freedom Passes and English National Concessionary Travel Scheme Passes will be accepted on this trial service following a simple registration process. These card holders will have to show their pass to the driver when boarding to confirm their validity.

Children under the age of 13 will only be allowed to use the service when accompanied by a guardian, parent or other adult who has booked a trip. This is to ensure the necessary data privacy consent is provided for the operator to be able to process and confirm the booking.

App booking

Once passengers have downloaded the free app, they will need to complete a simple registration process, which will include their payment details.

Once registered, passengers can plan and book journeys. When ready to travel, a customer enters the origin and destination points in the app (within the service area). The app will then issue a journey proposal within a few seconds, including the estimated time of arrival of the vehicle at the nearest pickup point. In addition, the app provides guidance for the shortest route to the pick-up point, expected journey time to the destination, and the fare. The customer can easily confirm or reject the booking at this point. All customers with a confirmed booking will have guaranteed seats for the booked number of passengers, and/or a space reserved for wheelchair access.

It is expected the average wait time for a vehicle would be about 10 minutes. Actual wait time will depend on demand and could be longer at peak times.

Once they have booked the journey, customers will be shown a countdown timer within the app for when they should start moving to their pick-up location, as well as the shortest route to get there.

The app keeps customers up-to-date on the status of their vehicle, providing automated, real-time vehicle tracking and arrival information.

In parallel, the driver will receive directions to the pick-up location on a special tablet. The tablet also helps the driver navigate turn by turn and displays other relevant trip information to the driver. Upon arrival, the driver will pull over to the stopping point in a manner that does not obstruct the other road users, and will invite the customer to board. Drivers will assist wheelchair users to board the vehicle using the tail lift at the rear of the vehicle. The wheelchair user will be secured within the dedicated wheelchair space in the vehicle.

During the journey to the customer’s destination, other customers may be picked up if they are traveling in a similar direction (“ride-sharing”), with minimal impact on journey time.

At the conclusion of their journey, the customer’s registered payment method will be automatically charged for the quoted fare, and they will receive a trip receipt via email. The app then asks the customer to rate their journey and quality of service, and if they wish, to provide any additional written feedback. A range of communication channels, such as in app, phone or email are available to the customer. Customer feedback will be used throughout the trial to improve the service as well as at the end of the trial as part of the research evaluation.

Phone booking

For those users who don’t have access to a smartphone; the service can be booked by phone via an operator. Journeys can also be booked by landline via an operator.  

What do we want to learn from this consultation and subsequent 12 month trial?

Key to the trial will be a research program to collect the data required to understand if such a service can support the objectives of the Mayor’s Transport strategy, including:

  • Can the service model deliver a quality customer service offering that is accessible and easy to use?
  • What are customers’ experiences of using technology to request transport services in real time?
  • Can the service model support mode shift away from car travel and meet the Healthy Streets principles?
  • We are also interested to understand the economics and the technology behind the service

It will be important that as well as collecting feedback from users, we work with local stakeholder groups to ensure that perceptions and experience of those who are not using the service are gathered to understand any barriers to using the service.  

Potential impacts of the trial

The purpose of the research trial is to understand from customers directly, the actual benefits and impacts of such a service. In the meantime, we have highlighted some potential impacts.

The service will provide a number of benefits:

  • It will add more Public Transport options in Ealing potentially improving access to jobs and essential services
  • It will complement the existing transport network, making travel easier and more convenient
  • The design of this type of service could improve perceived personal safety and security
  • It will provide a guaranteed seat for any customer who has a confirmed booking
  • Customer experience enhancements including the use of on-board displays
  • A dense, dynamic network of stops (approximately every 200m) means shorter transit distances to stops and more convenient access to the service
  • The accessibility-enhanced passenger app as well as a phone booking option are designed to make trip booking easy for passengers with different needs
  • The app provides real-time updates of the vehicle’s position and ETA, as well as an estimated transit time to the stop, which will help passengers plan and manage their journey
  • Payment methods are securely registered and stored by the user within the app. This method enables a cashless payment for the service
  • Every vehicle will be wheelchair-accessible. Customers will have the added assurance of reserving wheelchair space prior to travel

Some potential impacts are:

  • The plan for booking and payment of trips means all users will require a bank account (except holders of Freedom Passes) and a corresponding credit or debit card which will be registered as the payment option
  • Some customers may not find the booking of the service convenient
  • There is no advanced/pre-booking option Journeys are booked on-demand at the time of travel or shortly ahead of time
  • Customers who book the service from a landline or who do not have SMS- enabled phones will not receive real-time service updates
  • The service is not available to unaccompanied children below 13 years old

Equality Impact Assessment for Demand Responsive Bus Trials (PDF 48KB)

Have your say

We would like to know what you think about where and how we are proposing to run this demand responsive bus service trial, your level of interest in using the service and any issues you think it may raise.

Please give us your views by completing the online survey below by Friday 23 August 2019.

Alternatively, you can:

You can also request paper copies of plans and a response form, copies in Braille, large text or another language by emailing consultations@tfl.gov.uk, writing to FREEPOST TFL CONSULTATIONS, or calling 0343 222 1155.

Areas

  • Brent
  • Ealing

Audiences

  • Anyone from any background

Interests

  • Buses