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Debate Passenger information systems

London mayor Ken Livingstone is pushing hard for an effective inter-modal public transport system. The capital will be seen by many as a test bed for integrated transport management. This week, with the UK's first integrated transport exhibition, Interchange, in full swing we ask:

Are London's transport companies integrating passenger information systems in the way they should as part of future integrated transport plans?

Yes

Transport for London (TfL) is aware that existing information provision in London is not adequately integrated - transport users agree. However, the formation of TfL which is geared to delivering effective multimodal transport now provides a renewed opportunity to improve cross-modal information.

Integrating transport information is a fundamental part of the mayor's draft transport strategy.

While there are many challenges in providing multi-modal information, there is now a significant opportunity to make a real difference in the perception and reality of transport information.

TfL has already taken forward a series of exciting new initiatives, working in partnership with other key stakeholders in the industry. These include:

A TfL WAP site that provides information across several modes of travel in London including some national rail information. TfL intends to expand its offering via mobile phones and e-mail soon.

There will also be a redesigned TfL website intended to incorporate new software solutions to provide a city wide multi-modal journey planner.

Simplified bus route information (spider maps) which along with new local area maps are being installed at Underground stations.

Working with locations such as hospitals to provide multimodal transport information to their staff and visitors.

Giving every household in London access to new combined transport guides, available in electronic or paper form, giving information on a range of modes.

A programme of expansion in our multi-modal Travel Information Centres network.

Programmes to significantly enhance safety, road quality and ease of journey for cyclists, and to provide information for walkers using the range of TfL communication channels.

These are exciting times in London in terms of information for the travelling public. Progress is being made. Difficulties do occur but this is the time to take firm steps towards implementing a vision of customer focused multi-modal traveller information.

For the individual operator integrated information offers a more satisfied customer base and a stake in a bigger overall transport revenue 'cake'.

No

Today, data on transport is more and more ubiquitous. Maps at London Underground stations, for instance, show all points covered by the system.

Digital signs on platforms relay information about the frequency and arrival times of trains. Bus companies are following suit.

But while transport providers are individually posting information about their own services, no one is giving passengers a picture of what is happening across all modes of transport.

At the moment, the passenger is unable to gauge the best means of getting from one point to another in London.

For example, if there is a problem on one leg of the Underground system, there is often a public address announcement to inform passengers in the station that there is a delay. If it is a major incident, there may be a signboard posted at stations across the network.

While these information releases provide data on the Underground, they fail to offer the passenger alternative means to complete a journey - for example information about buses operating on the same route, or about road conditions affecting taxi journey times.

So why is the public not receiving integrated information about the transport system - bus, Underground, road and rail?

The answer is that the Underground and bus services see each another as competitors. As a result, transport data is treated as proprietary and competitively sensitive. Neither is willing to share information.

Refusing co-operation may make sense in terms of competition - starving passengers of choice by starving them of comparative information may prevent them deserting one mode of transport for a more efficient alternative.

But it is a poor excuse for service.

Passengers should be given the means to select the mode of transport that best fits their needs.

Technologies such as video displays, variable message signs, radio, TV, mobile telephones, information kiosks, internet sites and new 3G telephone technology are all capable of supporting comprehensive, complex information.

The data exists in discrete form. Amazingly, no one has stepped forward to integrate it.

The facts

Mobile phone Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) service provider Kizoom supplies train timetables and information about delays for London and the south east.

Kizoom is due to deliver bus information later this year.

Chief operating officer Damian Bown wants to develop smart phones that can plan journeys.

Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive aims to halve public transport journey times, measured against 1995 standards, by 2005. It is using integrated timetable information, cross-ticketing, and congestion charging.

People working in London account for 65% of all public transport passenger miles on daily journeys to work in England.

London Underground's communication systems are being overhauled under a 20 year £1.2bn private finance concession run by jv Racal, Fluor Daniel, Motorola, Hyder Investments and Charterhouse.

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