London and Beyond: A Global Perspective on ITS Implementations

Key Differences – and the Pitfalls to Avoid

Trapeze: ITS customers in Europe

Given today’s uniquely challenging circumstances it has never been more vital that London can rely on a robust and adaptable ITS solution. As we attempt to move beyond Covid-19 we must all think and act differently. London today is radically transformed from the city of just one year ago – and so too are Londoners.

As private car journeys rise with worrying rapidity, bringing inevitable implications for air quality, together we must embrace the challenge of ensuring that the bus network remains a relevant and reliable component of London’s sustainable mobility model.

On one level the challenge facing us is completely new: we must reimagine the network for a new world. But on another level we have faced this situation before. After all, transforming mobility in London was the goal of the original iBus project. It was a huge task – and it’s one we are proud to have achieved together.

We are under no illusions as to the scale of the challenge before us, but the Trapeze team couldn’t be more excited at this opportunity to help transform London all over again. Let’s begin the journey.

Researching Global Perspectives on ITS

As we look ahead to iBus 2, it is important to identify the unique elements of London’s requirements and present ITS implementation, to ensure they are adequately catered for in the future. It is often easy to overlook the fact that London is not only a huge city; it also presents myriad unique technical and procedural challenges, all of which must be accommodated within its ITS solution.

To that end, we have spoken with our ITS colleagues across Europe, Asia and North America to compare London with other cities and regions. The results of that investigation are summarised in the report below. We hope you find it useful.

Unique Requirement #1: Performance Monitoring and Management

On a global level some other cities have superficially similar models to London’s. In most regions on-time performance is naturally a key performance indicator in relation to meeting passenger expectations, and some cities even operate something approaching London’s ‘franchised’ model, where the authority manages the schedules and monitors the performance of services delivered by contracted bus operators.

However, there is a fundamental difference in London in the extent to which performance management underpins the entire financial model.

The London Reporting Database (LRD) and Missing Trips Validation (MTV) modules, delivered in 2010, are fundamental to London’s entire operation. No other city or regional authority has anything like the sophistication of reporting that has been implemented in London – and no other organisations rely on this data to the same extent as TfL, and London’s operators, do.

To illustrate, imagine the implications of iBus incorrectly recording the trip data for just 2% of trips.  For London, that would mean thousands of queries every day, each requiring discussions between operators and TfL, wasting precious time and resources on both sides.

As a provider of ITS solutions all over the world, we can confirm that no other city has the scale of KPI management requirements that pass even casual comparison with London’s. While Singapore comes close in terms of sophistication, it operates a significantly smaller (although still large) network. And Singapore’s solution, also delivered by Trapeze, is of course built on the same technology as London’s.

ITS in London: The Essential Requirements

Proven KPI Management
The current London Reporting Database (LRD) and Missing Trip Validation (MTV), completed in 2010 following years of testing, underpin London’s entire franchised model, including operator payments of £2.1bn per year.
Comprehensive
iBus today captures 99.6% of vehicle movements, thereby providing the granular level of data required to underpin the franchised model.
Accepted by Operators
iBus data is trusted by London’s bus operators, who can reconcile missing trip data, ensuring all operator payments and fines are fair and fully auditable. Crucially, in London the KPIs aren’t only negative in nature, with bonuses use to reward ‘overperformance’.

Unique Requirement #2: Multiple Access Levels

As is to be expected, one of the major differences in London is the franchised model and requirements for different access levels.

While some of our colleagues in North America have implemented ‘multi-agency’ systems, this is still very different to the London model. In North America, multi-agency systems are typically used by two transit agencies to share a system providing joined-up information to the travelling public. While a degree of permissions management is required to ensure that one transit agency does not change the data of the other, this is nothing like the multi-tiered security model that London requires.

London’s model, of course, is uniquely complex, with some 13 different bus operators and multiple layers – each with specific access controls and permissions.

In London, TfL staff, depending on their role, have different levels of access to the system. However, more importantly, the security model must also support multiple roles within each bus operator, and must also enforce strict confidentiality between bus operators.

Further complicating this model, larger bus groups in London will often have multiple bus operators, and staff in one bus operator cannot access the information of their sister organisation. By contrast, the operator’s head office team must be able to see a consolidated view across all its operators in London.

Equally, management of interactions with buses and their drivers is unique in London: TfL’s NMCC (Network Management Control Centre, formerly CentreComm) has full operational responsibility and takes priority in communications with buses. Augmenting that, each bus operator has their own control room to ensure that their operation delivers services are in-line with headway management KPIs. However, the bus operator’s control rooms are always subsidiary to the NMCC.

ITS in London: The Essential Requirements

Network Management Control Centre (NMCC)
TfL’s NMCC is the product of 2,000 days of development, and provides TfL’s team with unparalleled power to manage London’s network and fleet of 10,000 buses. The system manages code red and code blue incidents, and filters issues in order to be addressed by either the operator or NMCC. The NMCC is also integrated with the Metropolitan Police, with sophisticated voice communications, enabling coordinated responses to any large-scale incidents.
Complex Multi-Level Permissions and Access Controls
London’s multi-operator franchised model is strictly controlled by complex multi-level permissions management rules. In this way, each of the city’s 13 contracted operators is able to bid for routes and submit schedules; but can only see their own operational performance data.

Unique Requirement #3: Schedule Data Management and Integration

In some regions, relatively short-term schedule changes are often not reflected in schedules. Faced with the pain of revising schedules, it isn’t uncommon for agencies to simply ignore short term detours from a scheduling perspective, and instead address them in the real-time system.

Clearly such a model would not work for London, given the requirement to agree schedules with contracted operators, and then report on their performance for subsequent payments and penalties.

However, the alternative of pushing a completely new data set from scheduling via ITS backend into the buses each time a change occurs is equally unpalatable for a London-sized system. Instead, the solution needs to be designed to support delta updates, which Trapeze is presently developing for TfL.

ITS in London: The Essential Requirements

Schedule and ITS Integration
London’s model requires complete assurance that there are no gaps between the schedule and real-time systems. These systems must be seamlessly integrated to ensure accurate schedule data is processed into the ITS system, where it can be used to inform passengers and to ensure reliable performance monitoring.
Daily Schedule Data Processing
London manages an unprecedented number of service changes – including some 12,000 ‘Notices of Event’ (NOEs) per year. Data processing requirements on this scale requires effective the use of ‘deltas’ – which must then be processed by the ITS system as well as on the scheduling side.

Unique Requirement #4: Data Standards

A unique characteristic of the UK market is the development of standards to support inter-operability between different systems. In most markets, interfaces between different suppliers – say scheduling and ITS – are based around proprietary protocols. By contrast, the UK has developed a number of targeted standards: TransXChange (TXC) for schedule information and SIRI for real time information exchange.

Many of these standards continue to evolve, such as adding traffic light priorities using server-to-server communications. Particularly, TXC with its ability to represent complex validity periods, can present a challenge.

However, the benefits of adopting TXC are significant: it results in the clear and unambiguous transfer of schedule data. More recently, the UK has participated in the development of the European ITxPT which will provide a common definition of in-vehicle hardware.

ITS in London: The Essential Requirements

Open Standards
TfL has already stated its intention to take advantage of open data standards. We strongly recommend that TfL validates the correct support of any standards proposed in iBus2 by potential suppliers.
Traffic Signal Priority
One of the historic limitations of traffic signal priority is the ‘fire and forget’ nature of signal requests, which means it is never clear whether a signal change request was acted upon, or even received. Given the pressing requirement to ensure that bus travel is more attractive in comparison with private car use, we believe that TfL should adopt RTIG’s T031 protocol, version 1.1 of which supports traffic management system responses, enabling the team to see whether responses have been received and acted upon.

Summary

Totally proven, totally reliable ITS? Trapeze is Here for the Journey

As this report shows, London’s ITS requirements are fundamentally unique, on both technical and procedural levels.

At Trapeze we are extremely proud of our record of delivering ITS solutions that have transformed mobility in Europe. Today more than 30 cities across the UK and Ireland, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Poland trust Trapeze to provide ITS solutions that empower their local communities to make effective use of available public transport services available to them.

But of course, nowhere is this expertise better exemplified than in London where, over the course of 15 years of collaborative partnership, TfL and Trapeze have developed a truly customised iBus solution that not only meets the needs of the travelling public, but has also helped to establish the city as a one of the world’s flagship public transport locations.

We are excited at the opportunity to help London with its next journey as part of iBus 2.