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Making the case for MaaS in Scotland

Why should authorities buy into Mobility-as-a-Service? Dr Alastair McInroy, CEO of Technology Scotland, tells Intelligent Transport’s Sam Mehmet how MaaS Scotland is looking to provide evidence that MaaS solutions carry more than just the benefit of service integration.

Making the case for MaaS in Scotland

What is MaaS Scotland?

I am the CEO at Technology Scotland, a trade organisation focusing on Scotland’s Enabling Technology Sector. Beneath the Technology Scotland banner we run several networks, the largest of which is MaaS Scotland, which has been running for about three years.

MaaS Scotland was set up in recognition that there is a cluster of companies and organisations in Scotland who have the expertise, the knowledge and the technical capability to deliver Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) in Scotland.

The group has now grown to over 75 public and private sector organisations who are engaged in, have interest in, or are looking to develop MaaS solutions in Scotland. Most of our membership is based in Scotland, but we do have some members from the wider UK, and even some from overseas who are beginning to see Scotland as a leading location for MaaS development. Within our membership we have representation across the MaaS supply chain – we have technology suppliers at one end, but we also have local authorities, Regional Transport Partnerships and transport operators, both traditional and emerging modes.

MaaS could improve the way we deliver transport, but also help government to fulfil some of their policy requirements in other areas such as health, environment and inclusive growth

When the group was formed, its main focus was to generate awareness of what MaaS actually is, what it can do, and what the positive impacts of its delivery will be. This included its potential positive impact on transport behaviours, supporting modal shift and a more sustainable transport network.

Initially we focused on taking this message to public sector partners who could help to deliver MaaS, specifically Scottish government, Transport Scotland and our local and regional authorities. We wrote a couple of high level papers to put in front of Scottish government, and we really tried to drive home the message of how MaaS could help our country. This focused not just on how MaaS could improve the way we deliver transport, but also how it could help government to fulfil some of their policy requirements in other areas such as health, environment and inclusive growth.

These papers kick started a series of discussions that ultimately led to the launch of the Scottish Governments’ MaaS Investment Fund in June 2019. This is a £2 million national programme, administered by Transport Scotland, which will demonstrate the development and delivery of MaaS solutions in various different use cases across Scotland.

MaaS has been talked about for a long, long time, but we need to move forward faster with the kind of practical demonstration

The first two projects supported by the fund were announced just before Christmas 2019, both of which are being led by Regional Transport Partnerships in Scotland. These projects have received £1 million in funding with a second round of funding kicking off in April this year. Our focus now moves to how we capitalise on these projects, learning from their outcomes to support further development and ultimately building a business case for the additional funding that will undoubtedly be required to upscale MaaS across Scotland.    

We believe that one of the biggest problems when securing the funding and stakeholder engagement required for MaaS development is the lack of evidence, particularly at a local level, for how MaaS could actually impact people’s behaviours and/or use of transport.

Scottish flag and bridge

What is the process of building this evidence base? Is it a case of ‘time will tell’?

There remains a degree of scepticism in certain quarters as to the true impact of MaaS in the longer term but I think most people think it will arrive in some shape or form eventually. What that looks like exactly, I think, is still highly debatable. And the only way to really provide some clarity on this is to demonstrate it – not talk about it. MaaS has been talked about for a long, long time, but we need to move forward faster with the kind of practical demonstration that will prove, or otherwise, its’ true worth. At MaaS Scotland our priority is to accelerate developments at our own local level but where possible, we must also learn from what’s going on elsewhere. Look to other countries that are arguably a few steps ahead of us, and examine what has been successful and what has not.  

We need to be conscious of course that while we should learn lessons from what’s going on in places like Finland or Australia or Denmark, it is not necessarily as simple as just picking up successful solutions and dropping them into Scotland or the UK. There are all sorts of other variables that have to be considered, but you can still take what has been proven to work and use that as evidence for your own development.

How could MaaS contribute to the climate agenda in Scotland?

The Scottish Government has a target to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2045. This is an ambitious target and in order to achieve this there is going to have to be a significant shift in the way we engage with transport. In Scotland, and in many other regions and nations, the single biggest contributor to carbon emissions is now transport, with car use, particularly single occupancy car use, is a significant part of that story.

If we are serious about these targets then we need to ensure that there are significantly fewer vehicles on the roads.

The electrification of the fleet will of course have significant impact but this can only go so far. No vehicle is zero emission. A simple ‘swap’ for electric vehicles would also do nothing for our ongoing problems with congestion.

If we are serious about these targets then we need to ensure that there are significantly fewer vehicles on the roads. MaaS provides a really useful tool to help us to do that, allowing more convenient access to shared modes.

These platforms can sit hand in hand with other levers that may be used to reduce car use – congestion charging, parking restrictions and, more recently, low emission zones.

With the UN Climate Change Conference coming to Glasgow in November this year, Scotland, and the rest of the UK, will be the focus of global attention on climate change. There can surely be no better time, therefore, to highlight the role of future mobility in reducing carbon emissions and supporting a more sustainable future. MaaS will have a key role to play and we must capitalise on this opportunity over the coming months.

Biography

Alastair McInroy is Chief Executive Officer at Technology Scotland, the industry association for Scotland’s Enabling Technologies sector and management organisation for MaaS Scotland, a network of nearly 80 private and public sector organisations operating across the Mobility as a Service supply chain in Scotland. He has a PhD in Chemistry and over 20 years’ experience working in both technical and commercial roles within the UK’s Science and Technology sectors, from chemicals and infectious disease diagnostics to photonics and future mobility. McInroy is also a member of the Board of Trustees at CoMoUK.

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