Innovation competition launches to develop ‘Smart North Ecosystem’

Posted: 28 October 2020 | | No comments yet

TfN’s Smart North Ecosystem proposal looks to incentivise public, shared and active travel through smarter, joined-up ticketing.

Smart transport for North of England as TfN launches Smart North Ecosystem procurement

Transport for the North (TfN) has launched its latest procurement to inform the development of a ‘Smart North Ecosystem’, designed to connect the region’s various transport networks and ticketing systems.

The competition comes as TfN looks to incentivise the use of public transport, as well as other modes of green, shared and active travel. In a statement, TfN says that it is “seeking to partner with tech leaders and other innovators from around the world” to be able to understand and assess how new and near-to-market technologies can help in this mission.

Potential partners are being asked to demonstrate how a Smart North Ecosystem has the potential to transform travel in the North of England. It’s anticipated that such a system would deliver a number of benefits for passengers, including:

  • Multimodal and multi-operator integrated travel offers and fare capping
  • Support for the unbanked
  • Financial incentives and other rewards for using public/shared transport instead of private cars
  • On-demand services.

TfN’s statement says that the Smart North Ecosystem is also a way to help the region’s local authorities to achieve wider policy goals, such as reducing carbon emissions, promoting healthier living and encouraging economic growth – all of which may not be supported or as easily achievable with traditional public transport ticketing.

The procurement forms part of TfN’s £150 million integrated and Smart Travel (IST) programme, which is funded by the Department for Transport (DfT). The programme looks set to move swiftly, with potential partners invited to put forward expressions of interest with a view to conducting technology demonstrators and pilots before the end of the financial year (March 2021). The programme is offering grant funding to supplier to develop initial ideas. Further funding would then be available to upscale solutions and bring them into operation depending on the success of pilots and demonstrator activities.

Commenting on the procurement launch, Jeremy Acklam, who is directing up TfN’s IST programme, explained: “Our vision for a Smart North Ecosystem is bold and transformative. The North’s many transport networks need to be better connected and able to work together to deliver the enhanced and seamless travel experience we know passengers want, as well as to achieve other crucial objectives for our region including decarbonisation and economic growth. I am confident smart technology will support this.”

The IST programme has already delivered smartcard and flexible season tickets for rail users, plus open data-driven enhancement to online and app-based travel information. It is currently working on delivering contactless payments across all public transport modes.