TfL trials latest digital technology to further improve bus passenger experience

Posted: 5 August 2014 | Transport for London | No comments yet

Bus passengers will now be able to shop, surf, post and tweet, as Transport for London begins a trial of free WiFi on two buses operating in the capital…

Transport for London

Bus passengers will now be able to shop, surf, post and tweet from today, as Transport for London (TfL) begins a trial of free WiFi on two buses operating in the capital.

The trial will see WiFi technology installed on a route 12 bus, operating between Dulwich and Oxford Circus, and a route RV1 bus, which operates between Covent Garden and Tower Hill, that will allow passengers to keep in touch through email and social media, browse the internet and even complete their weekly grocery shop. 

It is hoped that if the trial is successful that sponsors would be found to enable it to be rolled out to further buses in the fleet allowing passengers to do more on our services, whether going to work, home or for a night out.  A sponsorship would enable the technology to be delivered at no additional cost to taxpayers or passengers.

This trial is just one of a number of innovations developed to improve the experience for bus passengers that have been developed during the Year of Bus, which celebrates the vital contribution London’s bus network makes to the life and economy of the city and the UK as a whole.

In addition to the WiFi trial, TfL has also begun to trial two further new ideas that were recently previewed at the Year of the Bus Regent Street cavalcade. 

The first aims to remove the uncertainty on whether a seat is available on the upper deck of a bus.  The new technology, which analyses information from the onboard CCTV system, displays seat availability on a screen at the base of the stairs.  It enables passengers to make an informed choice on whether to use the upper deck and may reduce crowding on the lower deck of the bus.  The trial of the technology will be on one route 141 bus, which operates between Palmers Green and London Bridge, with more buses expected should it prove successful.

In a bid to help passengers feel better informed about their journey, the last piece of new technology to be trialled are new passenger information screens.  These are displayed prominently on the bus and provide passengers with real time progress on a localised map.  The screens also provide details of the previous bus stop as well as the next stops along with the anticipated time of arrival, together with details of nearby transport interchanges.  This information is designed to make passenger journeys easier and provide them with more options. 

The information screens are designed to complement the existing iBus service, which provides audio and visual next stop and destination information.  This technology will be trialled on four buses, two double deck buses on route 12 operating between Dulwich and Oxford Circus, and on single deck routes 360, which operates between Albert hall and Elephant & Castle, and RV1 which operates between Covent Garden and Tower Hill.

Simon Reed, TfL’s Head of Technical Services Group, said: “London buses have always led the way with new technology on its network, benefiting the millions of passengers who make the most of the extensive network every day.  Innovation is a key theme of the Year of the Bus and we have worked with our suppliers to find new and innovative ways to further improve the experience of our passengers. 

These trials will establish whether this technology provides genuine benefits to people on the move.”

These trials complement a number of other initiatives that have been introduced recently on the bus network.  This includes the introduction of digital clocks on board every bus in the 8,700-strong fleet, displayed on the ‘iBus’ screen on both the upper and lower deck.  Trials of location announcements on night bus routes have been successful to help passengers identify where they are, for example “you are now entering Streatham Hill”.  These announcements will be available on all night bus services in the capital by the end of the summer.

Trials of large digital screens providing ‘Countdown’ real-time bus arrival information are continuing at two busy bus stations – Vauxhall and Harrow with Hammersmith planned for later this year.  It is hoped that a further 10 screens will be installed at a busy interchange locations as a physical legacy of the Year of the Bus.  

Other improvements include the installation of state-of-the-art interactive digital screens on Regent Street (delivered in partnership with Clear Channel) and on Eden Street in Kingston (delivered in partnership with JCDecaux) which provide live bus arrival information, alongside real-time updates on other public transport options.

The screens also include local area information including maps, local news and details about local events.  In addition, the London borough of Ealing has worked with TfL to bring bus arrival and Tube status information to customers on a borough funded information screen outside Ealing Broadway Tube station.

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