Go-Ahead and CitySwift unveil AI-based technology to help passengers make travel plans

News stories are free to read. Click here for full access to all the features, articles and archive from only £8.99.

The Go-Ahead Group has announced it is to roll out a new AI-based ‘When to Travel’ tool for customers nationwide. Along with social distancing, wearing face coverings, enhanced cleaning and hygiene, it aims to restore confidence in buses as customers return to work and school.

‘When to travel’ has been launched first in Newcastle and will be rolled out next week in other cities including Manchester, Oxford, Norwich, Brighton, Crawley, Southampton, Bournemouth, Salisbury and Plymouth. Designed in collaboration with tech partner CitySwift, it provides a dynamic colour-coded online timetable tool to help passengers plan journeys at less busy times.

Using artificial intelligence and algorithms that learn from recorded passenger use, the data updates dynamically to provide a level of detail that includes point to point within each timetabled journey.

Current social distancing requirements have reduced the number of people buses can carry.  A double-decker bus that could normally take up to 75 people is currently limited to about 15 seats. With more people expected to use buses as lockdown eases, ‘When to travel’ aims to help customers plan journeys to workplaces and other destinations based on when seats will be available. Journeys home can also be planned around seat availability, taking away worries of long waits or of being left stranded.

This dynamic data set will also help Go-Ahead’s bus companies plan future timetable changes based on emerging demand as the bus industry faces the challenges of changing travel patterns, balanced with capacity restrictions due to social distancing.

Katy Taylor, Group Commercial and Customer Director said: “Our customers have told us their priorities are cleanliness, social distancing and knowing they can get a seat on the bus home. We want customers who need to travel to be able to plan their journeys with confidence, knowing they will be able to board the bus at a particular time, and get one home at a time that suits them.

“Along with the enhanced cleaning and disinfecting of buses, and by following the government advice to wash hands frequently, pay by contactless, and wear face coverings whilst on board, customers can travel in safety and with confidence.

“Employers can also help by enabling employees where possible to match their start and finish times to when seats being available on buses.”

CitySwift, partners in the technology, were part of Go-Ahead’s Billion Journey Project, the UK’s largest privately funded multi-modal transport innovation programme. Alan Farrelly, COO & Co-Founder of CitySwift said: “We’re delighted to develop this powerful data tool in partnership with Go-Ahead.

“The technology is the culmination of months of development work using vast amounts of mobility data, artificial intelligence and proprietary algorithms to deliver vital ‘bus stop level’ capacity information to customers as lockdown eases.

“This big step forward in bus customer information, led by Go-Ahead, harnesses the power of big data and the most advanced technology to provide a better experience for bus passengers as they gradually return to using services.”

The new ‘When to Travel’ tool will be deployed across all Go-Ahead Group UK bus companies ready for non-essential retail reopening and some secondary pupils returning on 15 June 2020.  In doing so, it will have been deployed within just three weeks of the develo