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CILT Scottish Region webinar "Towards the Virtual Agency, FAMS 20 years on" by Brian Masson, Founder Multi Modal Transport Solutions Ltd.: Monday 19 April 2021

Brian Masson has worked for 46 years in public transport, the first 25 of them in the bus industry, latterly for National Express before moving to Angus Transport Forum in 2000. In 2003 he created Multi Modal Transport Solutions Ltd. He is currently a non executive director of Community Transport Glasgow, advises the Scottish Accessible Transport Alliance, chairs the UK Skills Gap in Transport Working Group and is an expert adviser to the European Parliament, in which capacity he has worked on over twenty projects including EU COST BHLS project that resulted in the standards used in Glider bus in Belfast, NEWBITS designing New Business Models for ITS, SMARTA designing good practice guide for shared mobility in rural areas and SMACKER for Demand Responsive Transport to support local communities, first and last mile.

In 2000 Brian was glad to exchange the bus industry world of cost-cutting and little customer focus for consultancy, starting with the Angus Transport Forum since the time was right to take DRT forward. The end of the Cold War had made telematics mainstream and it was possible to track both vehicles and customers. Despite vast amounts of money being provided through national and EU funding to develop ITS solutions the return on investment has been relatively poor. In 2016 the European Commission commissioned the EU Newbits project to investigate where was the return on its investment in transport innovation, prompting the development of multi-stakeholder business models.

The failings of the traditional UK bus industry are well-known, and include that it doesn't recognise ever-changing needs, is reluctant to embrace social inclusion and sustainability, doesn't maximise use of resources, has too many stakeholders and operates under inflexible regulatory policies. Taxis are very much a part of public transport provision, but their licensing is more akin to those of a pub, hotel - or gun.

For public transport to be truly demand-responsive, stakeholders must share data in an integrated ITS system that is compliant with their processes. The ownership of data is key, but account must be taken of people who do not own smartphones. User preferences must be identified, and we must ensure that we have the skills to access and interpret fully compliant data.

Through their manipulation of customer data, the likes of Tesco nowadays know us better than we know ourselves! Public transport needs models that are innovative, build confidence so as to scale up demand, creating a quality product that meets the needs of users who have, until now, been marginalised by the transport offer and substituting mobility products that are cheaper and more attractive than non-viable conventional services while minimising any resultant inconvenience to those previously used to conventional provision.

Booking through agencies that are linked to supply chains, DRT can be seen as a market research tool for redesigning fixed services, finding out where people want to go and building up demand so that a fixed timetable can again become viable.

The G20 at Tokyo in 2019 highlighted business models that could aid modal switch and the FAMS business model developed in 2001 to 2003 in Angus and Tuscany was highlighted. It is vitally important that we design multi modal hubs, planning the infrastructure of the future, considering how to meet known demands cost-effectively, maximising use of existing resources and providing flexible solutions to meet varying demands. Barcelona provided an opportunity to develop car and ride-sharing at the Autonomous University campus where transport was not within its remit, showing that everyone has to give a little in order to gain a lot.

Unlike in Scotland, where the SNP Government's 2007 concordat with COSLA gave away the scope for a national DRT framework, Flex Denmark is a national vision reliant on one shared IT system, with one facilitator in each region supporting numerous online authorities and operators which has reduced the costs of rural transport provision by 20%, optimising provision of each trip while always keeping in mind who is bearing the cost. In Florence DRT is a feeder to public transport hubs.

The question posed by these experiences is whether providers have the ability to work together, sharing data and resources, and will stakeholders agree to share costs and resources, acquiring the skills needed to do so? DRT and Mobility as a Service are potential golden bullets that have yet to break even, is this lack of a major breakthrough because of a reluctance to pay for the appropriate business models?

The retail sector's response to Covid was to create tens of thousands of jobs providing online shopping and delivery in just six months, and with Uber already encroaching on its market why cannot public transport move at that pace? EU NEWBITS project demonstrated that multi stakeholder business models can return up to 13 times that of investment costs. Building trust between all stakeholders from design to implementation is critical to success. If stakeholders work together including end users, we can break down barriers to success. People don't like change unless they can be involved in the co-creation of new networks, with cooperation among stakeholders including end-users which will require continuous political support. We need to create living labs with public and private investment. In 2000, Tampere became Finland's demonstration city, and in the UK we could be emulating its example.

However, investment in infrastructure and technology must be supported by data-sharing arrangements and do we have the skills to exploit the data in a multi-stakeholder engagement? Partnership working can achieve an integrated solution only when there is a will to involve all stakeholders in a common vision where ITS plays a vital role. For Scotland to deliver DRT and MaaS will need a national framework and fully integrated transport policy that recognised all modes as equals including bus, coach, train, ferry, community transport, taxis, private hire cars, car and ride sharing. Until then Scotland will remain a postcode lottery, with various levels of transport provided across the country and car will remain first mode of choice.

For a copy of the presentation, click here (PDF format, 14.0Mb)

Notes by John Yellowlees

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