Smart Transport Series: What Is the UK Bus Open-Data Legislation?

In July 2020 the bus open-data regulations were made

Open-bus data law, legislation, Transport for London, UK Bus Operators, London

In July 2020 the bus open-data regulations were made and after being debated were approved before they came into effect on 31st December 2020. These regulations mean that operators of local bus services outside of London will be required to publish electronic data about their services. This has been decided after Transport For London’s successful use of an open-data strategy, with apps that use the data (such as Citymapper and Bus Times) estimated to have delivered economic benefits of £90m and £130m respectively. 

When considering why open data is so beneficial for the passengers, being aware of when buses are coming and how many people are on them is ‘very important’ and something that ‘people have come to expect.’ The passengers' need for more information is something that cannot be understated. A poll from an article written on September 1st shows that over 50% of people won’t be taking buses now that it's back to 100% capacity, with a further 6% being unsure . This demonstrates just how important it is to make passengers feel safe returning to the buses and giving them more data should certainly help that.

Open data can help from an operations’ standpoint as it has been proven that adopting open data strategies can boost profits.  Understanding your data and effectively putting it to use is crucial. 

This is a key point to consider as increasing profits is of paramount importance after Covid-19. An article from the BBC describes that Transport for London reported fares income fell by 90 per cent in the first two months of the lockdown and the company expected to lose £4bn in 2020 due to the impact of coronavirus (2). This emphasises why it is so important to the transport networks that people start using them again and by using open data transport operators can save money where it really counts.

However there have been challenges and the cost of implementing new strategies is still quite high. The lack of information is not overly encouraging and the cost of implementing new strategies is sure to raise some eyebrows, but this is all with a view to the long term. As we have seen with Covid, making sure your business is prepared for the long haul and capable of withstanding unforeseen events is paramount to a business success and using open data will definitely help ease those struggles. 

With more people than ever hesitant about returning to public transport, showing the public that they are being thought of and catered for is absolutely necessary. Whilst there are clearly still challenges to work through, it is clear that using open data can help generate more profits for transport operators, all while ensuring a higher number of passengers are safely returning to public transport.