Russell Imrie: Wait over for real-time passenger information

Cutting uncertainty makes public transport more attractive, says Russell Imrie

Access to real-time passenger information provides an enormous benefit to the travelling public. Picture: Jane Barlow

Real time passenger information has become an indispensible tool in using public transport. The days are almost gone when standing outside in the cold hoping that a bus would arrive were commonplace; now, a quick look at your phone, a sign or the internet and you can time your exit efficiently and easily. By removing the uncertainty public transport becomes a more attractive choice to passengers.

South East Scotland Transport Partnership has been working towards better public transport information provision for all throughout the south east of Scotland. As one of our flagship projects, bustrackerSEStran; accessible through a dedicated website and free downloadable Smartphone app, is bringing live bus time information to people throughout south-east Scotland. SEStran’s system is also interfaced with the Lothian Buses and City of Edinburgh bustracker. In early 2016, SEStran reached a landmark; all First and Stagecoach buses within the region were fitted with the necessary equipment to provide real-time information.

Sign up to our Opinion newsletter

Sign up to our Opinion newsletter

Thanks to funding from Transport Scotland, through the Bus Investment Fund, SEStran has been given the opportunity to increase the spread of RTPI into public facing buildings, with the introduction of TV screens showing RTPI along with promotional information appropriate to the organisation hosting the screen. The funding allows SEStran to give the necessary equipment free of charge to public and commercial organisations to make sure staff and visitors alike have access to real-time information to encourage them to make informed and sustainable choices when using transport. With currently over 140 screens to be located throughout the region, SEStran is keen to see more organisations take on the initiative in order to support and encourage the uptake of more sustainable modes of transport.

Access to real-time passenger information provides an enormous benefit to the travelling public. It takes into account any delays or changing traffic conditions by providing a reliable and up-to-date countdown of when the bus will arrive; putting control back into the hands of those who use the services. As a result a positive travel experience can be provided to bus-users and the perception of public transport can be improved.

SEStran’s vision is to create a more integrated transport network by making sustainable transport the smart option thus reducing the number of single-occupancy car journeys. The funding SEStran has received is a positive step in enabling the introduction of real-time information in a number of public places, with the scope to increase this reach. Edinburgh Waverley Station is one of the latest adopters of the RTPI initiative, with the vision of making it easier and more efficient for customers leaving a train to continue on the next part of their journey. RTPI in public places is a fundamental step in making multi-modal journeys easier and more efficient. Stepping from a train to a visible sign that your bus is due in ten minutes, you realise there is time to grab a coffee.

SEStran is striving to improve the information that is available to all throughout the region, not just those in more densely populated areas with frequent bus services. This year, SEStran hopes that other operators in the region can be included on this system and a seminar to present options to the other operators in the region has taken place.

Including other operators in the area and subsequently increasing the information available to the travelling public is essential so that the public is offered RTPI for all services in the region. Thanks to the partnership working that has taken place over the years with our local authority partners and bus companies, First and Stagecoach, SEStran has been able to provide a practical innovation that meets a real need.

With this continued partnership working it is SEStran’s vision to create and maintain a regional transport system that provides all citizens of South East Scotland with a genuine choice of transport which fulfils their needs and provides travel opportunities for work and leisure on a sustainable and inclusive basis.

• Cllr Russell Imrie is chair of SEStran