Privately run services will be made to follow London's lead in making information openly available for app developers
Private bus firms will be forced to push information about routes, fares, timetables and delays into the realms of open data, under legislation soon to be introduced by the Government.
Ministers will require the companies to follow the path opened up by London’s publicly run network to give passengers more information about services.
The Buses Bill, to be unveiled within weeks, is intended to make it easier for local transport authorities to decide services by agreeing franchises with private operators. It would bring the rest of England closer to the model used in London, which escaped the deregulation imposed on the rest of the country in the 1980s.
It is partly aimed at laying the ground for passengers to enjoy the simpler, integrated Oyster-style ticketing system used in the capital and to provide new guarantees on service quality.
Previewing the legislation, transport minister Andrew Jones explained that a key aim of the shake-up was to “address passengers’ need for better information”.
“It is in everyone’s interests for people to know as much as possible about the bus services in their area,” he said. “So our proposal is that all operators will be required to make data about routes, fares and times open and accessible.
“It will allow app makers to develop products that passengers can use to plan their journeys, and give people the confidence to leave the car at home and take the bus instead.”
One of the big developments in public transport in the capital has been the emergence of apps that use data from Transport for London to provide detailed information on services, including the likely arrival time of buses.
Speaking at the UK Bus Summit, Jones added: “Just as in London, passengers right across the country want Oyster-style ticketing, better access to information about timetables, better information on fares before they travel, and real time data about when the bus is going to arrive at their stop.”
In a written parliamentary answer, Jones explained that the data would have to be published “in a specified format”.
The 2008 Local Transport Act, introduced by Labour, also promised to introduce bus franchising outside London, but was cumbersome and has not been used successfully anywhere.
Image by Aubrey Morandarte, Guildford, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons