Transport for the North (TfN) has launched a procurement for the development of a ‘Smart North Ecosystem’.
It is aimed at connecting the region's transport systems and ticketing networks and at promoting green travel.
The agency said it wants to work with technology companies to understand what new and near-to-market solutions could make this possible.
It has published a challenge statement for a procurement, involving two rounds and valued at around £8 million, for products or services to fulfil a number of functions. These include utilising current transport fares, operating with mobility service providers’ transport stacks, handling payment card transactions in line with industry standards and being compliant with the General Data Protection Regulation.
The first round will involve virtual demonstrations of solutions, and the second a period of funded research and development followed by a live demonstrator and submission of a tender. TfN said that grant funding is on offer to suppliers to further develop their initial ideas – with further funding to upscale and bring solutions into operation dependent on the success of demonstrator activity.
The procurement is taking place under TfN’s £150 million Integrated and Smart Travel (IST) programme, which is funded by the Department for Transport.
Jeremy Acklam, TfN’s integrated and smart travel director, said: “We are excited to be launching our search for partners to join Transport for the North and demonstrate how we can incentivise more of the 15 million citizens in the North of England to use a digitally connected ecosystem of transport across our region.
“Our vision for a Smart North Ecosystem is bold and transformative. The North’s many transport networks need to be better connected and able to work together to deliver the enhanced and seamless travel experience we know passengers want, as well as to achieve other crucial objectives for our region including decarbonisation and economic growth. I am confident smart technology will support this.”
He added: “We want to work with the best innovators from around the world so that we can deliver something truly innovative and ideally suited to the North of England.”
The move to develop digital systems to support green travel has been gathering momentum over the past year, notably in the move by Transport for London to run a pilot on management systems for micromobility – the use of vehicles such as electric scooters, e-bikes and e-cargo bikes.
In earlier stages of the IST programme, TfN has worked with local transport authorities and operators to produce smartcard and flexi seasons tickets for rail passengers, deliver contactless payments and publish open data on travel.