Jeremy Mandell
Director, Solution Consulting

The transport sector hasn’t been in this much turmoil since Thatcher deregulated the buses.  


In September 2018 the Government launched a “sweeping review to transform Britain's railways.” The review – led by Keith Williams – was charged with considering all parts of the rail industry and was due to be published in August 2019, and implemented in early 2020. Unsurprisingly, it was delayed – and then Covid hit. 


William’s recommendations were expected to fundamentally change the operation of rail networks in the UK, breaking up franchises and implementing a system, similar to the German approach, where private companies manage the trains for an operating fee, but the Government runs the railway lines. The pandemic has effectively sped up the implementation of the predicted recommendations. Now, the railways are on emergency measures with the Department for Transport receiving revenue collected and paying most costs incurred by train operating companies through a regular franchise payment. In all likelihood, this arrangement will be made permanent.  


To survive in this new marketplace, organisations that have been used to running as a railway franchise will need to reinvent their operating models. With the DfT taking over ticket sales, they’ll have to shift focus from single customer views and direct selling through customisation to develop a new business model and set of products. Those that are able to pivot to provide Mobility as a Service or Transport on Demand will, arguably, be best placed for success.  


While bus and tram operators have had to rely on financial support to keep running during the pandemic, overall, they seem to be in a less precarious position. Companies like Arriva and First Group have a diverse offering and have already started experimenting with demand responsive services and virtual bus routes.      


But, to provide MaaS and ToD, transport companies will need to orchestrate a host of different systems, from ticketing and fulfilment to journey search and on demand products, across a variety of suppliers. And, whereas franchises in the past could afford to build bespoke, standalone systems, going forward the requirement to integrate with the wider industry and other providers will be greater than ever before, and the budget tighter.  The possibility of a central fares system will make integration with government systems critical.         


Our experience in transport integrations projects such as integrating a Smart Ticketing platform with a standardised system from the Department of Transport, working with Arriva to integrate solutions for Rail, Bus and in the longer with the ArrivaClick on demand MaaS transport service as well as our work with First Group brand such as GWR and Avanti on combining a customer experience platform with a single customer view digital has shown that one of the biggest issues with system integration in this sector is the dependency on other suppliers. The best systems integration plan in the world can quickly come unstuck when your timelines rely on other stakeholders supplying you with information, documentation and access to their systems.  But this is also unavoidable – particularly with the industry in the current state of flux.  So, how do you keep your systems integration project on track and moving forward despite these inevitable delays?  


One way of doing this is to start by focussing on the customer experience layer. Once you’ve built the customer facing application, you can define the data model needed from your third-party suppliers and provide them with the information they need to build their components.  Then, you can then put data contracts in place between the customer application and the backend so that when the other systems are available, you can just plug them into the core code base. This process allows you to deliver the customer facing applications and get real world testing and feedback underway while the backend is being developed – so you can fail fast and collaborate with third parties to optimise the solution while it’s being developed.     


The future of the UK’s transport sector may be uncertain, but one thing we do know is that system integration is going to be key.


Get in touch with ORM to find out how we can help.   


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