NCT is using sophisticated technology from INIT not only to improve bus service reliability, but also to boost customer service

Market research undertaken by Nottingham City Transport has consistently identified that bus users rank frequency, reliability, information and value for money as key aspects for them in a high quality bus service. With such clear passenger priorities, it’s perhaps understandable that bus operators like NCT are turning to new technology in order to deliver many of these passenger needs.

Back in 2009, NCT took the decision to procure an Automatic Vehicle Location and Control system from German-based technology firm INIT. The decision was driven by NCT which felt that it needed a suitable management tool that would allow proactive despatching of drivers and buses as well as enhancing service quality.

INIT’s system allows multiple virtual AVLC systems combined with an integrated voice over radio capability that has been provided by communications specialist Tait. The system is being utilised by other local operators and also acts as a virtual Real Time Passenger Information management client for Nottingham City Council.

The objectives of the project were straightforward. For NCT it was seeking an integrated AVLC system that would allow their control team to call any vehicle out on the road through the system. Meanwhile, for drivers, the operator was seeking to integrate both radio and AVLC functions within one single display screen, rather than having multiple displays within the cab area. A further objective was to send real time data to the Nottingham City Council RTPI client that would update real time screens and displays at bus stops across the city. This data is also used to feed service information to the NCT website and also on NCT’s apps for the iPhone and Android mobile phone platforms.

The solution provided by INIT uses on-board technology – based around the COPILOTpc solution – to seamlessly integrate a driver display terminal in the cab (INIT’s TOUCHit solution) and passenger information displays within the saloon (either LED displays or INIT’s TFT PIDvisio display that integrates next stop information with CCTV imagery and advertising). The Tait-supplied radio system not only keeps the driver in touch with the control team, but also streams data over the dedicated PMR data channel. This is separate to the voice channel and enables continuous service of the voice channel without interruption.

In NCT’s impressive control room, INIT’s MOBILE-ITCS system allows controllers to monitor the status of the NCT network as a whole and also to keep an eye on performance of not just individual routes or corridors, but vehicles too. This means that they can take action by reacting to a problem instantly to ensure service regulation and quality are maintained.

The success of the system can be measured in the outcomes of the project. The biggest beneficiaries have been the bus users of Nottingham, who now have real time information displays at more than 800 bus stops, plus through smartphone apps, the operator’s website and next stop information on vehicles. The company is using the data feeds to not only ensure regulatory compliance, but also by taking this information and putting it into scheduling software that creates vehicle schedules that reflect real world, rather than theoretical, traffic conditions. Indeed on one route in the city, this has already seen early running eliminated as it was found that too much running time was allocated to one part of the route, ensuring compliance with the Traffic Commissioner’s ‘window of tolerance’.

Passengers also appreciate the new system. Research by NCT has found that 27% of its customers use the bus stop displays, 28% the NCT website and  a further 5% use their smartphone app to access real time running information. Overall this accounts for 60% of NCT passengers.

 

This article appears in a special supplement on Nottingham City Transport, published with Passenger Transport this month.
Click here to view the supplement!