Low emission buses, new app-based mobility solutions and driverless shuttles are just some of the innovations that RATP Dev is delivering

 

Commuters in Bristol can use the Slide app to book their ride

 

By Laurence Batlle CEO, RATP Dev

As more of us crowd into our already crowded cities, it’s clear the way we move around them needs to change, to reduce congestion and the impact on the environment. According to the International Energy Agency, traffic on urban roads is predicted to increase by 60% by 2025, pushing greenhouse gas emissions up by around 30%. This is unsustainable and urban transport companies need to demonstrate they have the innovative capacity to find solutions.

RATP group is exploring new ways of serving this ambition, from understanding and using big data on things like improved network connectivity, to the creation of autonomous vehicles, and mixed transport offers covering transport on demand and vehicle sharing services.

The transition to new energy sources will be one way to deal with pollution hazardous to health. From our home base in Paris, we have embarked on a plan called Bus2025 to convert the entire fleet of 4,600 buses in the French capital to low emission vehicles by 2025. This vision will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20% across the Paris region, and is testament to the world class engineering capability of RATP group, and the years of experience running complex and integrated transport systems around the world.

Turning to London, across the capital hundreds of thousands of people see their health impacted every year by the emissions from road traffic. With 8,000 buses carrying over 1.8 billion passengers every year, there’s enormous scope for change. We at RATP Dev – operators of over 1,100 buses through our London United, London Sovereign and Quality Line brands – plan to do our bit as we transition to low emission vehicles.

With the introduction of the central London Ultra Low Emissions Zone, we are putting in place ambitious plans to introduce fully electric vehicles on some of our routes. Alongside our existing 246 hybrid buses, we are buying 36 100%-electric buses to run on routes in west London, and will be adapting our depot there to facilitate this latest innovation in our fleet, with the aim of making our Shepherd’s Bush home London’s first zero emissions bus depot.

Air quality is incredibly important to us and, as the mayor has indicated, it is a priority for him as part of his strategy for the future of the bus network. We share his ambition to deal with air pollution in London as effectively as possible and recognise this is only the start. With our international experience and our deep-rooted commitment to combatting pollution, we stand ready to support the mayor and Transport for London in making a step change in our approach to dealing with one of the biggest threats to our cities in the coming years.

But innovation doesn’t stop there. London’s population increases by around 100,000 people every year, and all of those new inhabitants need to get around the city. With increasing numbers using the roads all over the country – in taxis, minicabs, on foot or by bicycle – we need to think smart about how we use the limited space available to get around.

On top of this, we see exciting moves on Autonomous Vehicles all over the world, and we believe urban transport should be at the forefront of that mobility revolution. In Paris, RATP group has been testing two fully autonomous electric shuttle buses near the River Seine since last January. Travelling at around 12mph and carrying 12 passengers, these buses connect two train stations in central Paris and will be suitable for short hops that would otherwise mean just a few minutes in a taxi, or a more circuitous route using conventional public transport. It’s the first step towards public transport solutions that truly work in collaboration with each other, as well as providing environmentally friendly and inexpensive vehicles.

So RATP Dev absolutely sees itself as a part of the solution to many of the modern urban transport challenges, through a combination of reducing emissions and finding new innovative ways for people to move about our cities with the greatest of ease. We are doing a lot, but we know there’s much more to do. Our parent group RATP recently launched the ‘RATP Capital Innovation’ project, which provides 30 million euros for the promotion of digital innovation in start-ups that are looking to create new mobility services.

Using the experience of RATP Dev and the ingenuity of start-ups from around the world, we are working to identify the challenges and find clever solutions. A good example of the work we are doing with start-ups is Trilogy, a project developed in conjunction with a start-up based in California called Urban Engines. Trilogy’s aims are to increase operational performance by improving the consistency of services to ensure they run on time. This includes the management of peak-hour periods and therefore passenger comfort, and optimises our fraud combatting processes.

This analysis tool gathers data and insights and then assesses the network to understand where opportunities exist to optimise performance. It can also simulate processes to improve decision-making and predict the impact of new timetables on demand and therefore the distribution of vehicles. The data is used in real time and is already being used in a few locations around the world, including on Manchester Metrolink. There it has identified triggers for delays, helped build a better understanding of the impact of the weather on fleet performance, and can even identify potential incident hotspots.

These are just a few of the ways in which RATP Dev is changing how we move for the better. Urban car sharing and a focus on the ‘silver economy’ – those of an advanced age – are other areas where we will be rolling out exciting new products that truly grasp the varying ways we will increasingly get from A to B.

But naturally some of this is about who we are as a company. We want to strengthen the sense of pride our people feel in working for our company by rewarding innovative staff and encouraging best practice across our network. This will of course give us a competitive advantage, but it will also speak to what we truly believe in – being a fantastic, forward-looking company that puts the best services at the fingertips of our customers. We’re doing our best to improve our operational performance, predict what people now expect from us, and develop the customer experience to make sure RATP Dev is fit for the 21st century passenger and city.

 

Slide is just the start

RATP Dev is already adapting to the new reality of congestion on the roads. In Bristol, one of the most congested cities in the UK, commuting is a difficult experience. That’s why we wanted to develop an alternative solution which offers the city’s residents a stress-free, flexible transport solution. Slide is a premium shared ride to work service which allows customers to book in advance using an app from their location at their preferred time. Our technology then offers a convenient pick-up point and calculates the optimal route to passenger’s place of work based on others requesting the same journey. Launched in July last year, we now have 16 vehicles helping move Bristolians about the city; our service allows for more efficient and customer friendly bespoke transport services than current options. And Bristol is just the start, we believe there is a market for Slide throughout the UK.

 

This article appears inside the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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