Minister reiterates commitment to digital transport future

January 28 2020

The Roads Minister George Freeman has told a conference in London that the Government is pinning its transport policy around technology, to make the UK the leader in future mobility and decarbonisation.

Mr Freeman, who’s Minister for Future of Transport, was the keynote speaker at the Transport Ticketing Global event in Olympia, explaining that his new role was driven by the pace technology change and adding that the Prime Minister understands the integrated ticketing agenda.

Among the highlights of the speech, witnessed by representatives of ITS (UK), he said he wants to take the best lessons from London and take them around the country.  He committed to simplifying the rail ticketing system, which is possible thanks to digital technology. “We must end split ticketing chaos,” he said.  “We must give the people who are paying for this system the service they want and make sure that fares are fair.  If technology didn’t exist, I’d scratch my head how to do it, but it does, whereas 10-15 years ago wouldn’t have been able to.

“When you buy a ticket, you buy an obligation to get you from A to B,” he added, “So an operator can’t only be responsible for one part of the journey – [as an industry] we have to make it work for passengers.”

Mr Freeman talked about the three-Ds – Disconnection, Digitalisation and Decarbonisation.  He said we need to get connectivity to the people who are disconnected from public transport, while we have decarbonised our power industry very fast, now we have to do it to transport and that digitalisation is key to all of this.  For example he said digital signalling can increase rail capacity by 20%.

“I am passionate about digitalisation fuelling the quiet revolution in transport,” he said.

“Why aren’t we exporting our solutions more?” he asked.  “Could we not use our international leverage to make sure we’re doing technology transport more boldly.

“I’m also future of mobility minster regarding the Industrial Grand Challenge,” he said.  “I am committed to leading in future of mobility which means thinking boldly – what MaaS looks like, what AI and machine learning could do if we really embrace it.  How might we create test beds for showcasing and testing those technologies so we can use them with real people in real travel-to-work scenarios every day?”

Addressing the room he pointed out too many people visit to London and see the contactless ticketing solutions and go back to their homes and wonder why they can’t do that where they live.  “And they’re right,” he said.  “We need to change this and help everyone enjoy the benefits of digitalisation.”

He also discussed integration of buses promising a “better deal for buses” – properly investing in the network and integrating bus and train data.  He said the bus network is “not longer to be the rump of 1950s Britain”.

And he promised to support innovation.  “Citimapper wasn’t invented by a minister,” he said.  “So we need to help entrepreneurs to deliver their ideas.”  He suggested using future mobility zones as test beds for new solutions.

“It’s an industrial strategy for the UK to lead in future mobility strategy and a decarbonisation strategy,” he concluded.  “These two together we have a chance to make it work because they complement each other.  This strategy is fundamental to the global opportunity.”

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