Innovation through Data: The UK Government’s Transport Data Strategy
by Megan MacDougall, Consultant

Yesterday, the UK Government launched its very first Transport Data Strategy. This sets out the Government’s plan to improve how people use, access, and get value from transport data, to increase innovation in the transport sector, and to deliver better services for passengers in the UK.

Unlocking the power of data has been a prominent focus of the government in recent years.  The UK announced its National Data Strategy in 2020, which was created to help public sector organisations utilise data to innovate, experiment and drive new growth. The aim was to position the UK as one of the world leaders in driving data transformation.

The Transport Data Strategy identifies key barriers preventing innovation in the industry, including difficulty in data discoverability, privacy concerns, and a lack of incentives to invest in and make data available – amongst others.

The Policy Paper demonstrates how the Department for Transport will work alongside and support the transport sector to harness the benefits of data. This will help to help grow and level up the economy, decarbonise the transport system and improve transport for the user. The Department for Transport’s answer to enabling innovation, lies in the Transport Data Strategy’s five key ambitions, which are:

1.     Improving data sharing to benefit transport users

2.     Promoting data standards

3.     Improving data skills in the workforce

4.     Ensuring appropriate governance and communication with the sector

5.     Providing leadership and support for the sector

Fundamentally, yesterday’s announcement recognises the power of data. The Transport Data Strategy’s five key ambitions have been created in alignment with the aim’s set forth in the National Data Strategy. Effectively harnessing transport data can support the development of journey-planning apps and improve their accuracy. Further benefits include increasing interconnectivity between various types of transport – which helps people use and plan journeys.

On the launch of Strategy, Transport Technology Minister Jesse Norman said:

“Better use of transport data will help to improve journeys for travellers, tackle climate change and grow the economy.

The Transport Data Strategy sets out the government’s vision in this area, creating the right framework for the market to innovate and transport users to benefit.”

So, what’s next?

The creation and maintenance of a pilot Transport Data Catalogue ‘Find Transport Data’ is one of the first steps being taken to improve sharing, discoverability, and access of transport data. Further to this, is the announcement of the creation of data guidance that will help Local Authorities open and share their data, to help improve the frequency of local transport.

In response to the announcement, industry responses have been largely positive. Chief Executive of Traveline UK Julie Williams said:

“We’re delighted to see the publication of the Transport Data Strategy, which will encourage the sharing of high-quality open transport data towards giving passengers a more informed choice about how they travel, and which will provide a framework within which innovative apps and services are free to develop and grow.”

Max Sugarman, Chief Executive of Intelligent Transport Systems UK (ITS UK), said: “The UK transport network is generating more data than ever before, so it is positive to see the Government publish their Transport Data Strategy, alongside guidance for Local Authorities that will enable them to make better use of untapped data sources.”

The Transport Data Strategy will be refreshed annually; and as outlined in the document, updates will be informed by an expert panel drawn from across the industry, including SMEs, academia, local authorities, and the data community.

The Strategy supports the Department for Transport’s strategic objectives, including decarbonising the transport system, increasing global impact, improving transport for the user and to grow and level up the economy - by focusing on the five key ambitions, the UK has the potential to drive significant progress in the use of data in transport.

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