- Veröffentlicht: 30. November -0001
Navigating across the UK's different public transport systems has always been a challenge, with rival firms and local authorities holding disparate information on train, bus, air and car journeys. So when Tony Blair put travel information high on his list of egovernment deliverables in November 2002, the Department for Transport faced a huge task in creating an online portal, which allowed people to plan and pay for travel.
The aim of Transport Direct is to provide travel information linking trains, buses and taxi connections to improve public transport as an integrated system.
Today, after awarding the £14.9m project to a consortium of technology firms, the government has built the Transport Direct website, combining travel information from 141 local authorities and private transport firms across England, Scotland and Wales.
What were the business objectives of the project?
'Firstly, we wanted to develop high quality, accessible information in each category of rail, coach, air and road,' says Nick Illsley, chief executive of Transport Direct.
'This would be used to create a web portal, allowing users to find electronic travel information from a single point.'
The portal also needed to integrate travel information with ticket sales systems and provide visitors with a greater choice when deciding what method of transport to take, he says.
What were the key milestones in the implementation?
Following Blair's announcement, the Department for Transport went through a rigorous procurement process, leading to the appointment of the Atos Origin-led consortium in December 2002.
Throughout 2003 the consortium built the web portal and back-end systems, which included journey planners, geographical information systems (GIS) and linked to 200 external data providers.
'The system was built by 1 December 2003, but we spent the next six months checking that the right quality information for the portal was in place nationally,' says Illsley.
On 12 July 2004 password protection was removed, giving the public access to the site.
What technology was used?
Atos Origin led the consortium of six technology suppliers, with Microsoft's .Net platform providing the backbone to the portal.
BBC Technology, with experience in building high profile consumer web sites, played a key role in improving navigation and usability, while ESRI GIS software was used to provide mapping information.
Specialist travel technology firm Atkins developed Transport Direct's journey planning systems, with Real Time Engineering providing air travel products.
'It interfaces with 13 external sites in real time and 200 data providers, including National Rail Enquiries,' says Illsley.
How did you manage the business change and people issues?
With 141 local authorities, train franchises and airlines involved, Transport Direct needed to ensure all parties were well briefed and in favour of the scheme.
'Early on we spent a lot of time selling the concept and why it was worth doing,' says Illsley.
'For example, when talking to Virgin we had to assure them it would not impinge on their commercial revenues.'
By getting buy-in from the start, Illsley says the relationship between the 200 data providers and the consortium is stronger.
What results were achieved?
UK citizens can plot their journey from 31 million places around the UK, including 330,000 bus stops and 2,500 train stations, says Illsley.
'Two of the key achievements were that the portal was delivered both through acceptance and on time,' he says.
'It meets the functional requirements set out and even has extra things not initially expected. The benefit for commercial partners is that millions of pounds of fares are coming through our system,' he says.
What were the lessons learned?
'The key is in getting the relationships right and the stakeholders behind you from the start,' says Illsley.
Co-operation increases by ensuring all companies involved can see what benefits are in it for them, he says.
'At times people rush into contracts and delivery before getting the understanding right - technology can be the easy bit.'
With projects involving multiple organisations it is also important to tightly define standards, otherwise they can be misinterpreted, he says.
'We were too kind in letting some firms interpret standards and that has led to some rework,' says Illsley.
What were the business benefits and return on investment?
'You have got to see Transport Direct as part of the overall transport strategy of reducing congestion and promoting public transport,' says Illsley.
Illsley says most people make travel decisions habitually, but Transport Direct's journey planning facilities have helped them make better informed decisions based on ease, time and price.
How do you plan to build on the project further?
'The site is already being developed and earlier this month we added domestic air travel functionality,' says Illsley.
Transport Direct is also looking to add new pricing information and extend the portal to mobile phones, kiosks and PDAs, he says.
'Going forward we want to add information on cycle routes, extend it into Ireland and possibly add international travel information. But most importantly we need to take into account feedback, as user desire will play a big part of the development process,' he says.
Transport Direct has been well received by the UK population, providing a welcome alternative to multiple phone calls and web sites when planning a journey involving different modes of transport.
This massive integration project was well managed, linking hundreds of data providers together with relatively little pain.
Considering past criticism of high profile egovernment projects, it is encouraging to see one delivered to budget and specification, and being well- used by citizens.
Project at a glance
Direct is a £14.9m web portal, announced by Tony Blair and the
Department for Transport, aimed at providing UK citizens with a single
point of access for all UK travel information
- Project headed by
system integrator Atos Origin, with six other technology partners
including Microsoft, BBC Technology, ESRI, Atkins and Real Time
- Launched in July, Transport Direct claims to link
transport information for all 141 local authorities in England,
Scotland and Wales, as well as air and train journey information
citizens can plot their journey from 31 million places around the
world, including 330,000 bus stops and 2,500 train stations
- Next steps include extending the portal to mobile phones, kiosks and PDAs
Autor: Daniel Thomas
Quelle: VNunet, 26.08.2004