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Ben Graham

Using secure passenger WiFi on a bus

Secure Passenger WiFi: A guide to staying safe on public networks

By | Cyber Security, Passenger Wifi, Safety, Secure passenger WiFi | No Comments

It seems like every day there’s another story about the dangers of connecting to public WiFi networks. From hotel hackers to shopping centre snoopers, users of public WiFi face many potential risks. Of course, these stories serve a real purpose. If the public’s private details are at risk, they have a right to know. Simultaneously, public information campaigns about staying safe online are so common, it can be easy for people to overlook them.

Although Sygnal comes with a number of robust cyber-security measures, there’s no such thing as a completely secure network. In open-network WiFi, there is always a risk of being targeted. That’s why we’ve put together this handy guide to staying safe when browsing a public connection.

Personalisation as an essential travel trend of 2019

Avoid inputting personal details

Limiting your sensitive activity when on a public WiFi network is just common sense. It should go without saying; never enter passwords or financial details on public WiFi. Still, you’d be surprised how many people fall prey to hackers after entering their card details while on a public network. From online banking to shopping sites, any online action that entails entering financial details should be avoided at all costs.

The same goes for submitting Personally Identifiable Information (PII). That means you should probably wait until you’re on a secure personal connection before you start filling out application forms. Of course, every Sygnal WiFi network is also structured to be completely GDPR compliant, ensuring no PII is retained.

Verify you’re connecting to the real network

As public WiFi becomes more commonplace, so hackers have evolved to introduce new methods of capturing valuable, personal information. One of the most popular is to set-up bogus wireless connections in the hope unsuspecting users will connect. Once a user has connected to one a ‘bogus hotspot’, hackers can view the activity and even trawl the device for private information. Avoiding these spoof hotspots, however, shouldn’t require a degree in cyber-security. All it takes is a bit of diligence and common sense. 

Every bus connected by a Sygnal Server, for instance, will include the official server name, usually displayed inside the bus. If you can’t see the server name, ask the driver, and verify how it’s spelt (including capital letters).

Women using secure public WiFi on a bus

Stay secure everywhere

Of course, you could say this rule applies to any online activity. The first line of defence of your personal details; creating strong, unique passwords and changing them regularly should be common practice for everyone online. However, these safeguards become even more important when browsing a public connection.

The reality is, hacking users through guessing their passwords is relatively rare these days, but that’s no reason to get careless. Staying safe online is about limiting all possible risks; vigilance and an abundance of caution can go a long way.

Stick to secure sites (HTTPS)

Another seemingly obvious precaution, this one becomes doubly important when browsing on public WiFi. In HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS), the communication protocol is encrypted using Transport Layer Security. In standard HTTP websites, data is sent over the connection in cleartext. This means any eavesdropper to the network can see the web pages you’re visiting and the data you’re transferring back and forth.

When you connect to an HTTPS-secured server, however, your browser checks the website’s security certificate and verifies it was issued by a legitimate certificate authority. This helps you ensure you’re actually connected to the real website. While this still doesn’t guarantee total privacy, it significantly decreases the risk of browsing online.

Using secure passenger WiFi on a bus through smartphone

Secure Passenger WiFi-security

We recognise that a single line of defence is not enough to perturb hackers. That’s why Sygnal comes with a custom firewall and several in-built security features*. Simultaneously, the encrypted network settings are designed to present hackers with as many obstacles as possible. While that doesn’t guarantee a hacker will never gain access, it does make it significantly more difficult. As a dynamic 4G WiFi connection, the only way a hacker can access the network is by being on the bus.

Sygnal limits certain features through the WiFi. Passengers are reminded on first connection to avoid unsecured sites and to be careful about the type of communications they send over the connection.

Of course, public WiFi can pose risks, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid it. Sygnal WiFi enables you to browse your socials, catch up on work and keep in touch with loved ones. By taking the right precautions, you can enjoy rapid, robust WiFi on the go!

Using onboard WiFi to improve accessibility on transport

Finally, read the terms and conditions before connecting to any WiFi network; yes, we know they’re boring, but they’re there for a reason.

If you want to learn more about Sygnal and trying Secure Passenger WiFi on your vehicles, get in touch with us today.

*The exact spec of which we won’t detail here, for obvious reasons.

Using passenger WiFi on demand-responsive bus services

Fleet management made easy with the Sygnal Portal

By | Coach hire, Coach operator, Onboard advertising, Passenger Wifi, Sygnal Bites | No Comments

At the risk of stating the obvious, the bus and coach industry is undergoing a period of rapid change. The growth in onboard technologies, coupled with new vehicle emission standards, have added further layers of complexity to the already demanding job of running a successful coach hire business.

That’s why, alongside consistency and cost, convenience is an essential aspect for operators considering new onboard technologies. Sygnal understands just how vital convenience is to operators. Sygnal X, our flagship 4G data-wireless server, was designed specifically to maximise range and reliability while enabling easy installation.

Using the Sygnal Portal for effective fleet management

Of course, simple installation and maintenance is essential for a modern transport firm, but hardware is just one element of service. Sygnal understands that the most convenient onboard WiFi solutions give customers the freedom to manage their own technologies. The custom OS enables simple setup and secure sign-in for passengers, but it’s in the management system that the Sygnal X really shines. With every Sygnal order, customers also gain secure access to their own remote management platform; the Sygnal Portal.

With access to Sygnal’s custom streaming library, fleet management, vehicle status updates, route designation, WiFi analytics and a viewing portal for CCTV & Dashcam footage, the Sygnal Portal puts operators firmly in control of their fleet.

Every aspect of the Sygnal Portal user experience (UX) was designed with the operator in mind. With a dedicated sign-in, operators can remotely access their Sygnal Portal from anywhere. With business and networking events requiring regular travel, remote access is essential for operators looking to maintain visibility of their fleet on the go. Updates to the Portal are rolled out remotely, meaning there’s no disruption to the operator. Of course, the Portal is fully optimised for mobile.

With the Sygnal Portal, operators can simplify the many processes required to run a modern, efficient coach service while providing the latest onboard amenities to passengers.

Want to try Sygnal’s fleet management software on your own vehicles? Get in touch today and find out more!

Running coach travel for sports events

Coach travel for sports events: The ultimate guide for coach hire firms

By | Coach hire, Onboard advertising, Sports events, Sygnal Bites | No Comments

Running coach travel for sports events is a great source of revenue, but it can be a lot more challenging than you think. Not only are you transporting large groups across the country (and beyond), you’re often doing it to a tight schedule. That’s why Sygnal put together this handy guide. If you’re already running services for sports events, what lessons have you learned? Let us know in the comments!

Hiring coach transport for sports events

So what’s different about coach travel for sports events as opposed to say, weddings, festivals, or corporate events? Well, that depends on the type of sporting event, and who you’re transporting. Transport for athletes is usually managed through the club or sporting body, while transport for sports fans is often managed by an individual or representative.

Both have their advantages and disadvantages. It’s down to the operator to establish the level of demand they can accommodate. It’s also worth remembering that vehicles will need rest periods for maintenance, cleaning and safety checks.

Coach travel for sports events bus pulling into stadium

Pick up and drop-off

The secret to an efficient pick-up and drop-off process is in the planning. That means:

  • Designate a pick-up-point well in advance
  • Leave clear instructions on how to reach the pick-up point
  • Set clear departure times
  • Make sure both points are accessible to vehicles and passengers.

With the majority of sporting events held in urban areas, congestion can be a major issue. It’s vital operators take delays into account in advance – particularly as passengers who miss the start of an event are entitled to request a refund.

Most stadiums have their own designated drop-off zones. Operators must make sure their drivers know the location of these zones, and the process of drop-off and collection before and after the event.

Two coaches on coach tour holiday driving along empty road

Regular bookings

With 38 games per season, running coach hire services to football fans is a great way to increase bookings. Building relationships with sports clubs can also lead to return bookings; a fantastic way of ensuring regular custom throughout the autumn and winter months.

Taking bookings for sports fans comes with its own unique opportunities. Whereas services for sports teams are usually organised on a contract basis, there’s no such guarantee with individual groups of fans. Offering deals to private passengers for booking multiple journeys at once (for instance, for all away games in a football season) can be a great way to gain return custom.

Couple chatting enjoying the onboard technologies

Seasonal sports events

Many, although not all, professional sports are seasonal. With the football season ending in May and beginning again in late August, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing – these off-months are also the most popular for weddings, overseas tours and corporate events.

Other sports have their own schedules. Get ahead of the competition by regularly updating your calendars with key dates and keeping an eye out for one off events. Running efficient and reliable transport services is all about managing demand, and that only works when you anticipate peak periods.

Overseas sports travel

Running international coach hire services can be a great source of revenue, but it also comes with added responsibility. If you don’t already, add an on-boarding process to ensure no passenger is left behind when the vehicle stops. Simultaneously, clearly communicating boarding times is essential to keep journeys on schedule.

International journeys also come with challenges in managing passengers over long distances. It goes without saying; driving long-distances without a functioning toilet is courting disaster. Couple this with the potential for passengers to consume alcohol on the journey and you have a recipe for angry passengers.

Passengers sat on bus using coach travel for sports events

Additional revenue streams

Of course, where there are passengers, there’s an opportunity for additional revenue. Onboard advertising is a great way to boost income and develop new partnerships with local businesses.

Opportunities can range from advertising local bars and restaurants to official club merchandise. Of course, these partnerships are easier to establish when you have an official contract with a sports club, but that shouldn’t stop you from sourcing your own advertisers. You can also use the data from your onboard bus WiFi to make a case to advertisers.

Man using bus WiFi on coach journey

Keep it simple: The secret to reliable onboard WiFi

By | Coach hire, Onboard advertising, Passenger Wifi, Sygnal Bites | No Comments

Onboard WiFi doesn’t need to be complicated, but you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise. Operators looking to install passenger WiFi on their vehicles are confronted with a myriad of choices. Every option is invariably described using industry jargon that would perplex all but the most tech-savvy operator. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Sygnal strives to keep the entire process of ordering and installing onboard WiFi as simple and transparent as possible.

The connected future

Passengers now expect onboard connectivity as part and parcel of their journey. Onboard WiFi is no longer a ‘luxury’ amenity – it’s for everyone. Despite this, the majority of bus WiFi systems on the market are designed for national operators, with a price tag to match.

The bottom line; just as passengers expect accessible and consistent connection, operators expect reliable and affordable service. That’s where Sygnal comes in. With an intuitive online layout, remote monitoring and streamlined installation process, Sygnal simplifies the onboard browsing experience for everyone. Great technology, as they say, should seem simple, even when the processes behind it are remarkably complex.

Women using onboard WiFi on a bus

Balancing costs

The introduction of new transport technologies has also highlighted the rift between large and small operators. Nationwide operators usually have engineers on staff or, failing that, a trusted professional on call. But many independent operators simply don’t have the time (or the staff) to install, maintain and repair new technologies.

Sygnal’s robust design and simple install process were specifically developed to limit time spent fitting and maintaining units. Likewise, remote updates enable operators to add new features without uninstalling units. Additional features like CCTV and GPS can be retrofitted as and when operators require them.

The Sygnal Portal offers an additional revenue source in the form of onboard advertising. Operators can offset their monthly data subscription by sourcing advertisers and promoting local businesses through their passenger WiFi.

Using passenger WiFi on demand-responsive bus services

Reliable service

Great technology should be adaptable to the unique needs of customers. The one-size-fits-all model rarely works for everyone, particularly in the age of personalised service. What works for the nationwide transport group, might not work for the local, independent operator. For instance; onboard entertainment, where passengers enjoy TV and movies, is essential for long journeys on inter-city services. For local urban services where journeys last no more than half an hour, however, onboard entertainment would be largely redundant.

Simultaneously, these onboard technologies should require little technical knowledge on the customers part. Independent operators are less likely to have their own engineers on staff, so installation and upkeep should require minimum effort.

Just as importantly, modern, connected technologies should be reliable. After all, inconsistent technologies will lead to more complaints than if the technology wasn’t there at all.

How to connect your vehicles

In keeping with the focus on simplicity, Sygnal developed a straightforward four-stage process to connect your vehicles:

  • Contact Sygnal
  • Choose your package & order
  • Receive your order & setup
  • Switch on and enjoy access to rapid, reliable onboard WiFi

Sygnal’s compact design allows operators to choose their preferred method of installation. Of course, installation can be affected by different factors, including vehicle layout and powering. Operators who require a unit for each vehicle often choose to power units through the vehicle wiring harness.  Operators looking to quickly move units between vehicles, however, tend to opt for the cigarette lighter adapter socket. Thankfully, our team of experts are always on hand discuss the best option for you.

The Sygnal Standard

At its heart, Sygnal’s mission is to remove the technical barriers from acquiring, installing and using onboard WiFi. It’s only by simplifying these processes that we can create a truly connected world. Sygnal strives to make the connection process as simple and cost-effective as possible.

Get in touch with Sygnal today to find out more about adding passenger WiFi solutions to your vehicles.

Woman using motorhome WiFi outside

Motorhome WiFi: A guide to retrofitting your campervans

By | Campervans, Sygnal Bites, Technology | One Comment

To say transport has changed dramatically in the past decade would be an understatement. Onboard innovations like GPS, analytics, IoT and onboard WiFi (coupled with the ubiquity of the smartphone) have transformed how we explore the world.

In public transport, these innovations have been spurred on by investment from government bodies. Private hire transport operators, however, have been largely left to their own devices. One sector, in particular, has been consistently overlooked in the push for onboard technologies; the motorhome industry.

The modern motorhome industry

The touring caravan, motorhome and caravan holiday home industry contributes more than £6 billion to the UK economy every year. There are roughly 1.1 million leisure accommodation vehicles in use in the UK.

Despite this, margins in this industry can be razor-thin. Fluctuating seasonal demand and the continued popularity of overseas package holidays have been persistent challenges to the industry. As a result, most motorhome hire firms have tended to resist integrating new technologies. But that’s a huge loss for the industry and for motorhome enthusiasts. With affordable, robust and reliable motorhome WiFi, travellers can explore anywhere and stay connected at all times.

Motorhome with campervan WiFi fitted

How does motorhome WiFi work?

  • Unlike the WiFi in your home, motorhome WiFi must be powered by a data SIM. With no static broadband infrastructure, the WiFi found in road vehicles relies on sending and receiving data via signals transmitted from network towers.
  • The onboard wireless router jumps between different towers based on which has the strongest signal. The strength of a signal depends largely on how close the Server is to the tower, but other factors (such as the surrounding landscape or how many other people take their data from that tower) can also affect coverage.
  • Passengers connect to the onboard wireless router via a device with WiFi capabilities – usually a laptop, tablet or smartphone.
  • In areas with limited data coverage, vehicles can benefit from an additional aerial to increase the units reach.

Why do hire companies need WiFi?

Onboard WiFi is a valuable amenity for a range of reasons. Passengers on public transport expect WiFi as standard, but these same passengers usually have limited alternatives. In private hire transport, however, passengers have a choice about who they travel with. Free WiFi can be a deciding factor in who they choose. Likewise, travellers looking to book a campervan or motorhome will almost certainly include the presence (or lack) of onboard WiFi in their deliberations.

Not only can motorhome WiFi boost sales, but it can also seriously increase the odds of return bookings. In this connected age, travellers expect to be able to share the latest pictures, browse their socials and catch up on work, wherever they are. Campervan companies capable of providing this connectivity have a distinct advantage over their competitors.

Caravan parked on beach using motorhome WiFi


Installing WiFi in your motorhome should be as simple as adding GPS or a dashcam to your vehicle. Sygnal wireless routers are designed for non-invasive installation, meaning they can be plugged directly into the power on your campervans and moved between vehicles quickly and easily. Every router also comes with a base plate and screws to secure the unit in place; essential for campers looking to go off the beaten track.

With a range of over 30 metres, you can place the Sygnal wireless router anywhere on your campervan. Provided the unit is secure and has space for ventilation, you’ll be able to enjoy WiFi almost anywhere.

Sygnal offers several options for powering your onboard wireless router. Of course, how you choose to power the unit depends on your vehicle setup. Cigarette lighter adapter cables allow customers to power their unit through their vehicle dashboard. For those looking for a fixed powering solution, Sygnal provides power cables to hardwire units directly into the vehicle wiring harness.

Beyond motorhome WiFi

Onboard campervan WiFi is just one aspect of the retrofitting process. For campers and hire firms alike, there is a range of technologies to further enhance the campervan experience.

Campervans with a Sygnal unit can also be fitted out with GPS, allowing motorhome rental agencies to keep track of their vehicles wherever they are. This is particularly useful for locating vehicles that fail to return at their specified drop-off time.

With access to the Sygnal portal, rental agencies can also verify that passengers are adhering to local speed limits: vital information in the event of a crash. For individual campervan owners, studying GPS routes can also provide valuable insight into the different routes they take.

Every Sygnal wireless router also comes with options for dashcam integration. For rental agencies, this can be an essential resource in the event of a road accident. The in-built G-sensor stores footage in the aftermath of an incident. This footage can be incredibly valuable for campervan hire firms and individual campers alike. With incontestible video evidence, hire firms can avoid paying out for false claims. Dashcams don’t need to capture a crash on film to be useful, however. Even their presence on vehicles can be enough to reduce insurance premiums and deter drivers from exceeding the speed limit.

Sygnal’s onboard campervan WiFi also comes with in-built storage for streaming content. With options for anywhere from 16 to 128GB of internal storage, campers can choose from the latest movies, TV and music; a handy distraction when rain cancels your outdoor plans.

Accessing new revenue channels

For motorhome rental firms, onboard WiFi also represents a unique opportunity to gain additional revenue. That’s because Sygnal onboard WiFi includes options to integrate advertising content from relevant businesses.

Advertising can be particularly relevant to campers travelling in an unfamiliar area. For advertisers, the appeal is obvious; campers seeking a local restaurant, attraction or a place to park for the night might not find their business on Google. With ads pushed direct to campers via the WiFi, however, businesses can be assured that campers know where they are. But beware; even though hosting an advert might not be seen as an endorsement, campers will invariably associate any ads coming through with the WiFi with your campervan hire company. It’s vital you consider each advertising opportunity and the risk involved as it comes.

Woman using smart bus stop to call CAV

What does the growth in CAVs mean for the future of mass transport?

By | CAV, Feature, Infrastructure, Multimodal transport, Public Transport, Smart transport | One Comment

How things change. Just a decade ago, the majority of people wouldn’t even know what a ‘Connected vehicle’ was. The past few years, however, have seen several transport technologies shift from the realm of fantastical to entirely possible.

The rapid pace of technological development has brought us to a point where an entirely connected transport infrastructure is not just possible, it’s becoming a reality as we speak. Likewise, the growth of data-sharing devices and AI has given rise to a new form of transport; the Connected and Autonomous Vehicle (CAV). These AI-driven, data-guided vehicles represent an opportunity to improve safety, reduce congestion and revolutionise travel as we know it.

What are CAVs?

The term CAVs actually covers a broad range of vehicle types. Some of these are already on our roads, while some (despite what excitable tech bosses might tell you) are still several years away from commercial deployment.

‘Connected vehicles’ refers to vehicles with the capability to ‘talk’ to each other and to the infrastructure around them. These vehicles communicate through onboard devices that connect to the internet, which then send information to other vehicles containing the same technology. These devices usually take the form of a dynamic onboard router, but they can also be GPS units, tachographs, or even a smartphone hooked up to an onboard computer. Connected vehicles have also been in use for several years. Features like automated emergency braking and lane assist technology are already included as standard in many new vehicles.

Fully automated vehicles, where the vehicle can navigate without the need for a human driver, however, are still in their tertiary stages. Although there have been some highly publicised test cases, we’re still several years away from seeing them overtake the human-driven car.

Why now?

Transport is in dire need of change. Cities can no longer continue to permit any and all vehicles on the road. Ageing infrastructure, increasing car ownership and dwindling public transport ridership are contributing to record levels of congestion and dangerously poor air quality.

Governments are responding to the demand for more sustainable travel initiatives by integrating technologies like big data, the Internet-of-Things and AI to usher in an era where CAVs are increasingly seen as the most viable option for transport networks.

In Edinburgh, where the government is set to trial it’s first autonomous buses, MSP Michael Matheson said: “The deployment of Connected and Autonomous Vehicles has the potential to bring transformative change to people’s lives, not just in how we travel, but in how we work; where we live; how we can achieve an environment with fewer emissions; and travel more safely.” The potential for CAVs to usher in a new age of clean, efficient transport is clear.

Reducing congestion through demand-responsive bus services


CAVs can help countries achieve a greater level of sustainability while encouraging greater economic growth and creating a more inclusive society. The market for CAVs in the UK (specifically, for road vehicles with CAV technologies) is estimated to be worth £28bn in 2035, capturing 3% of the £907bn global market. Simultaneously, UK jobs in the manufacture and assembly of CAVs could reach 27,400 in 2035, according to a study commissioned by the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV).

It’s not just the potential industrial benefits that should push cities to invest more heavily in CAVs, however. Streamlined urban transport allows passengers to get where they need to be faster. With the total cumulative cost of congestion in the UK estimated to be £307 billion from 2013 to 2030, these improvements couldn’t come soon enough.

Besides the benefits to the economy, using CAVs in mass transit can help entice car users back to public transport. This, in turn, enables more research into new technologies, which allows transport networks to grow and develop. It’s a cycle that, when implemented correctly, rewards everyone.

Queue of despondent people waiting at bus stop

Passenger experience

A streamlined service gives passengers more control over their day. When commuters know exactly when their journey will start and end, they can make informed decisions about other aspects of their routine. CAVs, with connected technologies optimising every journey, mean more reliability, leading to improved passenger satisfaction and increased patronage.

Onboard connectivity also allows passengers to create their own entertainment during the journey. Passenger WiFi enables commuters to browse socials, check emails or catch up on the headlines. With onboard entertainment, meanwhile, passengers can sit back and pass their journey with the latest TV, movies and music.

Perhaps most importantly, CAV’s will be vital to a future in which ‘Mobility as a Service’ (MaaS) is the standard transport model. MaaS means unifying myriad forms of public transport (train, buses, taxis, bicycles) to give commuters access to on-demand transport. MaaS offers the most economically and environmentally efficient solution to urban travel, but it’s only possible with connected vehicles. This form of multimodal travel is also the most convenient, which increases the chances passengers will use it.

Women using smartphones on a bus


Whilst fully automated vehicles would render the human driver obsolete, that doesn’t mean vehicles would be completely unstaffed. Operators that have already trialled autonomous buses have so far retained human drivers in the event of unforeseen circumstances. Even with the AI handling navigation, onboarding and interaction with external infrastructure, passengers will invariably expect a human presence.

Of course, the shift from human to AI driver will inevitably lead to a reduction in drivers. Indeed, that’s one of the biggest attractions to transport operators; allowing them to save on wages while improving efficiency. But, at least for the first generation of CAVs, it looks like drivers will still be a required element.

For drivers of public transport today, it’s the ‘connected’ element of CAVs that offer the most opportunity. With connected vehicles, buses can ‘talk’ to every element of connected infrastructure. Other vehicles, traffic lights, road signs, even the roads themselves can provide information inform driver decisions. This helps to reduce congestion and coordinate journeys to reduce travel times.

Driverless CAV vehicle computer rendering


Reducing road dangers, for pedestrians and passengers, is of utmost importance to every transport operator. A major advantage of CAVs is they remove the margin for human error. Automated vehicles will never be too tired, drunk, or just distracted, to responsibly control a vehicle.

This improvement in safety, however, may not be obvious to passengers. Those already using public transport do so because they trust the driver to deliver them safely to their destination. This confidence doesn’t necessarily extend to new technologies.

A recent survey on public attitudes to driverless cars revealed just 17% of people would feel safe in an autonomous vehicle, compared with 61% in a human-controlled vehicle. This is partly the result of a general mistrust of new, (relatively) unproven technologies. But public reticence also stems from high-profile incidents in which AI failed to anticipate the most unpredictable of all variables; human behaviour. These behaviours; for instance, hand signals from traffic police, are key to maintaining safety on the roads. For now, at least, human driver behaviour is beyond the understanding of even the most advanced autonomous vehicles.

As Google’s Chris Urmson (co-founder of Aurora, an autonomous vehicle start-up) explained, self-driving vehicles are only safe in a vacuum; they can’t guarantee safety as long as there are other humans driving on the same road.


The transport sector is now the biggest contributor to CO2 emissions in the UK. The latest government figures show CO2 emissions from transport decreased by just 2%, meaning it now accounts for 26% of UK greenhouse gas emissions. For the UK to achieve it’s carbon reduction targets, the transport industry must push measures to reduce emissions now. Public transport, and CAVs, in particular, will be at the forefront of these efforts.

As more cities introduce Clean Air Zones (CAZs) in a bid to improve air quality, public transport must adapt with it. Part of this change requires introducing technologies that reduce congestion and optimise traffic flows. CAVs will play a key role in this change.

At its heart, connected transport is about creating a genuinely open ecosystem. CAVs only function in a cohesive and connected world; a world in which data informs every aspect of the journey. The rapid growth of the IoT sector is a testament to how much faith cities are placing in the power of data. Data from public transport can inform every stage of the commuter journey, and reduce fuel consumption in the process.

Red bus driving through London with Gherkin obscured in background

So far, autonomous transport technology has focused on the individual. Much more important is investment in mass transport options to draw people away from car travel. It’s only through encouraging greater use of the current transport infrastructure that we can hope to develop new services that truly appeal to the needs of passengers.

Even with major investment, rural areas could be shut out of the connected vehicle revolution. The majority of government grants will go to the largest national and municipal transport bodies. Simultaneously, most independent operators aren’t in a position to invest in autonomous vehicles. Sadly, while autonomous public transport could become a reality within the next ten years, it’s still just a dot on the horizon for the majority of transport companies.

Get in touch with Sygnal to for help on connecting your own vehicles with powerful onboard WiFi.

Couple chatting enjoying the onboard technologies

Festival coach hire: The ultimate guide for operators

By | Coach hire, Passenger Wifi, Sygnal Bites | One Comment

It’s springtime and that means the festival season will soon be upon us. Whether you’ve offered festival coach hire for years or you’re just starting out, it’s important to stay informed of the latest information. And 2019 looks set to be the busiest year for festivals yet, with over 500 large-scale events scheduled to take place in the UK alone.

With that in mind, Sygnal has put together a handy guide for this festival season. Read on to discover the secrets to keeping festival-goers happy and establishing your company as the go-to for festival transport.


Transport hire is often the second port of call for festival attendees after booking their tickets. Festival organisers often partner with respected transport companies to combine ticket bookings with transport. The biggest festivals will likely have established business relationships with known operators. Smaller event organisers, however, could be receptive to developing new transport partnerships.

If you do procure a festival coach hire contract, it’s vital you can meet supply so pencil in tickets sale dates well in advance. Managing bookings is only possible with a coherent booking system, so check out our guide to streamlining the booking process on your website.

Only take bookings over the phone? Make sure you have an efficient system (and enough staff) to process the orders in a timely fashion. Remember, every missed call is a missed opportunity for more sales.

Simultaneously, it’s not unreasonable to request a deposit on large bookings, particularly if festival-goers want to book an entire vehicle.

Man booking festival coach hire through laptop

Pick up

Designate a pick-up-point well in advance. Of course, this point should be easily accessible to your vehicles and allow your vehicles time to idle. The pick-up point must be accessible to passengers too, especially as most will arrive with several days worth of supplies.

Simultaneously, make sure your drivers maintain ample space surrounding the vehicle so passengers can reach the underneath compartment to stow their luggage safely.

Be very clear on the departure time – particularly if you are travelling a significant distance to reach the festival grounds. If you’re supplying multiple vehicles, try to stagger them to arrive and depart at different times to prevent congestion.

Bus coach with onboard passenger WiFi

Route navigation

The bigger the festival, the more logistics have (usually) been designated to assist traffic flow. However, larger festivals also mean more attendees, which mean more vehicles on the road. Either way, festival routes often become congested, sometimes days in advance of the event itself. It’s your job as a transport operator to figure out the least circuitous route for your passengers.

Of course, festivals are often staged in remote areas with limited access points, forcing vehicles to converge upon one particular route. There’s not much you can do once your vehicles hit this point. There are, however, ways to optimise the journey prior to this.

Sygnal’s fleet tracking software allows you to study journey times and identify bottlenecks on specific routes. Traffic updates provided through the GPS and onboard WiFi enable drivers to adapt routes according to anticipated journey times. Not only does this ensure passengers reach their destination in good time, but it also saves on fuel consumption.

Using onboard wifi & GPS to navigate traffic


At most major festivals, you as the coach provider will be responsible for sourcing your parking spaces. Smaller festivals may not have particular designations for specific operators, but that doesn’t mean you can’t plan ahead. Festival organisers will have a detailed layout of the festival grounds, which they should provide upon request.

The onus on establishing a reliable, safe parking procedure falls, of course, to the festival organisers. However, there are several steps you can take to simplify the process. Designating seating prior to boarding, along with organised luggage storage in the underneath compartment, enables passengers to disembark in an orderly fashion. Likewise, it’s important to make any requirements known in advance; for instance, if you are travelling with any passengers that require wheelchair access. These precautions help ensure an efficient drop-off process and show passengers you recognise them as more than just a number.

Buses using Sygnal fleet management with vehicle tracking


The type of passenger depends largely on the festival, but there are a few golden rules every operator should abide by.

State bus T&Cs on your website and ensure passengers are aware of them before boarding. This way, both driver and passengers can enjoy a safe, comfortable journey.

If you’re travelling a long distance and don’t have toilet facilities, make sure to stop every few hours. After every deboarding, run through a passenger check again (leaving passengers behind doesn’t exactly make for good PR).

If you allow alcohol to be consumed on board, be prepared for your passengers to get a little louder. Similarly, passengers drinking alcohol are likely to use your onboard facilities more frequently. If your vehicles don’t have onboard toilets, drivers should expect more frequent requests to stop, which risks disrupting your schedule.

Girl using festival coach hire to attend event


Festival coach hire also represents a unique opportunity for coach hire companies. Onboard advertising can bring in additional revenues all year round. But when deployed through onboard WiFi on festival coach hire, operators have a specific audience with specific requirements. Attending a festival, especially one held in a rural area, requires provisions. Camping supplies, food, water, clothing, toilet roll, even electronic extras like power banks. Coach hire companies can gain an additional revenue stream through the sale of these provisions.

Coach hire operators can also gain advertising revenue by providing links to partner businesses. These businesses could be anything from companies with a festival stall to clothing from bands appearing at the event. Of course, these partnerships can take several festival seasons to develop, but they are worth investing in.

Personalisation as an essential travel trend of 2019

Return journeys

It’s fair to say that some passengers may not be in the best of shape for the return journey. That’s why it’s important you specify a pick-up location and time and stick to it. Multiple vehicle pick-ups, set over a staggered schedule, increase your chances of rounding up all passengers for the journey home.

It also helps to consider the mindset of your passengers on their return journey. They’ll likely be tired, elated and, if they’ve been camping, not as clean as they might like to be. Simultaneously, depending on the venue, many may have been without WiFi for days. This offers you another unique opportunity. Passengers can quench their thirst for data with your onboard WiFi, while you as the operator can promote suitable products through the advertising platform.

It’s not all about pushing promotions, however. Little touches like free bottled water or hygienic wipes can be a great way to end the trip with a smile. And happy passengers mean customers that are more likely to book with you again.

To find out more about festival coach hire, get in touch with Sygnal here.

Could demand-responsive bus services save passenger transport?

By | Accessibility, Feature, Public Transport | No Comments

Cities across the world are facing a quandary. The very nature of travel has undergone a massive rethink in recent years, but urban infrastructure has not. As a result, public transport ridership is in freefall, congestion is at an all-time high and satisfaction with transport is at it’s lowest level in years.

Despite this, buses remain the most used form of public transport in Britain – accounting for 59% of all public transport journeys in 2016-17. Simultaneously, technology driven by the ubiquity of the smartphone has given people the power to create their own journey. Ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft enable commuters to travel as and when they’d like, but they’ve also contributed to the rise in congestion in urban areas.

So could the solution lie in combining the two disparate worlds of public transport and private hire? How would it work? And, perhaps most importantly, what do demand-responsive transport (DRT) services mean for the future of public transport?

How does DRT work?

Modern demand-responsive bus services function much like ride-hailing apps like Uber or Lyft. Passengers register their request for a service via an app, which then uses algorithms to match them with vehicles travelling in the same direction. Drivers are then routed according to the information provided by passenger requests through the app to find the optimal route for their trip.

Journeys are calculated according to the fastest route (fed by real-time data on traffic and city infrastructural disruptions like construction, accidents, weather hazards, etc.). Journeys are allocated a guaranteed fare, time of departure and arrival, based on this real-time information.

Although there are a limited number of test cases, it’s clear that demand-responsive bus services work. Arriva, one of the largest transport operators in the world, launched ArrivaClick in 2018. The service currently operates only in Liverpool, but it has proven to be a major success. Arriva claims that, of those surveyed using the service, more than half of customers switched from using private cars to ArrivaClick, while 43% adopted the service for their daily commute.

Changing attitudes

The rise of ride-hailing apps points to a change in how people perceive transport. It’s no longer a service around which the passenger constructs their schedule; it’s a service that should work to fit around the passenger’s schedule. Passengers want something that is quick, simple and flexible to their own needs.

App-based transport services offer a key element of the modern travel experience – personalisation. While public transport networks are working to introduce new technologies, they’re still playing catch-up to the private ride-hailing companies. A demand-responsive bus network combined with a mobile app, however, could hold the key. A mobile app enables passengers to save specific journeys, track arrivals and follow their progress when on board.

There are many who would argue that demand-responsive bus services are just another attempt to reinvent a service that, if given sufficient investment, would work fine in its current form. But this misses the point – public transport is suffering not just because of underinvestment (although that is definitely a key reason). Previous efforts to increase ridership of mass transit focused on changing the commuter, rather than the amenity. In this context, DRT could be seen as the logical response to changing commuter requirements.

Using onboard WiFi on demand-responsive bus services

Public vs private

DRT is not a new concept. The idea has existed in some form for decades. Indeed, experimental flexi-route, dial-a-ride and community car and bus schemes have existed in some form as early as the ‘60s. But it was the rise in ride-hailing apps that sparked the latest push for user-oriented on-demand transport.

Simultaneously, when people opt for the private ‘ride-hailing’ bus, publicly run services suffer. This, in turn, means less money to expand services, which ensures public DRT remains a niche service. This has already happened in Bristol, where the local microtransit scheme recently announced it would no longer continue to operate, citing increased competition from other ride-sharing services.

Oxford trialled an on-demand bus service last year, part government-funded, run in conjunction with a local transport operator (Oxford Bus Company, owned by national transport provider Go-Ahead Group). Transport for London, meanwhile, announced last year that it was exploring the introducing a demand-responsive bus service as a means of complementing the existing bus network. In all of these cases, the local transport authorities have partnered with local transport operators to supply the vehicles. In this way, public transport isn’t completely shut out and passengers can choose the best option for their travel needs.

The congestion question

As cities begin to seriously consider how to reduce urban congestion and improve air quality, local transport authorities have turned to DRT as a solution. But questions remain about just how effective these services would be in reducing congestion. For instance, would these buses be allowed to use bus lanes?

Using them in areas underserved by current public transit services could help alleviate issues of accessibility, but they don’t go the whole way to reducing the number of cars on the road. For one, current demand-responsive bus services tend to use smaller vehicles than a standard public bus. So although there might be fewer vehicles on the road, there will still be more vehicles than if passengers were to utilise large capacity public transport.

Simultaneously, for DRT to offer a genuinely environmentally sustainable service, vehicles must come equipped with low emissions technology. While some cities have made this a key component of their on-demand bus service, that’s not necessarily the case for private ride-sharing services.

Reducing congestion through demand-responsive bus services

Potential pitfalls

It’s not all rosy in the world of DRT, however. Experts have warned that demand-responsive services shouldn’t be used as a replacement for traditional services. In 2016, Transport Focus produced a review of demand responsive transport that said: “Introduction of DRT tends to result in even less frequent services, shorter time at destination and restricted destinations. This limits social and leisure activities of passengers.”

Simultaneously, arrival times for DRT tend to be less concrete because they depend largely on the level of demand at that moment. Subsequently, routes are less optimised as the on-demand bus must alter its journey according to who needs to be picked up and from where. In the same vein, limited vehicle numbers can restrict passengers who try to book a journey during peak hours.

There’s also a danger that the ‘smartphone-first’ approach could leave less tech-savvy commuters out in the cold. This is a particular issue for elderly passengers, who make up a significant portion of public transport passengers.

Using mobile ticketing service on public transport

While they offer a valuable alternative for elderly and disabled people, DRT services can only succeed when they are fully integrated with local public transport networks. When integrated with other sustainable transport, they can increase accessibility, reduce congestion and improve air quality in urban areas.

Using onboard analytics to track impact of weather patterns

5 achievable steps to bring passengers back to public transport

By | Infrastructure, Multimodal transport, Public Transport | One Comment

Ridership of public transport is in freefall. In the UK, local bus passenger journeys outside London decreased by 63 million (2.9%) in 2018. And despite holding steadier numbers than the rest of the country, London is not immune to this downward trend. Statistics for bus journeys in the capital show a 5% decrease since the 2014-15 fiscal year. Likewise, the London Underground reported a drop of 19m, or 1.4% in the number of Tube journeys in 2018 compared to the previous year.

The same is true in cities around the world, where the rise in on-demand services, changes in working patterns and wider demographic and economic shifts have drawn commuters away from public transit. So what can transport networks do to win back the public? It won’t be easy, but as cities around the world finally push to improve urban air quality, it’s essential we act now to restore faith in local transport.

1. Convenience is king

The success of any civic amenity hangs on one simple reality, it’s all about convenience. The past ten years have seen a major increase in the number of private hire journeys precisely because they offer a simpler, more personalised service. Why would a commuter choose to walk to a bus stop, wait on a bus (often delayed), then disembark and walk yet further to their office, when they could hail a private vehicle to pick them up from their house and take them directly to their workplace, at a time of their choosing?

Public transport networks need to begin integrating features that emphasise the convenience of public transport over private commuting. Personalisation is key to making passengers feel like more than just another number. And what’s the key ingredient to personalisation?

Using onboard analytics to identify peak times

2. Embrace new technologies

Take advantage of modern technologies to improve the passenger experience. mTicketing, for instance, does away with arbitrary ticket pricing and the need for cumbersome change (for drivers and passengers both). A mobile app with vehicle-tracking provides visibility to passengers waiting outside. If a service is delayed, commuters deserve to know in advance so they can make an informed decision about whether to wait. Similarly, if services have been re-routed or cancelled, a mobile app means commuters can be notified instantly through their personal devices.

Meanwhile, Passenger Information Systems (PIS) add clarity to new journeys, notifying passengers to upcoming stops. Integrating a PIS that offers both visual and audio information also makes transport more accessible to passengers with sight or hearing problems.

Adding onboard WiFi, meanwhile, opens up a new realm of connected entertainment for passengers. Now they can start their day before they even reach work, catch up on their social channels and unwind after a long day with their own content. These new technologies represent an opportunity some operators may not have considered. Onboard WiFi can incentivise commuters to swap the car for a relaxing bus journey, but it also offers an additional source of revenue through the promotion of partner businesses. This means operators can offset the cost of their WiFi connection and simultaneously develop connections with local businesses.

Women using smartphones on a bus

3. Incorporate data

Although it’s been used for decades, it’s only in the past few years that transport authorities have begun to truly harness the power of data. Fuelled by the rise in connected devices, metrics from open data initiatives are transforming the way we move around urban areas.

The value of data in gaining a detailed overview of highly complex transport infrastructure has made it an essential element of modern travel. In fact, the growth of MaaS models, where commuters can combine multiple modes of transport to reach their destination, hinges on the availability of accessible data (but more on that later).

Likewise, data can help reduce congestion and optimise journeys. Using city-wide data collection points, traffic lights can track buses and manage routes to reduce waiting times between stops. Coupled with a mobile app, this data can also be used to quickly and efficiently inform commuters about changes to services.

Of course, data doesn’t have to play a merely reactive role. It can also predict future requirements, providing local authorities with the quantitative foundations to develop new services. From these foundations, cities can begin to add features that respond to the changing nature of urban travel, including Passenger Information Systems and priority bus lanes. As Andrew Small said in a recent piece for CityLab, “When buses get priority, riders prioritize the bus.”

Using onboard analytics to improve services in coach hire

4. Increase intermodality

Despite the overall downward trend, several cities across the UK have reported an increase in public transport use. Every city has its own unique requirements, so pinning down exactly why some areas are bucking the trend isn’t easy. That being said, there are some common factors that could point to a solution, and chief among them is multimodal travel.

For the uninitiated, multimodal travel refers to the integration of multiple forms of transport to offer a more seamless travel experience. For a traveller arriving in a multimodal city by rail, their train ticket can also be used to board a metro service, ride the local bus, or even hire a bicycle.

For services to move to a manageable collaboration between the transit system and external organizations, there must be a mutual benefit. This presents a conundrum for public transport authorities, who cannot be seen to be favouring private transport companies. Transport authorities can remedy this by offering public tender contracts for the different transport modes. Similarly, apps like Citymapper are working to link public transport networks with local cab companies to cover first-mile/last-mile, with public transport making up the bulk of the journey. While this encourages commuters to leave the car at home, it still requires small-capacity private vehicles on the road.

But how do cities create a cohesive network that responds to the needs of every citizen? The solution can be found in cities already pioneering the multimodal model. Columbus, Ohio, was awarded the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Smart Cities challenge for its work in developing a connected travel solution for commuters. Through extensive research, the city identified residents’ requirements and drew up a proposal that encompassed the use of real-time integrated data, priority bus lanes and mobile apps to connect visitors and citizens.

Incorporating multimodal technologies into public transport

5. Go green

The environmental benefits of public transport over private car travel are already well documented. A fully loaded bus has an 83% less environmental impact per passenger mile than a single-occupancy passenger vehicle. Simultaneously, increased sustainability is not only environmentally beneficial, it’s also an opportunity to lower operating costs.

With these savings, transport authorities can begin to invest in more energy efficient vehicles, while existing vehicles can be retrofitted with Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) emission control units to reduce NOx and NO₂ outputs.

Even with these features, however, transport networks need to make drastic changes in their approach to environmental issues. The future lies in developing a sustainable network with the smallest carbon footprint possible, and that means introducing fully energy-efficient vehicles.

New vehicles, however, are only possible with increased investment, which is itself only possible if we can reverse the decline in passenger transport use. It’s a vicious cycle that threatens the future of mass transit, right at the time when we need it most. To improve the environmental impact of our transport networks, cities must first establish new channels of revenue. To that end, cities must begin to expand Clean Air Zones (CAZ’s) and increase taxes on private vehicles in urban areas. Likewise, transport authorities can take advantage of government subsidies and innovation funding for projects that improve the local environment.

Red bus driving through London with Gherkin obscured in background

Of course, the issue of decreasing public transport usage goes beyond mere investment; after all, spending heavily rarely means spending wisely. But investment is essential to create a scalable, future-ready model that can adapt to the changing needs of citizens and the surrounding environment. Councils must be ready to invest not just in new vehicles, but in the entire infrastructure of their city. After all, if transport authorities really want to restore trust in public transport, they must be ready to prove that they have faith in it first.

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Two coaches on coach tour holiday driving along empty road

The biggest travel trends of 2019 for the coach tour industry

By | Coach Tour, Feature, Holiday, Travel | No Comments

As we near the end of the decade, travel is shifting to offer a more personalised experience. Fuelled by the rise of social media and a new appreciation for unique cultural experiences, today’s traveller expects to be able to create their own adventure. 2018 was the year for TV tourism (think Game of Thrones tours in Northern Ireland) and eco-tourism. 2019 will see more of the same, but new developments in technology and changes in traveller attitudes will inspire new trends. So what should tour companies expect this year, and, more importantly, how can they deliver the best experience to their customers?

Wellness holidays go mainstream

‘Self-development stays’ have existed in some form for decades, but they’ve become increasingly popular in the past few years. Wellness tourism worldwide was worth £500bn in 2017, and last year grew at more than twice the pace of tourism overall. An emphasis on better emotional self-care, driven in part by the rise in Instagram-inspired wellbeing retreats, has brought the wellness trip into the mainstream.

In January, VisitScotland published its annual review of travel trends. The review noted an increase in demand for holidays centred around improving oneself, whether physically, emotionally or spiritually. The UK coach tour industry, then, is well placed to respond to this trend. 2019 is the year to start offering trips that cater to this new client base, whether through curated retreats, ethically-minded hideaways or traditional local events.

Wellness travel becomes the next travel trend

Eco-conscious excursions evolve

Just like the wellness travel trend, 2019 will be a big year for “green getaways” – trips focused on getting back to nature and respecting the environment. Sure, eco-friendly travel has been a hot topic for a few years now, but it’s only in the past year that travel companies have begun to grasp the potential value of them. Not only do they help conserve the environment for future visitors, but a travel company’s eco-credentials can also entice a new generation of environmentally aware travellers.

A recent study by found that 86% of global travellers would be willing to spend some time on activities that offset the environmental impact of their stay. That’s why coach tour companies should use 2019 to begin integrating more eco-friendly features on your tours. If you can adapt your vehicles to reduce the environmental impact, do it. Adding tree-planting, wildlife conservation or wild camping to your tour itineraries could open up a whole new world and simultaneously conserve our own planet. What’s not to love?

Travelling on an eco-friendly coach tour is the new travel trend

Authenticity beats package

Just as eco-holidays grew from an increased awareness of the impact of travel on our environment, the demand for authenticity in travel has been fuelled by an increased focus on the impact on local cultures. Travellers in 2019 don’t want to be a spectator, they want to be an active participant, and, just as importantly, they want to learn. In fact, over half (56%) of global travellers claim they learned invaluable life skills while travelling.

This push for authenticity was apparent in the rise in domestic tourism last year. Travellers want to be immersed in a culture, even if it’s the culture of a neighbouring town or city. For coach tour companies, that means pushing activities over sight-seeing. Partner with local businesses to allow travellers to develop new skills based on local knowledge and practices. The more visual the activity (think pottery-making or gin-distilling) the better. After all, behind the push for authenticity is the ever-present desire for social-friendly photo opportunities.

Personalisation is the travel trend

The one-size-fits-all model of holidays will no longer cut it. Travel companies have responded by shifting to curated experiences that deliver hyper-relevant individualised content direct to the customer. Coach tour companies might want to study the following statistics found in the study:

  • 34% of travellers now expect travel recommendations for them
  • 41% want travel brands to use technologies such as AI to make travel suggestions based on past travel experience.
  • 52% would be excited about tech travel innovations such as a digital tour guide

New technologies are at the heart of helping travellers create their own adventures. For coach companies, this means identifying a customer’s interests and catering subsequent offers to them. A customer who books a hiking tour in the Scottish Highlands, for instance, would be more receptive to additional offers for hiking gear than someone who’s booked a city break.

Personalisation as an essential travel trend of 2019

Social media is still essential

That means try to get your coach tour company included in the post, either by a direct @ of your company or through a hashtag (for Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.). Of course, you can offer incentives to passengers, such as being entered into a prize draw, if they include your custom hashtag in their posts.

Social media will also continue to be an invaluable marketing tool. The only real difference will be a bigger focus on targeted content. Even the smallest of tour companies now have access to tools that allow them to optimise their message for different audiences. Customer personas and social analytics software allow you to narrow down your branding to laser precision. After all, it’s not just about getting your content in front of as many people as possible; it’s about targeting the right people at the right time.

Smartphone in travel

Micro-trips become more common

2019 will see a rise in the number of travellers looking for short-breaks. And when we say short, we’re talking as little as one to two days. This is in part due to financial constraints – paying for two weeks in the sun is not an option for everyone, after all. But it’s also due in part to travellers opting for a genuine ‘travel’ experience over a ‘holiday’. Travelling to multiple locations requires more planning and is usually more expensive than staying in a single setting. That’s why modern travellers will often opt for several short-stay trips spread across the year.

The popularity of the micro-vacation can also be attributed to the rise in ‘bleisure’ trips, where the traveller combines a business trip with a few days of leisure. It makes sense, after all, to take advantage of time in a new country that you might not otherwise visit. But these ‘bleisure’ trips offer coach tour operators a unique opportunity too. Single day round-trips and even half-day packages could be just the ticket for time-strapped passengers. Be warned, however, as one- day round-trips can entail a significant amount of time on the road, so make sure to stock up on onboard entertainment features.

Retrofitting your public transport

To find out more about the top travel trends of 2019, get in touch with Sygnal today.