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Transport

Sygnal at the Euro Bus Expo

Sygnal returns from successful Euro Bus Expo debut

By | Coach operator, Euro Bus Expo, News, Transport | No Comments

Sygnal showcased a range of new and exciting transport technologies during its first Euro Bus Expo visit at the NEC Birmingham, including the new Sygnal Portal.

The team behind Sygnal’s 4G passenger WiFi and integrated security systems enjoyed the opportunity to discuss potential partnerships with industry leaders and explore commercial opportunities with some of the biggest names in the bus and coach sector. Among these new technologies was the new Sygnal Portal, a remote access dashboard that enables operators to track their vehicles, monitor data usage and upload custom advertisements direct to their Sygnal servers.

As a leading developer of transport technologies, Sygnal was ideally positioned to demonstrate the latest industry innovations at Europe’s biggest bus and coach event. As demand for onboard connectivity grows, passenger WiFi has rapidly become an indispensable feature for bus and coach companies, particularly those typically priced out by the larger wireless internet connectivity providers.

Natalie Crayton, Business Development Director of Sygnal, said:

“Euro Bus Expo was a fantastic opportunity to meet with owners, drivers, operators and industry figures and we couldn’t be happier with how it went. Not only were we able to engage with exhibitors and attendees from across the industry, but we were also able to showcase our unique technologies to a diverse range of prospective clients and partners.”

Onboard WiFi for your coach service

Passengers expect WiFi as standard on their coach service. Likewise, custom services aimed at increasing operational efficiency are now a fundamental feature on all transport networks. Despite launching less than a year ago, Sygnal has already established a reputation for innovative and cost-effective transport solutions. It was this approach to developing reliable, sustainable services utilising the latest technologies that enabled Sygnal to engage with a huge number of exhibitors at this years’ Euro Bus Expo.

Click here to find out more about the Sygnal Portal or any of the other Sygnal transport technologies.

Sygnal onboard WiFi technology at Euro Bus Expo 2018

Sygnal to exhibit passenger WiFi solutions at Euro Bus Expo 2018

By | Euro Bus Expo, News, Transport | No Comments

Sygnal, the passenger WiFi and integrated security system provider for the bus and coach industry, will exhibit their new range of onboard technologies at this year’s Euro Bus Expo 2018. Taking place at the Birmingham NEC from October 30th to November 1st, the largest event for the bus and coach sector of 2018, Euro Bus Expo 2018 promises to be a highlight for everyone in the passenger transport industry.

As a leading provider of cost-effective transport solutions, Sygnal is well-positioned to platform the next generation of onboard transport products. Chief among these new transport technologies is the Sygnal Portal. With onboard integrations for CCTV, Dash cams, entertainment, analytics and advertising, the Sygnal Portal enables bus and coach operators to manage all of their onboard technologies through one centralised system. Operators can upload content from third parties, track passenger WiFi engagement and even view saved footage from their coaches, all through one remotely-managed, simple-to-use service.

Around 300 exhibitors are expected to showcase the latest passenger transport innovations across the three days at the NEC. Taking in everything from the latest vehicles to training and services, industry insiders will have the opportunity to explore a broad spectrum of new technologies.

Natalie Crayton, Business Development Director for Sygnal, explains: “We’re very excited to be attending Euro Bus Expo 2018 for the first time. With so many new innovations on the horizon, it’s an exciting time for the industry, and for Sygnal. We have developed a wealth of transport technologies specifically for the coach and bus industry and can’t wait to demonstrate these in front of some of the industry’s leading figures.”

Sygnal will be exhibiting at Euro Bus Expo 2018 at the NEC, Birmingham, at stand T38 from October 30th to November 1st.

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Sygnal's new wave of transport technologies

New Sygnal site marks a new era for transport technologies

By | News, Passenger Wifi, Transport | No Comments

So you might have noticed, Sygnal has a new website design. Don’t worry, we still offer the same cost-effective transport technologies and high standard of service. We felt it was only right, however, what with all the new innovations and updates of the past year, to give our website a makeover to better reflect our expanded scope.

Among the latest Sygnal innovations to receive an update is the Sygnal Portal. As a dedicated platform developed specifically for operators, the Sygnal Portal integrates seamlessly with your Sygnal devices and centralises the management process to streamline operations and increase efficiency across your fleet. The new Sygnal Portal still comes with remote access and an intuitive user interface, but now also features an inbuilt notification system to keep you in the loop about all the latest developments on your vehicles.

We’ve also taken the opportunity to lay out a new range of Sygnal packages. Your Sygnal enables you to choose the technologies right for your business, with a special custom pricing plan based on your unique requirements as a transport operator.

The launch of our new website coincides with a new era for transport technologies and the transport industry as a whole.

So take a look, explore our beautiful new site and get in touch to let us know what you think!

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Retrofitting your public transport

Making public transport ‘smarter’ through retrofitting

By | Feature, Retrofitting, Technology, Transport | No Comments

The modern road vehicle, be it a car, motorbike, lorry or bus, is a vastly different animal to one even just twenty years ago. As advances in transport technology gain pace, transport companies are spending thousands just to keep their fleet up to date.

Many transport companies delay updates to their fleet for fear of disrupting service, but refurbs don’t necessarily have to be disruptive. Through intelligent planning and integration, transport companies can bring their fleet into the 21st century without replacing legacy vehicles.

The benefits of vehicle retrofitting

In modern public transport tenders, transport companies with ‘smart vehicles’ are significantly better placed than those with an outdated fleet. Obviously, the type of retrofitting on your vehicles will influence your eligibility for any tenders. Features like Fire Suppression Systems and NOx reduction filters promote your company as responsible and energy-conscious, both of which are prime considerations in any tender bid.

Of course, every transport company has a unique set of requirements that should inform their retrofit process. Simultaneously, features like CCTV and GPS are now seen as a standard requirement on most forms of public and private transport. Their presence can lead to lower insurance premiums and reassure passengers that their safety is a real priority.

Retrofitting your public transport

Retrofitting for the future

GPS

Global positioning technology has come a long way in the past twenty years. Once reserved for exploratory vessels and the aviation industry, road vehicles are integrating GPS to track their journeys.

GPS now plays a vital role in managing performance and maintaining fleets. With a data-led approach to mileage tracking and maintenance schedules, transport companies can reduce the number of breakdowns and increase efficiency.

GPS is also an essential element of route planning and analysis. The data provided by GPS enables transport companies to study new and established routes. Companies can now track journey times, fuel consumption and several other vehicle metrics. These metrics can then be compared to weather patterns and local events to better understand how they impact journey times.

With Sygnal’s onboard WiFi, transport companies can track individual vehicles wherever they go.

CCTV/Dashcams

Onboard video capture technology is fast becoming an essential element for transport companies. Both technologies are relatively cheap to retrofit to most transport types, while digital technology makes recording and managing video data simple.

Video footage can play a decisive role in providing evidence for incidents onboard. CCTV can help resolve thefts, cases of harassment and even physical altercations, as well as acting as a deterrent.

Meanwhile, dash cams can record footage in the event of a crash, a major factor in insurance claims. Not only does this make your fleet less liable to false insurance claims, but it also enables companies to capture and report dangerous driving.

CCTV on bus and coach hire

mTicketing

It can also be difficult to retrofit new technologies when a vehicle has been rented rather than bought, but more and more technologies have been developed that can be fitted on a non-permanent basis. Chief among these is the introduction of mTicketing.

Switching to a mobile ticketing platform eliminates the need for paper tickets, reducing the company’s environmental impact. Simultaneously, mTicketing can streamline the boarding process. This increased reliability can lead to increased passenger numbers and, just as importantly, build brand loyalty for future route bids.

As a technology, mTicketing is more challenging than CCTV or GPS to manage, but the rewards can be substantial. mTicketing limits paper consumption but also provides a direct link between operator and passenger.

IoT

Onboard sensors can turn any mode of transport into a ‘smart vehicle’. These onboard data connectors align your transport with a network of sensors installed across cities, roads, traffic lights and other vehicles. Connecting your vehicles with such a huge network has a myriad of benefits. By collecting real-time data about congestion and roadworks, your fleet can better navigate cities and develop a clearer understanding of where delays are most likely to develop.

This data can work with AI to inform drivers about changing weather patterns and suggest new routes to prevent delays, while data gained from onboard sensors can identify faster, more efficient routes on regular journeys.

Intelligent infrastructure is developing at a rapid rate; by fitting your vehicles with IoT technology, you can ensure your fleet develops in tandem with it.

Using your smartphone on a bus with onboard streaming server

Retrofitting an eco-update

The transport sector is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than any other sector (nearly 28.5% of total emissions in 2016). Over 80% of people living in urban areas are regularly exposed to air quality levels that exceed the World Health Organization (WHO) limits. This is an issue that affects everybody. Transport companies large and small have a responsibility to take steps to limit their impact on the environment. When they do, everybody wins.

Government bodies in several countries now offer financial incentives for transport companies willing to take steps to reduce their NOx output. Many public and private tenders now include provisions for more economically friendly vehicles. Not only is it cheaper and more environmentally friendly, but it’s also in the interest of companies to integrate onboard eco-technologies.

More public transport networks are choosing to retrofit Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) units to their vehicles to reduce NOx emissions. The SCRs react with ammonia over a catalyst to emit harmless emissions of nitrogen and water. Meanwhile, Diesel Particulate Filters (DPF) can reduce particulate matter (PM) from exhaust emissions to improve air quality.

Avoiding disruption in retrofitting

So how do transport companies retrofit their fleet without majorly disrupting their daily services?

Most choose to institute a staggered install approach, retrofitting vehicles across several months after service ends.

Installing numerous technologies in one go can be tempting, but it’s also fraught with potential problems. Not only does it require a lot of time, but it also makes identifying a new issue more difficult. By retrofitting your vehicles one technology at a time, you can trace track their impact on service and trace subsequent complications back to source.

Retrofitting your public transport

Potential pitfalls

Of course, it’s worth considering how much to invest in ailing vehicles that will probably need replacing within the next few years. If your vehicles are due to be replaced within the next two-three years, retrofitting may not be the best immediate course of action.

Despite this, the growth of non-permanent onboard technology means installation and de-installation can take little to no time. Likewise, even after initial costs, retrofitting can reduce running costs and improve the performance of your vehicles.

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Public transport vs. ride-sharing in London

How can public transport survive in the ride-sharing generation?

By | Feature, Public Transport, Ride-sharing, Transport | No Comments

After a recent study found ride-hailing apps are leading to increased in congestion in our cities, public transport networks have begun to examine how to get passengers back onboard. The problem is, nobody knows exactly how to respond to the changing needs of the ride-hailing generation.

First, the obvious truth; as people inject more cash into ride-hailing businesses, less money goes into public transport. In turn, transport fares increase, services are weakened and more people are tempted to move over to ride-sharing. Add in the increased congestion resulting from more cars on the road and public transport becomes slower, more expensive and less reliable. It’s a vicious cycle that has already seen 70 million fewer bus journeys in England in 2017 as compared with the previous year and a 45% increase in private-hire cars on the road in the US.

So what can be done to support mobility in our cities while encouraging a return to public transport? There’s no silver bullet solution, but there are measures that could help redress the balance, providing councils and transport authorities are ready to change.

Using smart road technology to manage traffic jams London

Embrace technology

In this hyper-connected, mobile-first world, travellers no longer want to rely on timetables, frequent stops and space-sharing. The growth of ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft have fed an appetite for ultimate transport convenience, where you decide the time, location and your passengers.

The past decade has seen a tidal wave of new technologies sweep the transport sector. Of course, this includes ride-hailing apps, but there’s also a vast array of innovations that, when properly harnessed, could revitalise public transport networks for a new generation.

Principal among these new technologies is data. Transport networks are beginning to move toward integrating data into their daily operations, but progress has been slow and sporadic.

“By embracing a more quantified approach to route management, scheduling and fleet-tracking, public transport networks can streamline services, better regulate fuel consumption and enhance the overall passenger experience.”

It’s not only onboard technology that needs a boost, however. Smart traffic signalization – where the timing of traffic lights change based on traffic patterns – has already been trialled in several cities, with Pittsburgh reporting a 30% reduction in congestion as a result. The result? A more reliable service, less fuel wasted and happier passengers all-round.

Calling an Uber over public transport

Integrate and update city transport networks

For many commuters, public transport falls short of their daily travel requirements simply because their journey isn’t adequately covered by one service. That’s why the proliferation of inter-linked services, where one ticket covers multiple forms of transport, is so important.

Three years after the introduction of the Oyster Card in London, for instance, the capital saw a 38% reduction in traffic. In fact, every city that has introduced some kind of ‘Smart Card’ option, has seen an increase in the number of people using public transport, but it still struggles to match the convenience of ride-sharing, with its home-to-destination service and flexible pick-up times.

So what can public transport systems do to stem the flow of commuters to the ride-hailing corporations? Some cities have already made moves to block ride-sharing, such as in the case of Uber in London – although this was due to questions around their corporate practice – while others are looking at means to integrate the two disparate transport technologies together.

“The truth is, private and public transport can complement each other providing public transport can catch up in terms of technology.”

Cities across the UK and US have begun to partner with ride-sharing companies to create ‘on-demand public transport’ in a bid to remain relevant. In Atlanta, GA, for example, the local transport app is linked with the Uber app to allow commuters to hail a ride direct from their end public transit destinations. In Nashville, Tenn., meanwhile, the civic transit agency is working with TransLoc Inc on their own on-demand van service that takes riders crosstown.

The daily commuter needs convenience. Ride-sharing companies tapped into this with their simple, mobile-first approach. For public transport to truly compete, they need to be ready to shift to a similar model. By introducing a mobile app, with timetables, routes and real-time updates, commercial transit networks can position themselves as a relevant, viable means of transport for the masses.

Double decker bus public transport in the UK

Invest more in sustainable transport

Just last month, fifteen of the world’s leading transport and technology companies met to discuss their response to the findings by researchers from the Institute of Transportation at the University of California, Davis. The researchers published a paper late last year arguing the use of transportation modes that would reduce air pollution have declined in cities with heavy usage of the ride-sharing apps.

The transportation companies, which included representatives from Uber, Lyft, Didi and Zipcar, signed a list of ‘Shared Mobility Principles’ to “Prioritize people over vehicles, promote equity, transition to a zero-emission future and encourage data sharing.” While these are admirable aspirations, they ignore the role their companies have had in depleting revenues from public transport.

“The only suitable response from the public transport networks is to move to invest in even more sustainable technology for their own vehicles.”

Developing more sustainable means of public transport improves the air quality of a city and simultaneously saves transport operators money, which can be invested in improving services. The issue is, however, that sustainable transport initiatives are relatively new and, as a result, costly – an expense few public transport networks outside of London can afford right now.

Instead, companies need to look at ways to integrate eco-technologies that don’t require expensive vehicle overhauls. Managing routes through data to lower fuel consumption and switching to paperless ticketing can reduce expenditure while limiting the environmental impact of the service.

Using your mobile smartphone device on public transport

Beat them at their own game

When they first came on the scene, ride-hailing companies like Uber were touted as a means of reducing congestion in urban areas by reducing the need for personal vehicles. People assumed, as a cheaper and more effective means of mass transit, public transport was in no danger of being dethroned by the likes of Uber and Lyft. We’re now seeing the evidence for how incorrect this assumption was. The economist Justin Wolfers argued that “Uber is wildly unprofitable, [which] suggests that prices will rise once they’ve succeeded at monopolising the industry.”

Others have pointed to partnerships between public transport and TNCs [transportation network companies] as being a one-sided pairing in which the TNC opts only to provide services on the most profitable routes. This is detrimental to public transport because it drains resources that would otherwise be directed to less connected, and less economically advanced areas. Greg Lindsay, Senior Fellow for mobility at the NewCities think tank, argued: “Uber and other TNCs… have always been about disrupting public transport, about privatising the pieces of public transport that they found profitable and leaving the rest to wither.”

“Public transport is still usually the cheapest option, but they also tend to be less accessible.”

So it seems clear – if public transport can’t outdo this new wave of rideshare convenience, it needs to focus on shifting towards a “mobility-as-a-service” model. This could take the form of a monthly transport subscription to gain access to multiple transport modes simultaneously. If cities can offer car-sharing, bike-sharing and public transport as one, they just might be able to build a truly connected network for the masses and tempt commuters back to public transport.

Otherwise, local transport networks and the big ride-sharing companies will have to learn to coordinate their services to work alongside each other, providing there are conditions in place to ensure the TNCs don’t simply cover the same routes as public transport, at the same time. Developing a connected service, where commuters can use both public and private commercial transport according to need, may sound like a pipe dream, but with proper coordination and regulation, it could 

Passengers onboard public transport

Even with all the potential updates and new routes, the majority of public transport networks around the world are chronically underfunded, and if transport authorities want to see fewer cars on our roads, investment must precede anything else. Features like bus lanes can cut down on delays for public transport, but they’re just a stopgap solution to the real problem. Only through integration, diversification and, most importantly, innovation, can public transport hope to ensure its relevance in an ever-more connected world.

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Passengers sat on public transport

What kind of passenger are you?

By | Feature, Rail, Road, Transport | No Comments

Travelling can be a stressful experience – doubly so when you’re sharing your transport with multiple strangers. Over time, cultures develop their own form of travel etiquette. Sadly, not everyone seems to have got the memo, and a rogue passenger can make a stressful journey that much more trying. So we’ve come up with a comprehensive list of the different kinds of passenger you’ll encounter, and the best ways to deal with them. Of course, if we’ve missed any, feel free to let us know in the comments!

The spreader

Otherwise known as ‘man-spreading’, the passenger will – either deliberately or not – put as much distance between their knees as possible, thus crowding in whichever unlucky soul happens to be sat next to them. It’s not just men that are guilty of over-spreading their boundaries, but it does seem to be a 

When you’re packed into a seat on busy public transport, any incursion on your limited space can feel like a personal attack but remember, often people just don’t realise they’re taking up more space than they’re entitled to. Next time you witness someone extending a limb beyond their own boundaries, try asking them to give you a little space. You’d be surprised how many people respond with courtesy when asked nicely, and it’s a far better option than getting into a passive-aggressive battle for that little bit extra legroom.

Manspreading passenger on public transport

The ‘occasional bather’

One of the greatest things about public transport is the diverse variety of people you meet. While this brings endless opportunity to meet fascinating individuals, it also runs the risk of coming into contact with people with a less than satisfactory approach to personal hygiene.

If you’re unlucky enough to be sat next to one of these people, you’ll likely spend your journey practising the art of breathing only through your mouth, praying they’ll disembark before your lungs collapse and you’re forced to inhale their noisome scent.

Oftentimes, it’s not the passenger themselves but the food they’ve decided to consume in-transit that causes a problem. While most people understand it’s bad etiquette to stuff your face in a confined shared space, it seems some just can’t help themselves.

There’s not much you can do about malodorous co-commuters but, if you’re really desperate, consider bringing a nasal inhaler with you. It won’t totally combat the foul-smelling co-passenger, but it can go some way to offsetting the unpleasant feeling of being sat next to a human dumpster.

Crowded bus at sunset silhouettes

Photo by Ashley Gerlach on Unsplash

The sharer

Thanks to the proliferation of the smartphone, people can conduct conversations in public without ever making a sound. Most journeys today consist of people staring at their tiny screen, utterly absorbed in their personal bubble.

But there are those who don’t want to stay in their own bubble – in fact, they feel like their personal lives are so interesting, everyone else in the surrounding area should share in it. Even when their conversation is about not much of anything, these people are determined to let everyone in on the details.

The only way to deal with these people is to fight fire with fire. Whip out your phone, pretend to make a call and proceed to complain about the blabbering loudmouth you’ve been forced to share space with. They might take the hint and end the call but beware – talk too loudly and you run the risk of becoming the very thing you detest.

Passengers on their smartphones

The seat hoarder

You know the type. They’re usually accompanied by twenty bags of shopping or the entire contents of their home in various containers. But it doesn’t matter if they had one bag or twenty, they would still believe that the volume of their positions entitled them to additional seating.

The seat hoarder will typically have a permanent scowl attached to their face, eyes glued to their phone to avoid catching the disapproving gaze of their fellow passengers.

It’s difficult to say how best to deal with seat-hoarders. The worst offenders are so wrapped up in their entitlement, any effort to procure your own space would probably be futile. Instead, try to sit as close as possible to them and, if you have a pen and paper handy, slip a note into their shopping bags. The note doesn’t have to be mean or threatening, but perhaps a gentle reminder that they’re not the only one in need of a seat on transport. You never know, perhaps all they need is a nudge in the right direction.

Passenger hoarding seats on public transport with bags

The human boombox

So, you’re sat there, just enjoying your journey. Perhaps you’re watching a film, or browsing the internet quietly minding your own business. Then you hear them. Somewhere, the sound of crashing percussion, violent screaming, pounding bass, or a combination of all three, rattles around the carriage, and it’s coming closer.

When they sit down, you see it is not actually some slack-jawed oaf playing their music through the speaker on their phone (although these people deserve to be dragged behind the bus). Instead, it’s someone playing music through earphones at what must sound to them like an explosion in a fireworks factory. Still, it’s a remarkable testament to the sheer durability of the human eardrum.

Dealing with a human boombox can be tricky. For one, they’ll be completely oblivious to any audible attempt to engage with them. Instead, try signing to them to remove their earphones. When they do, mouth words to convince them they’ve given themselves permanent hearing damage.

Man optimising journey looking down aisle of plane

Of course, the passengers detailed here are exceptions to the norm; most people just want to ride their transport without upsetting their fellow passengers. But there are endless varieties of twerps dedicated to upsetting your journey; so who have we missed? Let us know in the comments below.

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Increasing accessibility on transport through staff awareness

How can we do more to support accessibility on transport?

By | Accessibility, Feature, Technology, Transport | No Comments

With travel technology rapidly changing the way we get around, it’s never been easier to get around than right now. The growth of the smartphone, ubiquitous connectivity and endless access to data are making travel faster, safer and more convenient. But what about for those who mobility isn’t a given? How easy is it for the differently abled to access the transport we take for granted every day?

In recent years, new technologies have emerged to expressly respond to the needs of disabled passengers. But with the advent of AI and a growing focus on personal technology, there comes a real opportunity to raise the standard of travel for everyone, including those with physical or learning disabilities.

Mobility scooters to increase mobility on transport

Audioguides

Even before the introduction of the Disability Discrimination Act, public transport companies in the UK took efforts to cater to people with visual impairments. Featuring braille at consistent locations on and around mass transit, installing tactile high-contrast warning surfaces along platform edges and making stop announcements inside and out transit vehicles have all gone some way to making travel safer for blind and partially sighted people.

Now emerging technologies are beginning to surface that focus on making journeys less challenging and more enjoyable for those with visual impairments. The Transport for Edinburgh mobile app comes with a feature that identifies the stop’s name and the bus services that depart from there when the user is nearby.

Wayfindr is an award-winning organisation aimed at helping the visually impaired independently manoeuvre indoor environments through audio-based navigation. With our increasingly connected environment, the dream that those with visual impairments could one day explore the world without limitations seems that little bit closer to reality.

Vibrating wristbands

The vibrating wristband concept has been touted as a solution for both deaf and blind commuters, but its value as a means of assisting disabled passengers is in no doubt. For those with hearing impairments, taking public transport can be more challenging than you think.

If you don’t know the area, finding when to disembark without a visual indicator can be a stressful experience. While modern buses and trains now regularly feature visual and audio notifications for the next destination, many older models don’t come with either.

That’s why the vibrating wristband could prove to be such a valuable tool. The device vibrates when the wearer approaches their chosen stop, with some designs incorporating a Bluetooth device that links up with the driver’s touchscreen or ticket machine.

Through further development and increased cooperation with transit companies, wristband technology could go on to redefine the travel experience for millions of people.

Wristband technology to increase accessiblity on transport

Audio-visual information

Navigating transport can be a major challenge for anyone. For those with learning difficulties, these challenges can be exacerbated by difficulties in understanding timetables and fact-sheets.

That’s why Mencap, the UK-based learning disability charity, has produced a series of factsheets aimed at helping those with learning disabilities understand and navigate the public transport system. The fact-sheets come in an easy-read format and cover every aspect of travel, including how to find your nearest transit station; how to request assistance in advance of a journey; entitlement to discounts; and overall accessibility of different transport types.

Outside the hustle and bustle of major cities, audio-visual information on transport is still heavily lacking. Compliance with PSVAR legislation is a requirement, but with rural and suburban public transport facing consistent funding issues, operators often lack the resources to retrofit their vehicles.

Speaking last year at a Lords debate on bus services, Baroness Jane Campbell argued that increased access for disabled passengers providing audio-visual (AV) announcements on buses would open up travel not only to people with visual impairments but also to those such as people with dementia, autism, learning difficulties and mental health conditions.

Onboard bus aisle with audio visual notifications

Smart Apps

Ride-sharing app Uber introduced the UberWAV app for wheelchair users back in 2016, although just like the company, the service has attracted criticism from some. For those looking to use public transport, however, more options are becoming available as developers look to better integrate new technologies with the surrounding environment.

Features like ramps and ‘kneeling vehicles’ now feature as standard for most modern coaches, while tactile paving helps alert people to where a tram or trains’ doors will open, making it easier for the visually impaired to find their carriage.

Apps like the Voice Dream Reader convert text-to-speech, and vice versa, to assist with communication for those with physical and learning challenges.

More developers are waking up to the need for dedicated apps for those with disabilities. With our the near ubiquitous connection that smartphones, roaming data and the IoT bring, we can begin to create a better, safer transport infrastructure for everyone.

Man relying on an app to navigate public transport

Improved staff awareness

Perhaps one of the most important changes transport networks can make to encourage accessibility is in the attitudes of staff. The past two decades have seen a marked improvement in how staff respond to the diverse needs of passengers, but there is still more to do to ensure every passenger is treated with the same level of care.

Lord Ahmad, the (former) Conservative junior transport minister, announced last year that the government was developing guidance on disability equality training. However, the ruling to introduce mandatory training across the bus industry was based on an EU regulation that was due to come into force in 2018, a regulation which could be delayed following the UK’s exit from the EU.

Following the Paralympic Games in 2012, the DfT began to consult with a number of different accessibility and transport groups to introduce more consistent measures across different transports. The results are slowly beginning to take shape. A draft of the Accessibility Action Plan (AAP) released for review was well-received but charity and disability rights campaigners argued the draft could go further, particularly in improving understanding among transport providers and staff to the needs of disabled people.

Whether these recommendations will lead to real change remains to be seen. While the AAP addressed the need for well-trained staff, the lack of consultation with Disabled People’s Organisations on what constitutes a good standard of training led many to see it as a token gesture.

Increasing accessibility on transport through staff awareness

In the UK, legislation on access to transport and facilities for individuals with disabilities was introduced in 1996, with the DfT establishing a comprehensive guideline for the design of accessible transport facilities. But accessibility on transport, particularly outside busy metropolitan cities, still has a long way to go. For citizens with disabilities, technology may provide a piece of the puzzle, but it’s up to everyone to realise the full picture.

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Looking down bus aisle in need of new transport technology

5 technologies to revitalise your coach hire service

By | Coach hire, Feature, Technology, Transport | No Comments

The commercial coach hire industry has weathered its fair share of obstacles in the past 50 years, including increasing costs, fluctuating demand and increasingly stringent safety and security regulations. But as we push further into the 21st century, urban transport is increasingly falling behind the innovations available. Some of these are unaffordable to all but the biggest companies, but there are still plenty of opportunities for independent coach hires to revitalise their fleet and bring their service into the 21st century.

Onboard WiFi is a must

These days, connectivity is seen as a basic human right on par with access to clean running water and free healthcare. It’s no secret that a country’s broadband speeds influences how it’s infrastructure is judged. Most people now don’t leave home without a mobile device, and while most of these devices will have some data to help people connect while on the move, this data is often in short supply, particularly on long journeys.

Providing your passengers with onboard WiFi shows you’re willing to ‘go the extra mile’ to ensure an enjoyable ride and keep them connected. By giving your passengers access to the outside world through their smartphones, you also remove some of the monotony from those long journeys – making it more likely that customer will book with you over a coach operator without an onboard connection.

It’s not just the passengers that benefit from an onboard connection – connected drivers are better placed to communicate with each other and manage pickup and drop-off processes, further streamlining journeys.

Man using his smartphone on a coach hire service

A mobile app

It’s hard to believe that only twenty years ago if you wanted to board pretty much any vehicle you would have to book your tickets in person from a travel agent or travel office. Nowadays, not only can you book online, you can book on the move, directly through a company’s mobile app.

Even if an official app is out of your company’s price range, ensuring your website is optimised for mobile and streamlining the online booking process can significantly increase the number of passengers. In the modern traveller’s world, convenience is second only to comfort.

A mobile app comes with several other benefits, including the direct line it provides to the passenger. An app can provide useful analytics on your passenger’s needs and enable you to better understand where in the sales funnel your company is losing potential passengers.

Of course, a mobile app is only useful if it works. Make sure to shop around for the best app developer for your particular needs. Your app should, above all, make browsing, booking and boarding easier for the customer.

Woman using smartphone airline app to book flights

Transport safety & security

As far as advanced mobility services go, safety and security technologies are often the last to be considered but they’re often the most easily accessible for independent firms. Onboard security features can cover any number of technologies, but CCTV and dashcams are the most commonly cited.

With a Sygnal CCTV system onboard, you can record every boarding and disembarkation and store it for future viewing, adding an additional level of security to drivers and passengers alike. Likewise, the Sygnal dashcam comes with a G-force sensor to store specific video if prompted as a result of increased G-force to prevent crash footage being recorded over.

These features don’t just increase security, they can lead to lower insurance rates, saving your firm money while ensuring total coverage in the event of an accident.

CCTV on bus and coach hire

Green transport features

Of course, the modern coach fleet comes with additional responsibilities – to the public and the environment. The transport sector today makes up around 23% of greenhouse gases internationally, with around 75% of that coming from road vehicles. That’s an awful lot of emissions – but green public procurement (GPP) initiatives have helped push green technologies to the fore – and could net adherents a handy tax break.

With more cities pledging to tax or ban outright diesel automobiles within the next ten years, now’s the time for coach hire services to look at upgrading their fleet. Some companies have even begun integrating photovoltaic solar cells onto their vehicles to power lighting and other onboard elements. They can be a costly investment but energy-saving technologies, particularly those based on harnessing renewable energy resources, can equal substantial savings in the long run.

Other technologies including hydrogen and biofuels should become more affordable, and thus a more viable alternative, in the future. Hybrid coaches are already reaping rewards for those willing to invest the time and money.

Onboard the vehicle, there are a number of features to reduce wastage. Most sectors are moving towards paperless operations, but almost 70% of UK coach hire companies revealed they still use paper ticketing for boarding passengers. Switching to e-ticketing doesn’t just benefit the environment, it provides long-term cost-cutting solutions to the business.

Public transport with green features on a coach hire service

Fleet management technology

With the developments in vehicle tracking, quantitative journey data and traffic flows, transport companies are slowly coming to realise that not every technology has to be prohibitively expensive or invasive.

Even today, ground travel management is too often rooted in traditional means of communication, vehicle monitoring and passenger tracking. The benefits go beyond a reduced corporate footprint – with onboard systems like that found in Sygnal’s standard consoles providing satellite GPS to track entire fleets and optimise travel times.

In fact, fleet management can be as simple as tracking overall usage of vehicles, distances, fuel consumption and passenger intake, all of which can be done through a simple data analysis. Big data is fast becoming an integral asset to transport companies. Its ubiquity as an optimisation tool among the big transport companies shouldn’t put anyone off, however.

Big data can be a simple and affordable means to gain valuable insights into passenger behaviour and vehicle performance. With additional technologies like e-ticketing and mobile apps, this data will only become more accurate as time goes by, for both large and small companies within the coach hire service sector.

Using data to control coach hire service fleet

None of these technologies is a substitute for recognising your passengers as people. The thing is, appealing to your customers as people is a key element of developing and integrating new technologies. By adding new levels of comfort, connectivity and security, coach operators can begin to entice customers away from the rails.

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Using your smartphone on a bus with onboard streaming server

5 mistakes coach hire must avoid in replacement services

By | Coach hire, Feature, Transport | No Comments

Delays and cancellations are a fact of life. For those in the transport industry, however, disruptions can mean stranded passengers, negative reviews and even a damaged brand image. The only response companies can give is to offer an alternative that meets as many of their requirements as possible. Unfortunately, this isn’t always as easy as it sounds.

No game plan

The key to handling unexpected delays? It’s all in the planning. You can’t anticipate every eventuality but, by preparing and regularly rehearsing for a range of scenarios, you can rest a little easier in the knowledge that you’ll be ready to respond when the time comes.

In your preparations, you should already have drawn up clearly marked designated waiting areas, arranged a procedure for transporting passengers to new areas and allocated vehicles for different routes.

“Coordinated preparation should already inform every aspect of your services”

Additionally, it’s essential to have replacement routes planned out in advance so you know where each bus will go and when they’ll reach those destinations. This isn’t just a means of keeping track of your own vehicles. Passengers expect to be kept informed of new developments – the more (reliable) information you make available to passengers, the more they will trust you’re in control of the situation.

Coordinated preparation should already inform every aspect of your services, extending this ethos to your replacement services should be par for the course.

 Looking down the interior of long-distance replacement transport service

No transparency

Regardless of the circumstances surrounding the need to supply an emergency replacement service, passengers are entitled to know their rights. In a nutshell: transparency is vital to maintaining trust with your passengers.

It’s crucial to ensure any public announcements make clear how the planned replacements are likely to affect passengers plans. What time will this mean they arrive at their destination? How will their luggage be transported? Where will their new transport drop them off?

Stress that all efforts are being made to restore normal service, but don’t under any circumstances withhold further information regarding their rights to seek refunds. This doesn’t mean throwing your company under the bus; it means taking responsibility when the time comes. Companies across the world have learned the hard way, it’s better to admit responsibility and do your best to rectify it than try to dodge the blame.

Men looking at departure board waiting for their replacement bus service

Not enough seats

If your coach hire service covers a diverse range of vehicle sizes, make sure the replacement has enough seating. In fact, for safety’s sake, it’s vital you assume every seat was reserved. If you have accurate figures on passenger numbers, use these to ensure everybody is allocated a seat as close to the original seating plan as possible. That’s the kind of brand blemish that sticks with a company and damages profits down the line.

Remember too, that these vehicles should aim to reach each passenger’s destination in good time. If your cancelled journey was a long-distance service due to stop at ten different locations, try to ensure the replacement bus service will be able to reach each of these destinations in good time. Even if this means providing different buses for specific locations, it’s better to err on the safe side than risk putting off passengers for life.

Red bus crossing bridge under blue sky as public transport

No appropriate waiting areas

Don’t leave your passengers adrift in the pouring rain waiting for their replacement coach hire service. Instead, ensure your passengers are just as safe and comfortable whilst waiting for a replacement service as they would be if they were on their originally intended vehicle.

If the delay or cancellation means passengers won’t be able to reach their destination that day, you should have procedures in place to provide alternative accommodation. This doesn’t have to be a five-star affair at the city’s finest hotel but it should be of a standard that won’t give your passengers a sleepless night.

Limiting the stress to passengers requires some anticipatory actions too. This includes putting in place measures to ensure passengers don’t have to walk more than 200 metres to reach a replacement vehicle. If possible, you should always try to provide a form of transport to the alternative accommodation, or at the very least, inform passengers that any costs incurred in reaching the new departure location will be refunded.

People waiting at Waterloo station for a replacement coach service

No backup plan

This one comes back to the theme of being prepared for every eventuality, and setting those plans in place from day one. Replacement vehicles should be reliable, safe and constantly available to be called into action. For the smaller coach operators, any vehicle owned or operated by or on their behalf should be regularly checked to ensure they’re in usable condition.

Your replacement service, of course, depends on the reasons for the cancellation. If your transport plans have changed due to poor weather, your response will be significantly different to if it were due to a vehicle failure. Planning alternative routes, preparing and maintaining backup vehicles, establishing connections with hotels for fall-back accommodation and setting in place emergency procedures in the event of a travel accident can all help avert PR disasters.

For mechanical failures, your options can be fairly limited. The larger coach operators tend to have multiple replacement coaches on standby, while the smaller companies may struggle to afford to keep a vehicle out of service for emergencies. In the event of vehicle failure, smaller coach companies should focus on keeping reliable mechanics on hand to sort maintenance issues when they arise. 

A replacement bus service driving past a bus stop on long exposure

Despite all the steps you can take to manage contingencies, it’s important to acknowledge that a replacement service will rarely be as good as the original service. Offering replacement transport is largely an act of damage-limitation, even when the travel disruption is down to matters beyond your control. How far you’re willing to go in limiting said damage depends on how many resources you have at your disposal, but gambling with your brand reputation is a risk no company should be willing to take.

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