​NSW government seeks partner to trial Uber-like public transport

The state government department is seeking an industry partner to help it trial on-demand public transport services.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

Transport for NSW is looking to partner with industry to develop a series of pilots that will see the trial of on-demand public transport services.

The state government has gone to tender, calling for pitches comprising "innovative models" for on-demand services that also offer customers personalised and flexible technology-enabled solutions.

According to Transport for NSW customer services deputy secretary Tony Braxton-Smith, partnering with industry leaders would put the government department at the forefront of the "technology revolution".

"New and emerging technologies are changing the way that businesses operate, with customers now expecting to get what they want when they want it, and transport needs to keep up," Braxton-Smith said.

"The beauty of on-demand services is that they could improve the convenience and reliability of public transport for all customers, not just those on main transport routes."

It is expected that all successful pilot programs will be operational by the end of 2017.

Previously alluding to the trial of on-demand transport solutions in New South Wales, state Transport and Infrastructure Minister Andrew Constance said he wants to see public transport in the state behave the same way streaming services do with movies and television programs.

"We have Netflix, Stan, and Foxtel to give us movies on demand -- so why can't we have our public transport respond to where people are and what they want?" Constance said. "Imagine a NSW where you don't need to check the timetable because the right numbers of trains, buses, or ferries arrive when and where they need to. This future is not far off if we are quick off the mark today."

It is anticipated that data including how people travel, weather, and special events will be used to create public transport planning changes in real-time. The state government also wants to see the end of timetables and a network that can cut down on travel delays by automatically adding extra trains in high congestion times.

"We want the biggest ideas from the best minds in innovation and technology to get cracking on this -- they know better than the government does, and I don't want to restrict their imagination," Constance said.

Pointing to the Future Transport Technology Roadmap launched in April, Braxton-Smith said staying ahead of the curve when it comes to adopting the latest technologies is a priority for Transport for NSW.

"Cultivating more personalised and tailored services is a key target identified in the roadmap and this project is an important step towards that goal. Successful ideas will generate great opportunities for the market in future service contracts," he said on Tuesday.

"The most innovative ideas often come through collaboration which is why we want leaders in the technology and transport industries to work with us to develop a clever, creative solution."

As part of the roadmap, the NSW government is looking to develop advanced analytics and artificial intelligence capabilities to move toward smarter ways of managing road and public transport networks to tackle congestion and personalise services as well.

Additionally, the state government hopes to extend the functionality of the Opal card -- a contactless smartcard ticketing system used on NSW public transport -- to become a payment platform for all transport related costs across the state, possibly including road tolls and taxis.

In August, Constance announced the department would be leveraging Opal travel data to indicate the volume of people travelling on a particular bus service, letting commuters know how full their next bus is before it arrives.

It was also announced last month that commuters would soon be able to receive personalised messages through Twitter that inform them of disruptions on the state's suburban and intercity train lines, with the three-month trial kicking off this month.

"We want to create a more personalised experience for our customers and the new Twitter automatic alerts pilot is a major step in that direction," Constance said previously.

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