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February 4, 2019updated 15 Jul 2022 7:04am

TfL Planning iBus2: Complete Revamp of Bus Connectivity

TfL: We want Open Data and less cost...

By CBR Staff Writer

London’s lumbering, fume-snorting buses may sometimes seem like a relic from a previous industrial era, but for all their many flaws, they are home to a surprising amount of technology – not least the infrastructure that underpins Transport for London (TfL)’s iBus system, which spans vehicle location, passenger information, payments data collection, traffic light signalling and more.

The iBus system uses a combination of on-bus computers, GPS, a wide-area network (WAN), and a smartphone app API to provide real-time bus location information to passengers and depots, as well as a wealth of data to TfL.

iBus also underpins the data collection and calculation engine behind £2 billion in annual payments to London’s bus operating companies (BOCs) and helps buses connect with 2,700 smart traffic lights via shortwave, to request priority.

ibus, ibus2, tfl

With an initial £162.4 million contract for the system awarded to Siemens in 2005 – later taken over by Trapeze in 2009 – the system has been in place for some time.

After 14 years, is it time for a replacement?

Time for iBus2?

Trapeze won a fresh five-year £98.2 million contract in May 2015 that includes clauses for two further one-year extensions.

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TfL is looking ahead to 2022, however,  and mulling plans to fundamentally overhaul the spine of the capital’s bus intelligence provision, with plans for an “iBus2” beginning to take shape.

A public information notice gives a flavour of what TfL is hoping for.

Computer Business Review took a closer look at the procurement brochure too. Here’s what we found. Firstly, TfL has three main aspirations for its planned iBus2: lower cost, more flexibility and the ability to function as a source of Open Data.

(London’s buses pump between 26,100-43,500 files daily into TfL’s 7TB database; downloading it via wi-fi at their respective depots.)

Read this: TfL – Calling All White Hats

Yet right now, TfL is not entirely sure what it’s looking for.

The company is planning a Market Briefing Event to discuss potential solutions, tentatively pencilled in for Thursday 14.2.2019. Meanwhile, assessing options.

As the brochure puts it: “It is possible that through this process TfL will decide to procure a similar end-to-end system to the one that exists today. Equally, TfL has a history of innovation and is not averse to change.”

“There are a number of other models for running solutions using standards based architectures and through these, introducing more choice to TfL, more flexibility for bus operators and a standard platform for future change.”

“Currently, our thinking is that TfL may procure a back office solution from a single supplier, but would like to explore the ability to purchase on-vehicle hardware from multiple vendors that can operate with that back office. This is a position statement only and the EME process is intended to inform the final decision.”

As its vision statement sums up though, in a time of biting cost-savings, one thing is paramount: cost-efficiency.

(TfL drives over 85 percent of its revenue from passenger income and last year was forced to tighten its belt [pdf] as it faced its first financial year without a direct operational grant from the government, meaning the loss of more than £700 million in funding.)

“The iBus2 project will provide an ITS solution for London buses which costs less to operate, retains the current functionality of iBus as a minimum… provides more flexible and efficient bus operation, service control and management of bus services by BOCs… Allows TfL to plan an efficient bus network for London and has a life expectancy of not less than 15 years.”

See also: TfL Offers £186 Million to Simplify Asset Management Software

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