Accelerating transport with digital innovation

10 January 2017

Ahead of PwC’s first transport digital masterclass, Grant Klein discusses why digital is so important to the sector. Designed to really understand what digital means for the transport sector, we are running a masterclass which will look at how transport and related sectors have successfully applied digital across their businesses. For more information or to request a place please contact us.

As PwC prepares to host its first digital masterclass for the transport industry, the sector is facing a period of competing pressures. On the one hand, there is unprecedented spending on new infrastructure, while on the other transport operators are having to find ways of reducing the cost to provide services to customers to meet tighter operating constraints. Digital lies at its heart of helping to deliver against both of these challenges.

In last year’s Autumn Statement, improving transport and infrastructure emerged as a key priority for the new government. Commitments were made to invest in both large scale infrastructure and smaller ‘shovel ready’ projects, with the intention of making sweeping improvements across the network.

Central to these plans is the government’s stated intention to improve the lives of everyone and create an inclusive economy that leaves no one behind. This government focus provides the transport sector with a once in a generation opportunity to transform itself in a user and passenger centred way. And the sector’s ability to do this digitally will be crucial to whether it succeeds or fails.  

There is no doubt that digital transformation is profoundly affecting many areas of our lives and that it has the power to improve people’s everyday travel experiences. Digital can mean delivering improved services, connectivity and creating a safer and more reliable network.

While the benefits of digital may be clear, ensuring digital trust with customers must also be a priority. If the sector can achieve this, and empower the travelling customer using digital resources, it will become more user centred, making transport increasingly personal and improving passenger comfort. Smart ticketing, real time information flows and automation and safety demonstrate the benefits.

Smart ticketing and payments

The increase in customers using smart forms of ticketing has been dramatic in the past ten years. And PwC’s Smarter Moves survey shows that passengers have a preference for smart tickets over non-smart options. 34% of our 2015 survey respondents have a future preference for a paper ticket, while 46% would prefer to use a smart option (a combination or smart card, contactless bank card and mobile device).

Not only is this type of ticketing more convenient for customers, saving time to buy and collect, it can also guarantee that passengers always pay the cheapest fare. TfL already does this, charging either for a daily travel card or multiple individual journeys, depending on which is cheaper in a given time period.

For the industry this kind of digital use of tickets will help to streamline and automate processes such as refunds for delays. It will also allow them to deploy staff away from ticket desks to areas which improve customer experience and support.

The data that smart tickets produce will allow providers to better understand how customers use the services, which will help them improve timetable and resource planning with the passenger at the centre.

Real-time information

Passengers now have access to just as much, if not more, real time information on the transport services that they are using as the operator.  Digital operations control systems that register unexpected disruptions can integrate the information in the timetable while simultaneously informing and re-routing passengers.  This will make it easier for the customer and the operator, whilst infrastructure owners can create a more responsive and flexible service optimised to the customer experience.  

Automation and safety

As passenger numbers increase, the network has to adapt to an ever larger volume of customers. Digital innovation could play a huge role in this, by increasing throughput and reducing intervals between services. On the railway, automatic train control systems in which vehicles and trackside equipment communicate via electronic data transmissions, has the potential to dramatically improve safety and capacity. Using digital technology can help manage the flow of passengers through stations, identify issues and take instant action like opening or closing gates when platforms are overloaded or divert passengers to other modes of transport.

For the sector to really take advantage of these innovations and transform itself, operators and providers need to be ready to embrace them. Our first digital masterclass for transport in March is designed to learn from best practice examples across the public sector and business.  If the sector can get digital right, it has the opportunity to really transform itself and help the UK achieve its growth ambitions.


Grant Klein | Partner
Profile | Email | +44 (0)20 7213 3027




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