A development that is sure to be relevant to many clients of transport consultants is the UK Department for Transport (DfT)’s recent publication of its new Transport Data Strategy.
The Transport Data Strategy outlines how the department intends to work alongside the transport sector to make the most of the benefits of data. The aims behind this work are to help grow and “level up” the economy, lower environmental impacts, and optimise transport for the user.
It is hoped that improving the discoverability, accessibility, and quality of transport data will support innovation. But what has been said so far about the new strategy, and the effects it could have on the wider industry and users of the UK’s transport infrastructure?
The right data can greatly help improve people’s everyday lives
The DfT has spoken highly of the Transport Data Strategy and the plans that it sets out for the greater use of data in transport. The department explained that it is seeking to help improve the ways in which people find, use, and gain value from transport data, in order to support greater innovation in the sector and deliver better services.
In attendance at a launch event for the Transport Data Strategy on the morning of Tuesday 28th March 2023 at the RAC, transport technology minister Jesse Norman MP referenced the importance of data, and the role it plays in so many people’s lives.
The minister cited examples of the transport industry’s progress so far in relation to open data, including Transport for London (TfL)’s release of open data, as well as the DfT’s Street Manager tool and the Bus Open Data Service.
Inevitably, however, there is always more that can be done, which is why the sharing of data is one of the core themes of the strategy. In full, those themes are:
• Sharing, discoverability, and access
• Data standards and quality
• Skills, culture, and leadership
• User needs and communication
• Governance, protection, and ethnics
Discussions at the launch event revealed that a common theme of concern was the attention that needs to be paid to local authorities. It was found that from one local authority to another, there can be wildly varying processes for the collection and sharing of data, based on the requirements, skills, and resources of the local authority in question.
This situation led to many people calling for a standard that would help make this process easier for local authorities to carry out, while also being of benefit to those who wished to utilise the data produced.
With reference to this concern, DfT representatives at the launch event drew attendees’ attention to the department’s publication of guidance for local authorities in England. This guidance provides advice and case studies on the opening-up and sharing of transport data. Crucially, it explains both why and how this should be done, so that other parties are able to use the data.
How have others responded to the Transport Data Strategy?
Among those providing their reaction to the DfT’s launch of this new strategy was the Chartered Institution of Highways & Transportation (CIHT).
The charity and membership body said it was currently researching the role of data and artificial intelligence (AI). In addition, the organisation stated that it had recently established a Task & Finish group to explore AI’s potential role in helping the transport sector to achieve transport decarbonisation goals.
The CIHT added: “We particularly want to look at what more can be done to support local authorities to adopt and apply AI within their practices.”
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