Ministers are completing the legal groundwork for the Bus Open Data Service (BODS), paving the way for new powers by the end of the year to ensure operators disclose data on fares, timetables and locations. Lord Holmes objects to the fact that accessibility data will not also be included.
The regulations would provide new legislation to require bus operators of local bus services across England, but outside London, to openly publish data electronically about their services through legally mandated data standards.
The move is designed to boost passenger numbers and support travel app development and follows Transport for London’s successful open data strategy and Transport for the West Midlands’s investment in providing a single data source for apps and journey planners across the region.
In London it is estimated that Citymapper and the Bus Times app had together delivered economic benefits of between £90m and £130m a year from travel time savings.
It has been over a year since the Bus Services Act was in the Lords at which time Lord Holmes raised the fact that there was no requirement for operators to provide accessibility data for vehicles or bus stops with ministers.
Despite these concerns, the Department for Transport failed to make such provision in the regulations and has even refused to provide a timeline for the when operators might be obliged to provide this data. Lord Holmes said:
‘It’s an extraordinary position that we find ourselves in. Over a year after we were told it’s not the right time to do this, again we see accessibility treated as a nice-to-have option or even an irritant rather than an essential element and an economic driver.
‘Everyone benefits from this having this. It is not an inordinate cost and burden. It’s not seen as an imperative for all concerned.
‘This information has significant economic and psychological benefits, it will help with rebuilding the economy and rebuilding communities by helping social ills such as isolation. There is nothing that is not positive and inclusive in this.’
The DfT has always maintained that requiring the disability data was too much of a burden for operators. However, this argument was dismissed by Lord Holmes.
‘This is just a deeply disappointing and avoidable mistake. This is not the hard stuff. The data is known. The specification for every vehicle on the road is known and it can be applied to the routes. It should have been seen as a positive step for all concerned.’
Bus Open Data: A data revolution but an accessibility fail, Transport Network, 8 July 2020
Bus accessibility fail is open to legal challenge, peer warns, Transport Network, 27 July 2020
Disability taxi access to Bank Junction is not a luxury but a necessity, Taxi Point, 3 July 2021
Talking Buses Come to Manchester, 30 September 2016