Road transport generates about a fifth of all greenhouse gas emissions in the UK. If we are to succeed in tackling climate change, there needs to be a radical shift in how we use transport, including reducing reliance on owning our own cars. Of course, this is easier said than done, especially in rural areas where alternative transport options are often limited. The challenge is particularly acute in the highlands and islands of Scotland; an area covering half of Scotland’s land mass and host to 600,000 tourists every year - 75% of whom travel by car or motorhome. For the Highlands & Islands Statutory Regional Partnership (HITRANS), Mobility as a Service (MaaS) had huge potential for helping to rebalance how people travel, but first they needed our help setting up a pilot project to test how a MaaS solution might work, and how effective it could be, across the region.
MaaS brings together multiple modes of travel, combining options for different transport providers into a single service. From bike hire to car clubs, taxi and ride sharing, to public transport, including bus, rail, aviation and even ferries and flights, MaaS allows access to all modes of transport via a single payment platform.
But it’s about more than just an app. While a MaaS app makes it much easier to plan, book, pay for and access different transport services, it will only work – and create the necessary behavioural change – if there are a good range of reliable, affordable transport services available in the first place. There is a very direct link between supply and demand. If lots of customers use the MaaS app, it can give transport service providers the confidence to lay on more services, and so over time MaaS can be one of the most effective enablers when it comes to driving change.
However, before getting to this point, HITRANS needed to test if MaaS would work for the region. The first step was to secure funding for the initiative, and so our role, working as part of a consortium of partners all responsible for various elements of the project, was to lead the successful funding bid to Transport Scotland’s MaaS Investment Fund. Having secured funding, it meant that by June 2020 the pilot project was now in a position to get underway.
Working together, the funded partners and a wide range of transport service providers developed a MaaS solution called GO-HI to allow residents, businesses and tourists to use a single app to plan, book and pay for all their journeys. We continued to play a supporting role working with partners to develop the approach to marketing and to monitoring and evaluation.
Measuring the impacts of the MaaS service on travel behaviour and customer experience will be vital when it comes to proving the benefits case and designing future service improvements.
Our role included developing an understanding of the lessons learned by partners in the lead up to the launch of the pilot. These lessons learned, not only from the process of forming the consortium, but also in developing the technical solutions and forming partnerships with service providers, can be used to ultimately provide a better integrated transport service for residents and visitors alike.
GO-HI is the largest MaaS programme to date in the UK. It will increase the accessibility of integrated transport for residents, visitors and business travellers in some of Scotland's most rural areas.
As the pilot progresses, participating transport providers will be able to access data about the demand for their services. This will help them to better understand the needs of people in the region and to make more informed decisions about the provision of services. It has already resulted in Enterprise Car Club, the Bewegen and Brompton Bike Hire system, and others, gaining the confidence to provide more transport choices for customers in the region. Ultimately this will play a significant part in helping to reduce the number of vehicles on the road, cutting congestion and limiting harmful emissions.