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PA OPINION

How an agile mindset can accelerate progress towards Mobility-as-a-Service

Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) has huge potential to contribute to a positive human future in a technology-driven world. A seamless, integrated and multi-modal transport network can optimise existing capacity and, most importantly, better meet the needs of passengers.

Embracing MaaS would enable passengers to access the transport they need and personalise their journeys. Imagine, a single app that lets you select a journey that runs to your schedule and preferences on cost, comfort levels, environmental impact, journey time and more. With much of the required technology available today to make this a reality, MaaS is a future of transport that’s within our reach.

The UK Government recognises the potential of MaaS to deliver better experiences for passengers, improve sustainability and better manage demand and capacity on transport networks. Its Future of mobility: urban strategy outlines plans to enable this kind of innovation. Meanwhile, the Department for Transport is engaging with a broad range of agencies and local government to share best practice and build understanding of the risks and challenges associated with MaaS.

And yet – despite the clear opportunity for transport operators to offer user-centric, multi-modal travel – progress is slow. Take the example of Whim, an app which gives its users all city transport services in one place via a subscription or pay-as-you-go model. Offering access to public transport, taxis and rental cars via a single platform and operated in the West Midlands by Maas Global, the service has been running since 2008 but is yet to scale nationally.

There are several barriers stalling progress. The key players – Government, established transport operators and new market entrants – are pushing hard to deliver a shared vision, but most continue to operate reactively and in silos. Industry continues to debate which is the optimal form of MaaS. Government is battling to keep pace with the required legislative changes to enable a transport evolution. And infrastructure operators and transport providers are trying to understand their place in any new ecosystem as their customer relationship becomes one step removed by app owners/providers.

How to go further, faster

With other countries such as Finland, Singapore and America setting the pace, the UK needs a new approach if it’s to lead the world in shaping the future of mobility.

To bring all the relevant stakeholders together and set a clear vision, Government needs to drive the MaaS agenda in collaboration with infrastructure operators and private sector service providers. It needs to clearly state its commitment to enabling and supporting change. For Government, the priorities should be to:

  • make a statement of intent and define the case for change
    Customer demand should drive this, recognising that technologies and customer needs will continue to evolve at pace. The Government’s Road to Zero Strategy was a great example of a clear message of intent.
  • establish an agile governance framework
    Government should create a governance framework with the flexibility to respond to emerging trends and challenges, and balance safety, equality and value for money with support for innovation.
  • create an agile service model
    The service model should be able to shift in response to findings from pilots and studies, and join the dots across a broad set of stakeholders to develop a coordinated response.
  • empower a dynamic team to act at pace
    An agile, multi-disciplinary team should have a mandate to continuously improve the approach, reflecting on potential challenges and how to overcome them using responsive, data-driven decision-making.
  • identify enablers for integration
    The same team should identify enablers for integration to more likely make a multi-modal transport system a success, such as open data, enabling effective management of the digital infrastructure to best utilise new technologies and data insights.

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Agile thinking will benefit business too

A clear statement of intent from Government will allow the private sector to invest with confidence, with a clear set of rules within which they can operate and build a viable business. As with new entrants, existing operators should borrow from agile thinking and:

  • build to evolve
    Transport operators should look to select technology and models that enable them to flex as the MaaS market evolves, reacting to shifting customer demands and constantly refining their offering to compete in the marketplace. As businesses look to harness insightful data, they’ll need to move away from bolt-on digital technologies and towards modular, decoupled and highly adaptive systems.
  • speed up time to value
    Incumbents must think big, start small and scale fast to match the speed offered by new entrants, who quickly launch minimum viable products, using performance and customer feedback to drive the next iteration of their offering.

Pulling it all together

The Mayor of London’s Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Taskforce is an example of what business, infrastructure and government can achieve when they come together to shape a common goal.

While MaaS remains a concept for many, the way we use transport is changing. There are pockets of MaaS, but we’re still at the start of this complex change. We can’t ignore consumer demand and the potential of MaaS to create a positive human future.

By taking a more agile approach, we can collaborate and innovate on the scale required to deliver a complex, integrated transport system, and inject new pace into making it happen. By adopting an agile mindset, the UK transport sector will be better placed to meet the challenges of the future and create the right environment to better contribute to, and support, the UK economy.

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