Transport for London has started investigating the use of global positioning system (GPS) technology for tracking its buses, to support the planned expansion of its fleet to 10,000 vehicles over the next few years.
The London Buses division of TfL is looking at GPS-based systems in Hong Kong and New York as part of its plans for updating the existing £50m Automatic Vehicle Location application.
The AVL system, which incorporates radio systems on buses, countdown screens at bus stops and microwave-based roadside beacons, was not designed to cope with the increasing number of bus services that have been pledged by Mayor Ken Livingstone, London Buses said.
Meanwhile, First, the UK’s largest bus and train company, is planning to roll out handheld PCs across different areas of its business after the success of a trial with bus conductors in the north west of England.
The company, which has a turnover of more than £2bn and 57,000 employees across the UK and North America, said it has boosted efficiency and improved customer service since rolling out 16 Casio EG-800 rugged devices to bus inspectors earlier this year.
It has ordered a further 30 devices from IT reseller IT Partnership and plans to roll out the technology to other customer facing staff in the north-west division and throughout the company.
The system, based on Pocket PC software from Microsoft, has freed up 40% of the bus inspectors’ time usually spent on data processing, allowing them to focus on areas such as timetables and traffic information.
“Our inspectors have been becoming more and more like walking libraries with the huge amounts of paperwork and literature they require on the job,” said Tony Pilling, UK bus systems manager of First’s bus division in the north west.
“The new system means less paperwork on and off the buses and more efficient data processing. For example, customer surveys are now ready in 24 hours, where previously they took seven to 10 days to process.”