Using data to drive economic growth

Data and new technologies transport

Data gathering and commercialisation of transport networks key to the growth of UK cities

This week, the second UK Northern Powerhouse Annual Conference took place in Manchester. Among the hot topics under discussion were how to engender collaboration amongst those that have competing agendas, and the role of transport in furthering the economic growth of the north and the great cities and towns that lie therein.

I am preaching to the choir here when I say that public transport is vital in connecting citizens and visitors with the best shopping, leisure and cultural attractions that our key cities have to offer. Transport systems also have a fundamental role to play in the health of our economies; mobilising workforces, ensuring access to jobs, and enabling businesses to thrive in different parts of the UK.

Research launched earlier this month by our award-winning national consumer panel,, reveals that UK urbanites rate transport links the number one thing that makes a city a great place to live (63%), followed by friendly people (54%) and good open spaces (53%).

The research marks the launch of Exterion Media’s year-long nationwide initiative, Urbanology, designed to celebrate and promote key cities outside of London. We recognise the commercial strength and value of the audiences in these cities across the UK and the role transport has to play in driving prosperity in hubs outside the Capital for advertisers and brands.

Regular readers of Passenger Transport will undoubtedly recognise that there is more work to be done on improving network connectivity and reliability of transport in the UK. They will also recognise the need for new funding models and creation of new revenue streams in order to improve infrastructure.  Planned, cohesive commercialisation of networks outside of the fare box is needed. Our aim at Exterion Media is to support operators and transport authorities on this journey.  It isn’t just about incorporating advertising space into infrastructure designs and selling advertising, it is also about creating an improved passenger experience. Through collaboration we can provide utility and information that a number of organisations can be involved with and benefit from, whilst at the same time getting the balance between appropriateness and  suitability to the audience against the commercial proposition.

The adoption of digital and data technologies is central to the advancement of transport and ultimately economic prosperity in urban areas across the UK. Last month, Strathclyde Partnership for Transport announced plans to allow passengers to use their mobile phones to pay for travel on Glasgow Subway, marking a first for Scotland. More widespread implementation of this ticketing technology has the potential to aid the integration of cities’ transport infrastructure, and offers lucrative opportunities for transport operators to generate additional funds through the data gathered.  

The use of data generated from mobile payments, for example, allows transport operators to build a clearer picture of their passengers travel patterns. This enables them to refine products and services, increasing customer satisfaction and ticket sales, as well as unlocking non-fare revenue streams by offering targeted advertising opportunities on their networks. Aside from the monetary benefits delivered for operators, data-driven advertising enhances the passenger experience by making the environment more engaging and enjoyable for travellers.

Further the insights delivered from payment systems, Wi-Fi and beacon networks regarding consumers travel patterns and behaviours beyond the journey itself will inform network planning and business cases for investment. In order to support regional powerhouses and fuel innovation within their own operations, transport operators and authorities must look to build cohesive collaborative partnerships with commercial organisations that can help them unlock these valuable insights and vital new revenue streams.

The Northern Powerhouse inspires collaboration; it is at the heart of the concept. Connecting cities and towns, investment in infrastructure and prioritisation will remain hot debates. However, in the rush to deliver effective new networks across the north it is key that sustainable data gathering and revenue-generating strategies are not an afterthought and that they are planned in. At Exterion Media, we remain committed to driving economic growth through data and our understanding of consumers in the UK’s largest cities, supporting partnership, collaboration and enhancing passenger journeys in the process.

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