Transport for London could cash in on open data expertise through new consulting arm

Rebecca Smith
The transport body is mulling how best to sell its expertise including around open data
The transport body is mulling how best to sell its expertise including around open data (Source: Getty)

Transport for London (TfL) has shed more light on the role of its consultancy arm in the works, saying today that it is exploring new commercial avenues through releasing open data.

The transport body makes its information, spanning timetables, service status and disruption, publicly accessible. And according to a report out today by Deloitte for the transport body, that generates £130m in economic benefits and savings to the capital each year.

As well as working with developers to identify market opportunities, TfL said it was mulling commercialising its expertise around open data and a TfL spokesperson confirmed its consulting arm could handle that aspect in the future.

Read more: Transport for London sets wheels in motion for new trading arm

The likes of Waze, Twitter, Citymapper and Mapway, use TfL data to create both commercial and non-commercial products and services. These are then picked up by users of London transport.

There are now over 600 apps using TfL data, which in turn are used by 42 per cent of Londoners. Even more - 83 per cent - use TfL’s site which holds similar information.

As for the breakdown of the financial impact of TfL releasing open data for developers to use, passengers save time thanks to being able to plan journeys with real-time information, to the tune of £70m-90m a year. And Deloitte's report pegged the gross value added from firms using TfL data commercially at £12m-£15m per year.

TfL said the open data is also allowing the market to develop new transport and apps and services, with over 13,000 registered developers currently. And it gets cost savings by not having to build apps itself, or through co-developing with third party developers.

Vernon Everitt, managing director of customers, communication and technology at TfL, said

With over 31m journeys made in London every day, it is vital that people have the right travel information readily available to help them travel around the city. This new research from Deloitte backs our strong belief that providing data in an open, transparent and free-to-access way can be massively beneficial for both London and the wider economy.

Jeni Tennison, chief executive of the Open Data Institute, said that by using open data effectively, it's estimated that 629m hours of "unnecessary waiting time could be saved on the EU's roads and energy consumption could be reduced by 16 per cent".

TfL's consulting arm is still being shaped, but it has previously given a conservative estimate of bringing in tens of millions by providing its expertise to operators around the world, which it could then reinvest back into London's transport network.

It is still deciding the scope for its consultancy arm, but will look to build on contracts it has already secured, such as one with Cubic Transportation Systems agreeing a licence for use of London's contactless ticketing system worldwide for up to £15m.

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