For over 100 years, Reading Buses has stood as a pioneer in public transport innovation.
From its origins as a 19th century horse tram company, Reading Buses has since progressed through electric trams, trolleybuses and motor buses, all leading up to today’s fleet of 207 vehicles – 70% of which are environmentally friendly hybrid, biogas or Euro VI diesel powered. It’s fair to say that the independent operator is something of a trendsetter; one that consistently seeks out new technology to improve and evolve the services that it offers.
“We’ve always led technological innovation where we can,” begins Jake Osman, Marketing & Communications Manager at Reading Buses. “We invest a great deal of profit back into exploring new ideas to act as a testing bed for innovation.”
However, Reading Buses is very much opposed to the notion of “innovation for innovation’s sake.” Any investment in Reading Buses technology over the past century places one factor firmly at its core: the customer.
“Any new technology we invest in at Reading Buses must be delivered in the pursuit of a more efficient, comfortable passenger experience; it must address the human component of public transport,” says Osman. “When it comes to merging technological innovation with the needs of the customer, there are few better names in the industry than Passenger.
“Passenger is an expert at filtering today’s complex data into technology that people using the bus can benefit from. That’s exactly the kind of innovation Reading Buses wants to be known for.”
Translating today’s data
For Reading Buses, Passenger stands as a kind of translator; one that can communicate complex information from operator to customer. It takes the vast, complex data collated by the Reading Buses team, then transforms it into something that their customers benefit from on a day-to-day basis – in the form of the Reading Buses app.
“As an operator, you can have all of the transport data in the palm of your hand, but if you can’t turn it into something beneficial to the customer then it’s no good to anyone,” says Osman. “Thankfully we have a partner in Passenger that can do just that. They have worked through the bus patronage thought process from the perspective of the customer and developed the technology around them.”
For Reading Buses – an operator that places understanding of the customer at the heart of its business strategy – this consumer-centric view is vital.
“Digital innovation isn’t all about what the operator wants from the customer; it’s also important to consider the flip side – what the customer wants from the operator,” says Osman. “Passenger’s tools work because they understand the bus customer and the bus operator, and have developed a logical system based on that mutual relationship. That’s what makes Passenger the perfect translator when it comes to communicating Reading Buses’ information. And a great example of that can be found in Live Buses.”
We’ll do it Live
What customers expect from an operator can come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but it often drills down to the tenets of timeliness, trustworthiness and efficiency. Passenger’s Live Buses deployment for Reading Buses addresses all three.
“One of the most basic things a customer desires is to be confident that their bus is actually coming: they want to know where it is, where they can get it and when,” says Osman. “Passenger approached development on Live Buses from that perspective.”
Live Buses tracks Reading Buses’ fleet on an interactive map, plotting exactly where the vehicles on a service happen to be at any given time. “With our Live Buses, customers can see their bus moving in real-time, providing them with confirmation of its physical location,” says Osman.
“What that does is very important – it inspires confidence. Prior to Live Buses, customers couldn’t always be fully assured that a bus would arrive; any number of unavoidable factors can impact on punctuality. But with Live Buses, they can be confident that a bus is on its way – even if it may be late due to factors outside our control. Customers don’t need to interact with an operator to find out where the bus is or when it will arrive – they can easily check the map, then time leaving their house or office to meet it at the stop.
“The Live Buses functionality is the perfect example of Passenger taking data and communicating it as something coherent, immediately available and – importantly – reassuring for the customer.”
Alongside Alerts and Disruptions, Live Buses stands as just one piece of the real-time Passenger puzzle – and one that Reading Buses customers have found incredibly valuable. “The response has been overwhelmingly positive,” says Osman. “With these tools, our customers can more sincerely rely on our services and, as such, are more willing to use them time and again.”
The whole package
Never one to rest on its laurels, Reading Buses continues to explore new ways to evolve its business, particularly so around using data to create better passenger experiences.
“We now have a system whereby individuals can come to us and easily make use of our data.” says Osman. “Any operator working today should be making its data as available as possible. That way, intelligent companies can turn it into tools that improve the transport experience for the people that actually ride our services – tools like Live Buses.”
Whatever happens next, Reading will base any digital development strategy around that core pillar: utilising data with a tangible end benefit for customers hoping to get from A to B.
“There are plenty of people and companies out there that can deliver an app. There’s plenty of companies that can deliver absolute data. But actually delivering an app with data that is usable and logical for a customer – that’s the whole package.
“With Reading Buses, Passenger has more than proven that it is able to work with technology from multiple different systems and distil it into that simple, streamlined package. That’s what Reading Buses needs – and that’s exactly what Passenger delivers.”