Elydium: Improving data quality for BODS and beyond

Elydium's TransXChange Studio offers a quick and easy way to view and validate TransXChange files by dragging and dropping them into a web page – there are no setup charges and subscriptions start from only £99/month

Any software solution can only ever be as good as the quality of the data available to it – whether it’s your ETM system, your payroll system, the apps used by your passengers or a fully-featured Mobility-as-a-Service offer. ‘Garbage in, garbage out,’ as they say.

“That’s why we created Elydium,” says Rob West, the company’s founder and Lead Software Architect. “It’s our mission to improve the quality of bus timetable and fare data so that the journey planners, real-time systems and other downstream services produce the best possible results.” With twenty years’ experience of developing and implementing software solutions for the UK bus industry, Rob is clearly passionate about transport data. He continues, “We might not be the only start-up applying a cloud-native approach to transport software – but we are the only one focused on data quality. It might not be as glamorous as building end-user apps or MaaS solutions but producing accurate timetable and fare data is absolutely fundamental if we’re going to achieve modal shift to public transport.”

“…producing accurate timetable and fare data is absolutely fundamental if we’re going to achieve modal shift to public transport.”

Elydium founder and Lead Software Architect Rob West

Bus Open Data Service

With the introduction of the Bus Services Act 2017 and the subsequent Public Service Vehicles (Open Data) (England) Regulations 2020, the provision of high-quality timetable data, previously the domain of Local Transport Authorities and Traveline, has become the legal responsibility of bus operators in England. Unenviable tasks such as interpolating intermediate stop times, fixing missing or incorrect NaPTAN stop assignments and dealing with split/merged DVSA registrations are therefore new to most operators, many of which do not have the tools or support of an existing scheduling software supplier to fall back on. The creation and management of open fare data brings further difficulties for operators of all sizes, as they uncover the complexities of fare products and structures that have often evolved over many years.

In recent weeks, operators have also started receiving strongly worded non-compliance emails from the Office of the Traffic Commissioner, further increasing the pressure on managers that are already facing ongoing driver shortages and other consequences of the pandemic.

“I understand that producing open data can feel like an insurmountable challenge,” says Rob. “Perhaps a change of mindset is needed? If you start to frame the BODS requirements as an enabler for building patronage, the business case for investing in it becomes much stronger. By treating data as an asset rather than a liability, it becomes something to nurture rather than something to fear. Our objective is to provide our customers with the tools they need to become as proud of their data as they are of the latest addition to their fleet.”

“Our objective is to provide our customers with the tools they need to become as proud of their data as they are of the latest addition to their fleet.”

TransXChange Studio

The first steps towards creating pride in timetable data are to be able to visualise it, understand it and increase trust in it. To meet these objectives, Elydium developed a web based TransXChange viewing, validation and processing tool in 2021. TransXChange Studio has subsequently generated considerable interest, most notably from First Bus where the tool is now in use by scheduling teams across the country. In addition to the data profile imposed by BODS, First Bus has also worked with Elydium to develop a more stringent set of custom rules against which timetable data can be validated to further improve data quality and consistency.

TransXChange Studio gives a clear indication of how closely data meets the BODS PTI Profile – with feedback categorised as hard errors, soft errors, warnings and recommendations

With subscriptions starting from £99/month, the benefits of TransXChange Studio are available to operators of all sizes at an affordable cost. Better still, there are no setup fees, so you can be up and running with the standard rule sets within minutes.

Rob West can be contacted on 07932 436657 or via email at rob.west@elydium.co.uk