Intalink: Boosting bus patronage across Hertfordshire

Breaking down the barriers in public transport use increases patronage. The Intalink partnership is helping build user confidence in public transport across Hertfordshire

Promoting alternative fuels to reduce emissions is rhetoric most operators will find familiar. Promoting alternative means of transport to reduce congestion and build a more sustainable future for transport is another, and one we perhaps do not hear often enough.

Confidence in how to use public transport is one of the biggest barriers to bus use. But through a partnership between 21st Century Passenger Systems (a Journeo company), transport information provider Intalink and Hertfordshire County Council, the profile of bus travel is being boosted.

Intalink partners
The Intalink partnership works between Intalink, Hertfordshire County Council and bus and rail operators across Hertfordshire

Intalink Partnership: Driving engagement for 20 years

The Intalink partnership can be traced back to 1999, when Hertfordshire County Council united the county’s bus and rail operators with district and borough councils.

That voluntary partnership delivered multi-operator ticketing schemes and digital communications such as the Intalink website and mobile ticketing app. It forms the basis for the council’s bid to form an enhanced partnership under the 2017 Bus Services Act, which should increase the scope and impact of the co-operation between operators and the local authority.

By strengthening the partnership working, the government says it will provide the tools for a step change in audio and visual on-board information displays for ease of journey planning.

Intalink inside vehicle
Interactive totems and displays throughout the vehicle provide real time information. All can be found across Hertfordshire

Launched last week was the revamped Intalink vehicle, a former library van. Previously it had been used to distribute printed timetable information in town centres, business parks and rail stations. Now improved in conjunction with the 2017 Act, partner 21st Century has built in the latest real time information technology alongside an aesthetic refurbishment from South East Coachworks for a display of Hertfordshire’s journey planning tools.

As its purpose is to allow users to familiarise themselves with what is currently available, all tools on board can already be found across Hertfordshire. They include depictions of departure boards, showing tracked and scheduled services; 55” displays depicting on-street totems (offering demonstrations of journey planners), smaller 10” interactive displays, the function of QR codes and printed literature.

Local event and travel information can be accessed through the Intalink website. Local services and transport information can be promoted through advertising functions when the display is not in use. Timetable information can be printed, if required, from the 10” displays.

The vehicle’s Dynamic Journey Planner allows users to plan a journey from the vehicle location (or any other start point) at any given time. Intalink’s twitter feed provides disruption updates and a user feedback option allows the council to measure the reach and impact of the vehicle’s activity.

Intalink Vehicle
The Intalink partnership can be traced back to 1999. Its demonstration vehicle is a former mobile library van

Generational shift

The Intalink vehicle will travel throughout Hertfordshire to engage with new users in town centres, business parks, schools and colleges daily. The latter is a key object to encourage a generational modal shift, says Passenger Transport Manager for Hertfordshire County Council Matt Lale.

“We’ve found from consultations that getting the younger generation to understand how to catch a bus may seem easy, but sometimes that’s not the case.

“This is giving them that information and trying to educate them in order to have the confidence to take public transport.”

Certainly, encouraging young people – especially those who do not yet have a car – to take the bus should prove easier than trying to encourage longtime motorists to leave theirs at home.

A new website and mobile ticketing app accompany the launch of the refurbished Intalink vehicle. With younger people’s attraction to mobile devices in mind, the ability to buy mobile tickets and access open data in terms of real time information on buses is essential. Matt explains: “There’s a step change needed in buses in informing passengers of how much that bus is going to cost, as well as where it is and what time it will arrive.”

The Bus Open Data Service will play a part in that step change. Hertfordshire County Council does not yet have a figure for patronage growth through the partnership. Instead, it hopes to stabilise local usage decline.

“It’s about fully understanding legislation for open data,” Matt continues. “The targets must be realistic – having the platform that we are about to have with the measures and facilities outlined within the enhanced partnership will give us scope to work out what meaningful numbers we can deliver.

“The ongoing communication and working relationship with bus operators is fundamental in progressing forward.”

Several surrounding counties have expressed interest in the Intalink partnership, Matt says, with several Midlands and Northern counties watching the with a close eye. Hertfordshire County Council says it is one of the first counties to develop such a scheme, and if successful it will be a model to inspire others – and potentially improve the confidence of bus users, both realised and potential, and increase patronage across the entirety of the UK.