I write in response to recent comments about the Bus Open Data Service (BODS). The Department for Transport (DfT) understands the concerns of the operator and the issue highlighted is something that it is responding to.

In the letter, the writer is a small bus operator running a family-based service and is trying to publish timetable data that is compliant with the TXC 2.4 BODS profile that was launched in May 2021, and then locked in September 2021, which meant that non-compliant data was rejected from the service (any data files that did not include mandatory fields).

The transition from being able to publish timetable data in TXC 2.1 or 2.4 to now only accepting data as version 2.4 and to a set standard has created a challenge for operators of all sizes, but it is taking longer for smaller operator to complete the transition, and it does create an increase in work for those operators.

However, we do believe that this is correct insofar as local authorities and data consumers did communicate that the main issue with timetable data is that there are too many versions of the standard and greater curation was required, which is why we introduced the profile and validator. We intend to introduce a change control freeze for 2022.

To enable smaller operators to meet the data publishing requirements, we provided an assisted digital service which includes offering free-to-access software for bus operators that might not otherwise have access to the required software to create their data in the legally required standardised formats.

For timetables data, this comprises an Excel/spreadsheet tool that can be accessed on gov.uk. The tool does create data in the required format and passed a GDS assessment. However, we were advised at the time to review feedback from bus operators and consider in the future whether a webor browser-based service would be preferable.

Since then, we have also launched the Create Fares Data Service, which is a browser based service, also providing assisted digital support to smaller bus operators that needed free-to-access software for the creation of fares data.

This service has been received positively by bus operators and when feedback was requested, operators have suggested that they would also like to either be able to create their timetable data in service too, or at least have access to a web-based service for the creation of timetable data.

Therefore, we are now considering currently how we provide the industry with a web-based tool for the creation of timetables data to address some of the issues that the writer of the letter has experienced.

I do think, however, that it is worth saying that the system has been rigorously tested. DfT’s team has worked very closely with smaller operators to try and reduce any possibility of adverse impact and enable those operators to meet their statutory requirements.

We thank the operator concerned for taking the time to voice its concerns, which we understand. Others have shared the same. I can assure the operator and the wider bus industry that we are listening to them and that we will respond appropriately.

Meera Nayar
Head of Open Data, Travel
and Environment Data and
Statistics, Local Transport, DfT