Demand-based Urban Bus Integrated with Rail And Health (DUBIRAH)

Project details

Full project title: Demand-based Urban Bus Integrated with Rail And Health

Sponsors: Co-funded by the UK’s innovation agency, Technology Strategy Board

CTS team members: Prof Graham Parkhurst (Principal Investigator), Prof John Parkin (Co-Investigator), Ben Clark (Research Associate) and Ian Shergold (Research Fellow)

Research partners: Esoterix Ltd (project lead)

Start date: April 2014

Finish date: June 2014

Project briefing sheet: Not yet available

Project summary

The DUBIRAH project has been awarded funding by the UK’s innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board, to determine the viability of a commercially sustainable, on-demand, ‘zonal’ bus service in North Bristol. On successful completion of this feasibility study the consortium will look to secure further and more significant funding to initiate the service for real in early 2015.

The problem

People rarely find bus, rail and/or health service provisions seamlessly aligned: scheduled bus services do not provide sufficiently direct door-to-door journeys (e.g. between railway stations and final destinations), or at the needed times (e.g. to make a train connection or hospital appointment). The result in the north and west of Bristol is an over-reliance on the car, causing congestion that will cost £600m a year (WEST LSTF Bid, 2011), and a lack of access to employment and services for those without a car – all in an area that is, in theory, well served by rail.

The project

The DUBIRAH (Demand-based Urban Bus Integrated with Rail And Health) project will carry out a feasibility study of an on-demand, ‘intelligent’ bus service which actively integrates with services at local railway stations and with appointment schedules at Southmead Hospital. It will mainly operate transversely to existing bus routes (which typically run to-and-from Bristol city centre), taking local residents and rail commuters to-and-from the two North Bristol Enterprise Areas at peak times and to-and-from Southmead Hospital all day. Serving Bristol Zoo Gardens during its summer peak periods is also under exploration. In all cases the key objective is to offer an integrated service that is sufficiently convenient, reliable and affordable to be a realistic alternative to car use. The feasibility study will assess the viability of technology to provide a next generation bus service capable of attracting drivers out of their cars, and the viability of technology to extend access to that service through integration with local train and health service provision. Features of such a service might also include:

  • Automatic adjustment of (DUB) services to respond to rail delays
  • More efficient use of railway station parking, freeing up space for off-peak users
  • More synchronised transport and health care appointment booking

Another, wider goal of the service will be to reduce congestion within, and improve access to, the Filton/A38 and Avonmouth / Severnside Enterprise Areas, where there are already concerns about mobility deficits. The West of England Partnership suggests that, without action, only 23% of the 14,000 potential new jobs by 2030 will be realised (West of England Partnership, 2013). The recently redeveloped and enlarged hospital in nearby Southmead, due to (re-)open in 2014, is another important factor, expected to be a significant contributor to traffic levels in the area.

CTS involvement

The Centre for Transport and Society (CTS) has two specific tasks in the project. Firstly, it will analyse current demand and assess how DUBIRAH can meet and grow that demand. To do so, it will develop a ‘Demand Model’ – estimating who will use DUBIRAH and in what circumstances. The second task is around communications and engagement for the consortium, where CTS will take a lead.

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