Public Authorities

New service launch in Leicester

Padam Mobility powers new on-demand service “NovusFlex” to give New Lubbesthorpe residents better access to everyday mobility

NovusFlex is a new on-demand transport service enabling people to travel around the New Lubbesthorpe area and connecting them to jobs and services in nearby Leicester and Narborough. Launched in August, powered by Padam Mobility technology and operated by Vectare, NovusFlex works to complement a regular shuttle between the estate and Leicester city centre.

New Lubbesthorpe is a recent housing development that lies between Leicester and Narborough. The NovusFlex service operates between 6 am and 11pm, Monday to Sunday to ensure that people can travel to work or education, as well as use services or visit neighbouring towns for leisure purposes. It can be booked by users by app, phone or online.

The New Lubbesthorpe landowner and lead developer, The Drummond Estate, funded the service in order to offer residents an attractive and flexible connection. Go Travel Solutions, a consultancy specialising in sustainable mobility solutions acted as the principal consultant for the design and deployment of the innovative transport service. The service was designed in collaboration with technology provider Padam Mobility.

To optimise coverage of the area using just two vehicles at the start, the area was divided into three zones (see figure).

The New Lubbesthorpe development is within Zone 2, and the service enables people to travel within the Zone or to destinations within the other Zones.

Zone 1 comprises the city centre of Leicester, a key employment centre with many attractions and a mainline train station for onward travel (for example to London). Zone 3 contains the town of Narborough and its station. For residents of New Lubbesthorpe, this means easy access to all points of interest in Leicester city centre, as well as to the train station in Narborough.  To maximise efficiency, the service will only pick up or drop off people within Zone 1 and Zone 3 (it can’t be used to travel around these Zones).

The service costs £3 to £4 per trip, but tickets can also be purchased more cheaply in packages. Users have the option to pay for their ride via the app, online, by phone, and also directly to the driver.

NovusFlex is available from Monday to Sunday from 6 am to 11 pm and offers users new freedom of movement, especially in the evening when there was previously no comparable transport service.  It works in tandem with a new fixed shuttle, NovusDirect, also operated by Vectare, between New Lubbesthorpe and Leicester city centre.


This article might alos interest you: Padam Mobility pilots autonomous on-demand vehicle in Lyon

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What does the £2 bus cap mean for DRT?

Rural bus stop

The UK government announced a £2 bus fare cap across England to save passengers money.

With many DRT fares based on distance, this cap could benefit rural passengers who generally travel much further distances between their homes and education, employment and services and often for leisure and social purposes because of the dispersed nature of these areas.

Whilst urban dwellers travelled an average of 4.89 miles per trip according to the 2021 National Travel Survey, people living in rural villages, hamlets and isolated dwelling travelled 8.38 miles per trip on average. Rural travellers made slightly more trips on average per person by a small margin (769 vs urban travellers’ 748) they also travelled the furthest distance on average with 6,449 miles per person in 2021, compared to the average for urban conurbations where people travelled 3,661 miles per year on average. Whilst these were the most extreme differences, people living in rural towns and fringe areas lie in between with 6.57 miles per trip (making on average 751 trips totalling 4,935 miles per year) and urban city and town dwellers travelling 5.84 miles on average (a total of 4,456 miles over 763 trips per year).

Car ownership and use is also markedly higher in rural areas – correlating strongly with poor or absent of public transport.

At the same time, recent trials of DRT in rural areas have shown there is demand for bus services when they are reliable and get people to the places they need to be at the times they need to be there. Often though, where fares are set per mile, this can mean several pounds per trip.

The £2 cap could shrink the costs of DRT to passengers and increase the take up of DRT even further, helping to accelerate change in rural areas and reduce car dependency.

Details of how the cap will be administered are yet to be published. But as the appetite to use buses grows, we need to ensure that the cap is fully funded so that this new demand can be met.


This article could also interest you: It’s time to rethink our regulations 

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Why travel times of transport-on-demand services should be communicated and how they can be improved

Many people believe that on-demand services are not able to be on time. To overcome this image, Padam Mobility works to better communicate and optimise the estimated travel times for its on-demand and paratransit services.

Communication of travel times: significant impact on users of on-demand and paratransit services

Users of on-demand and paratransit services expect that the pick-up times they are offered will be guaranteed. This is understandable, of course, because no one wants to be late for medical appointments, miss connecting trains, arrive late for work or school, and so on. The desire for a reliable transport service increases the rarer public transport journeys become available or the more remote an area is. If on-demand transport services are implemented appropriately, it is mainly feeder lines¹ or “diverging” lines² that can provide punctual intermodal connections with the main transport lines of an area.

Communication of travel times: a great importance for the quality of services

Better information enables better communication between drivers and users, ensuring satisfaction for all stakeholders in on-demand and paratransit services.

Regardless of the type of configuration, the user must be able to access clear and transparent information at any time, informing him of possible disruptions to the service. Real-time information, delivered by notification via the user app or by email, is therefore crucial.

In addition, drivers also need accurate information about how long it will take them to get from A to B, how traffic conditions will affect them and to estimate whether there may be delays. This type of information allows them to have better control over their journey times.

Optimising travel times: cartographic layers for initial assessments of traffic conditions

When establishing an on-demand or paratransit service, considerations are made to best address the regional conditions of an area. First, a travel time estimate is created using several cartographic layers, one of which was specifically developed by the Padam Mobility teams.

These different layers provide information on traffic conditions, particularly in real-time, i.e. at the time a journey is made. They analyse different impacts on the routes followed by the vehicles and store the information generated as additional factors that affect the travel time of the following trips.

Optimising travel times: Effects of passenger pooling

The benefit of on-demand or paratransit services is that passengers are pooled in the same vehicle. This may require the vehicle to take detours in order to pool as many passengers as possible who are sharing part of their journey.

While the cartographic layers provide information about traffic conditions that allow for an estimate of travel time, these estimates are further refined by the consideration of diversion rates. These rates correspond to the number of detours a passenger may take. They are calculated for each reservation based on the direct travel time between the point of departure and arrival by applying a multiplication factor to this direct route. The diversion rates are then adjusted according to the specificities of the area and the requirements of the respective mobility authorities.

The estimation of diversion times allows users to have an accurate idea of their ride (duration, arrival time, possible delay, etc.) and organise themselves accordingly. Cartographic layers, pooling of bookings and diversion rates continuously provide Padam Mobility’s teams with information that allows them to develop tools that meet users’ needs and guarantee them the best experience. An internal study by Padam Mobility has even shown that diversion rates have a positive impact on perceived punctuality.


Learn more about Padam Mobility 

This article might interest you: Without the guarantee of advanced booking, no efficient route optimisation 

¹The “Feeder” line configuration allows users to be picked up at one or more specific stops and dropped off at one or more points that need to be served at specific times, so that several consecutive points of interest can be served.

²The line configuration “divergent” enables the establishment of an on-demand service for which no prior reservation is required. Users specify their stop request directly to the driver when they board the bus. The driver then selects the stop that the user wants to go to.

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It’s time to rethink our regulations

Demand-Responsive Transport Lyon Strasbourg

Multi-operator DRT services can makes buses accessible to more people and drive down per-passenger subsidies, but barriers exist.

An article by Beate Kubitz 

Bus economics necessitate difficult questions. Whilst efficient corridor routes have been optimised and finely tuned to ensure profitability, networks which reach into communities at a more granular level, are,
almost by definition, impossible to configure as high capacity, high volume services. On this level, demand responsive transport (DRT) offers an efficient way of creating a bus network.

However, there’s no evidence of lavish subsidies in the offing, so it too comes with its own set of questions: Where can DRT drive up patronage, so that the per passenger subsidy goes down? How can we reduce vehicle numbers to ensure that the fleet is efficient? And how can we combine operators and services available to ensure that all capacity is utilised?

It’s not just a question of subsidy, either. Duplicate vehicles and parallel services are all eating into our limited carbon budget. We need to ensure that services are both financially and emissions efficient. The variables at play here are passenger groups, vehicle numbers and operators. Optimisation ensures they are combined to ensure that people get to their destinations as needed, whilst using the least resources.

However, in the UK, when we look at bus services, what we see are not so much networks as fragmented services run by assorted operators (and sometimes different types of operator) with multiple funding streams – sometimes duplicating each other – and which may also be providing their services under differently regulated frameworks.

Most visibly, the traditional fixed line bus network comprises an assortment of routes, some of which are run by bus operators ‘for profit’ without local authority intervention, some funded by local authorities, some that are blended versions (for instance with the off-peak subsidised whilst peak services are not).
Then, beyond the ‘traditional public transport’ envelope, there are various forms of community transport which exist in a very different space. In some cases, community transport works similarly to commercial bus services but servicing ‘not for profit’ routes that would not otherwise exist, and others which are more like community coach trips – booked in advance for a round trip to an attraction, shop or service – with yet more that are more akin to low-cost taxis with volunteer drivers taking individuals to appointments.

On top of this we have various different social care transport services, school buses and tailored travel for vulnerable children and adults. Then there are services for NHS patients that often cover very similar catchment areas. A further group of services have emerged serving (largely) out of town business parks – not deemed sufficiently attractive by commercial bus operators – in the form of the modern equivalent of the ‘works bus’: an on-demand shuttle or a taxi sharing app.

If we take an honest (and wide-ranging) look across all areas, there are all sorts of duplications even within funded transport. For instance, there are Ring & Ride-type access services being operated in parallel with DRT services because different funding streams procure different resources. This has been a constant frustration for local authorities. Total Transport pilots tried to address some of these duplication issues and optimise vehicle usage, however it proved difficult to execute sophisticated ideas about fleet optimisation or combining use cases.

Over the last three years, the capability of the technology has come a long way, addressing some of the execution issues. For instance, the Padam Mobility platform is able to combine multiple operators into a single service and sophisticated software has the potential to merge different use cases with one service. It also offers a paratransit software element in order to handle social service and health care transport, providing the right vehicle for the trips needed and optimising the overall fleet management.

In one area DRT is combined with home-to-school transport using the same vehicles reducing the cost of the home-to-school from around £10 per head down to £5. Adding in further deployments to increase utilisation could lower this further. However, if we look at other countries with different regulatory systems, we see more radical combinations.

In Strasbourg, Padam Mobility blends door-to-door ‘paratransit’ with bus stop-to-bus stop DRT, using the same fleet. For the Île-de-France Mobilités service which connects people who live on the outer edges of suburbs beyond the Paris metropolitan area Padam Mobility has combined multiple operators onto a single platform. Combining in this way across operators has shown instances where the work of 20 minibuses can now be done by 12, which obviously implies significant savings.

In the UK, however, the technology only takes us so far. Legacy regulation – where each type of services has its own regulatory framework – restricts the potential for combining use cases. These differing frameworks affect many of the aspects of the service: the types of vehicles that can be used, timetables and routes (and how changes must be registered), driver licensing and training requirements, conditions of carriage and the fares that can be charged (and whether they attract VAT).

The final section provides a brief, incomplete overview of these regulations in the UK.

Why is regulation an issue?

The current regulatory framework makes it hard to create simple and pragmatic solutions that enable vehicle use to be maximised and fleets adapted. Once services try to optimise and provide the right size vehicle for the time of day the service could potential segue between regulatory frameworks. A bus service that runs a single decker at peak times, a mini-bus during off-peak and a ‘shared taxi’ to ensure that people working early or late shifts can still get home appears to need more than one type of registration. Adding community services to an on-demand transport platform to help augment off-peak provision would violate the Section 19 registration of a community transport operator (not open to the public) and is a minefield in the case of Section 22 with some operators being challenged over their ‘not for profit’ status in the courts. Some on-demand shared trip services base prices on the number of people riding in order to enable PSV or taxi companies to provide the services and remain profitable – whilst this works in some circumstances it becomes difficult to integrate in the public transport network to augment low density scenarios.

We’ve also found commuter shuttles organised privately for employers often require subsidies from them – whilst also excluding other people travelling along their routes. This is generally because they’re not registered as public bus routes – one factor in that is the time delay that is built into registering with
the traffic commissioner.

Optimise multi-operator services

Whilst it’s increasingly worthwhile to look at how DRT platform technologies can host an efficient cross-contract and multi-user services it’s also important to look at the limitations regulation places on these
combinations. A sophisticated DRT platform can potentially manage a service supplied by community transport or even taxis at some times of day whilst moving to a bus operator on a fixed time table at others.

It seems that regulation needs a rethink to make this a manageable process. The costs of not doing so are both financial and in under-utilised assets which means wasting our ever-diminishing carbon budget.
The opportunity, however, where local authorities, operators, businesses and the third sector all work on networks together, is that together we can drive down per passenger subsidies – whilst still improving services and increasing the number of people who have the option to take the bus.

A short incomplete survey of regulation

Public bus services are registered with the Office of the Traffic Commissioner and must meet certain standards. Following the introduction of the Bus Open Data regulations in 2021, ticket prices for public transport buses must be notified to the secretary of state – in practice this means uploading them through the Department for Transport’s Open Data portal. All public service vehicles (over eight people) need to be fully accessible, regardless of size.

The situation becomes more complex for flexible bus services. Whilst they must register with the Traffic Commissioner they must comply with additional criteria (e.g. “fare information must be clearly displayed”). Flexible services that cover locations more than 15 miles apart (in a straight line) do not qualify for BSOG (Bus Service Operators Grant). There is also a requirement that fares per passenger must be fixed, rather than reducing as more passengers board (in the case that fares reduce if more people share a vehicle that vehicle would be classed as a PHV). Passengers should pre-book but there is no minimum booking time. Passengers who haven’t pre-booked can be carried but the route cannot be altered to accommodate them (because this would then be classed as a taxi service). Whilst bus tickets do not attract VAT, taxi fares do.

Community transport services which are open to the public (Section 22) must register with the Traffic Commissioner. They cannot make a profit unless offering hire services which do not compete with public bus services. In addition, Section 19 Permits can be issued by Local Authorities to organisations operating services for education, religious or community transport purposes for small vehicles such as up to 17 seater minibuses. Larger vehicles must be registered with the Traffic Commissioner. They cannot be open to the public.

Taxi services are registered with local authorities and registration includes agreement on the fares set whilst private hire services are registered with local authorities, which can impose conditions on the type and age of vehicle but has no power to set fares. A maximum of eight passengers can be carried. VAT is payable on fares (although small businesses don’t meet the threshold, private hire apps like Uber do). Whilst bus services have to be fully accessible, a limited number taxi and private hire services are. As an aside, these conditions vary where services are registered in London, in particular there is usually an additional requirement to register with Transport for London.

About the author

Beate Kubitz

Beate Kubitz specialise in analysing new technology, agendas and behaviours and articulating their potential future impact.




This article was first published in Passenger Transport. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.

This article might interest you as well: Linking people to places – How on-demand transport joins up the bus network 

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Linking people to places – how on-demand transport joins up the bus network

Tackling the lack of access to transport for people living in peri-urban areas is an important transport challenge, not only as a matter of equity but also because their car-dependency threatens urban transport provision.

One of the suggested tools for network improvement (with the potential for cost-effective service development) was on-demand buses. And, analysis suggests, the greater part of Bus Service Improvement Plans and Enhanced Partnerships do indeed place at least some reliance on demand responsive bus services.

However, to date, the UK experience of dynamic demand responsive transport (also known as DDRT and DRT)  has been ‘patchy’ at best. Trial services have been launched amid fanfares and then been quietly withdrawn (with the occasional messy implosion). Whilst ‘fitting demand to vehicles’ sounds like an efficiency no-brainer, the reality of doing this within an already limited bus network has not provided fantastic returns. Does this meant that DDRT is doomed?

The example of Orléans

In France, the city of Orléans has been piloting DRT since 2018. Rather than the stop start approach we have seen in the UK, this has involved a gradual increase in size and scale over the last 4 years.

The initial pilot in 2018 converted a legacy ‘dial-a-ride’ style system to a modern DDRT platform run by Padam Mobility. The previous scheme had been complicated to book, with strict advance booking deadlines and little real time information about the bus arrival times.  The April 2018 pilot covered an area of north east Orléans, which piloted DRT bookable via app or call centre, with the back office systems and data analysis ensuring that the service was efficiently run and monitored. Real-time bus information enabled users to book transport at short notice, and uptake of the app increased, enabling call centres to give a better service to passengers booking by phone.

As the technology was proven, the areas served were expanded. Firstly in September 2019 it was expanded to 9 areas which almost encircled the city, and then again in 2021 the areas were adjusted to cover a population of over 95,000 people and an area of 161 km2. The service comprised 19 vehicles that offered connections within the areas and to rapid transit nodes, allowing people to travel into central Orleans from 6.00 am to 9.00 pm.

A further expansion brought the area covered up to 300km2 and the population to 175,000. The number of vehicles was doubled to 40.

Whilst the service area and population was not quite doubled, the numbers of people travelling per week almost tripled from 2,900 to 8,500. Padam claims that 33% of its passengers have switched from private cars, while 19% had no access to transport.

The city authorities, having committed to ensuring that people have access to public transport even in the outskirts of the city, were seeing the costs per person travelling falling satisfactorily. More people were travelling without requiring additional subsidy.

A role model for the UK?

It’s instructive to compare the layout of a city like Orléans (pop. 116,000) with UK towns and cities. Oxford (pop. 150,000) has similar settlement patterns, with a densely-populated centre and good local and national transport links, but poorly-served outlying communities with infrequent public transport connections.

Bolton (pop. 194,000) is part of the Greater Manchester area and there are significant numbers of residents who commute to Manchester for work and leisure. As with Orléans, public transport provides connections to a tram system and national networks. Yet despite falling within the Transport for Greater Manchester area, there are many parts of Bolton which are virtual public transport deserts. A DRT system would offer alternative transport options for these areas and reduce the pressure on Manchester’s road networks caused by car commutes.

French authorities have the advantage in that they are able to oversee the network and make decisions about which areas are better served by DRT and which by fixed lines, tram and train. However, Enhanced Partnerships and Franchising mean that we have the opportunity to change the way we do things. Whilst the corridor model and peak time reliance have served profitability, we can now look at how to connect those who live off the corridors to the network using the full panoply of available services and technology.


Article by mobility expert and consultant Beate Kubitz. Visit her website by clicking here.

This article might interest you as well: Launching DRT – An operator perspective 

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Launching DRT – An operator perspective


HertsLynx is a new DRT service launched in September 2021 with three buses covering villages in the rural area surrounding the market town of Buntingford in Hertford. The HertsLynx zone extends between 7 and 9 miles in each direction from the town, serving a total area of around 150 miles² / 400km². The service is operated by Uno Bus, which runs fixed route buses across Hertfordshire. It is the first DRT service Uno Bus has run.

With just over 6 months in operation, patterns are beginning to emerge. Although in-depth data analysis is just beginning, we were able to catch up with Ed Cameron, Commercial Manager at Uno Bus to find out things were going.

It’s a remote and sparsely populated area, and some of the villages covered consist of only 30-40 houses, so there’s no sustainable way to run a fixed line route.”

Getting new people onto buses

There have been few surprises, as the usage patterns have followed expectations that people want to travel between villages and the towns or to get to and from stations. There’s been an acceleration of use by students though:

We also pick up quite a number of school and college students. There is a big college in the north of Buntingford. The service launched after the start of term and it took a month for a couple of students to start using it. Then it grew and we’re seeing 10-12 daily. These are students that might have had to get a lift to school previously.”

Not just a taxi

DRT is an interesting product. There are just three buses at the moment covering a big geographical area. The challenge is to maximise the number of people getting the bus together so that it’s not just a taxi service. What we’re starting to find is that there are 2, 3, 4 and 5 people getting the bus together. This is sometimes people coordinating trips but also it’s down to the system prompting people. So, for example, if someone is asking to book a trip at 2 pm and there’s someone else travelling at 2.15 pm the system will suggest that journey. This is where DRT has the opportunity to grow. We also see it if someone is making a long trip, the system will map the route to pick up and set down other people along the way.

The other pattern is that, over the last couple of months, more people are booking 3-4 weeks in advance. Ed Cameron sees this as part of a learning curve the passengers have been on, as regular passengers realise that they can be sure to get to college or catch their train if they book in advance.

A lot of people had no idea of what DRT was when it started. We ran a lot of road shows but it’s quite hard to explain that it’s both like a taxi but also not as bespoke and like a bus but not quite. I have passengers asking why they have to stand on different sides of the road one day to the next. I have to explain that it depends on the bus’s previous route. However, once they’ve used it a few times people get the hang of it quite quickly and I think that’s why they book in advance, and also why the buses are fuller.”

What’s next?

The RMF funding is for 4 years, and includes growth from 3 to 5 buses planned for September 2022. According to Ed, demand for the service continues to grow:

We found DRT works really well in this kind of remote area where bus services are not sustainable, and also for the last mile between train stations and homes a couple of miles away. We see this as a potential opportunity.”

The HertsLynx service has proven successful. County-wide, DRT will grow rapidly and by January 2023 Hertfordshire will have over 20 DRT vehicles in operation.

Key facts

• HertsLynx is designed to serve residents in the designated operating zone covering villages in North and East Herts, as well as providing transport links to fixed destinations in Key Hub Towns: Stevenage,
Letchworth, Hitchin, Baldock, Royston and Bishop’s Stortford.
• Passengers can use HertsLynx for travel anywhere in the Free-Floating Operator Zone. There are no fixed routes on this service, instead passengers can be picked up and dropped off at a vast number of stops within the zone. They are also able to travel from the Free-Floating Operator Zone to designated locations in the Key Hub Towns. Travel is permitted between Key Hub Towns but is not available for journeys between points within one Key Hub Town.
• HertsLynx launched with three 13 seater minibuses plus one space for wheelchair user. New zones and types of DRT, with additional buses, are planned for May and September 2022. The service operates 7 am – 7 pm Mondays to Saturdays and 10 am to 4 pm on Sundays and Public
Holidays. Journeys can be booked in real-time or in advance for future journeys.
Fares are based on distance travelled, from £2 (up to 2 miles) to £5 for over 10 miles. Concessionary pass holders travel for free and Saver Card holders for half fare and HertsLynx runs as a cashless service.
• The service was funded by the Rural Mobility Fund of the Department for Transport.
• The operator is Uno Bus, using the Padam Mobility DRT platform.

Click here to visit the service’s website


This article might interest you: With HertLynx, Padam Mobility continues its expansion in the UK 

Find out more about Padam Mobility 

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Hacon and Padam Mobility launch their first joint on-demand project “SALÜ” in Switzerland

salu app
  • New on-demand service for BUS Ostschweiz AG
  • Technical implementation of the SALÜ app by Hacon and Padam Mobility
  • Already the fifth implemented project for on-demand transport in the DACH region for the Siemens Mobility subsidiary with a total of over two million rides booked

SALÜ, an on-demand service offered by Swiss transport operator BUS Ostschweiz AG, was launched in March for the city of Wil. Users have access to a Web App, and IOS and Android apps to obtain information and book the service. Padam Mobility and Hacon were responsible for the technical implementation. SALÜ is already the fifth on-demand transport project implemented by the two Siemens subsidiaries in the DACH region within just a few months.

On the one hand, the new offering provides residents in Wil, Wilen, Bronschhofen and Rossrüti with a flexible shuttle service in the evening from 8 p.m. to and from the train station that fits in with the train schedule. On the other, a selection of more than 100 virtual stops across the city, from or to which rides can be booked, is available. Users can find, book and pay directly for their chosen ride in the SALÜ app. As with the previously used Wil evening taxi, a public transport ticket is needed as the basis for calculating a surcharge for the service.

Andreas Deterling, Head of Supply and Development BUS Ostschweiz AG:

SALÜ significantly improves the appeal of public transport in the city of Wil. Our service combines convenience and sustainability – the app calculates which passengers can board when and where, and determines the fastest connections.”

Gerd Overbeck, Lead New Mobility at Hacon, sees on-demand transport as a useful supplement to local public transport:

On-demand transport best supports existing public transport services when the transfer from one means of transport to the other runs smoothly. That’s why we are relying with our partner Padam Mobility on convenient to use mobility apps which, in the best sense of the plan, book, pay & travel approach, make using on-demand transport as easy as possible.”

Padam Mobility and Hacon successful in the DACH market with other on-demand projects

In addition to the new on-demand service “SALÜ” in Switzerland, Padam Mobility and Hacon are further expanding their market position. In the past few months, the companies have launched on-demand services in three German regions: In Höxter, the on-demand service “Holibri” drives on four routes; in Hürth near Cologne, “Hüpper” serves the fringe districts that previously only had insufficient access to public transport; and the “Expressbus Pfaffenhofen” app allows users to travel around individually across the city. Throughout Germany, DB Regio AG is also relying on the expertise of Padam Mobility and Hacon with its on-demand service integrated into its own travel information system. Annually, that means a total of more than two million rides that are booked using the software from Padam Mobility.

More projects will be added in the coming months, for example, in the Ingolstadt region. The experience gained and the feedback from passengers clearly show that on-demand mobility can be a very important element in providing regional mobility. In particular in rural and fringe areas, the solutions from Padam Mobility and Hacon offer real added value, and provide residents with seamless transport without needing to have their own car. They also allow cities or municipalities to provide their public transport services more efficiently and in a more resource-saving manner.


About Padam Mobility and Hacon

Under the heading “Combined Power for Mobility,” Siemens Mobility, Hacon, eos.uptrade, Bytemark, Padam Mobility and Sqills offer a unique ecosystem of digital services and solutions. From travel planning, passenger communication, mobile ticketing, payment and reservation, and mobility as a service (MaaS) solutions to fleet management, schedule preparation and mobility data analytics – a comprehensive product portfolio for the complex issues in the mobility sector offers the ideal foundation for an outstanding passenger experience.

Learn more about Hacon

Click here to visit the Padam Mobility website

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Subsidies per passenger – the £3 challenge

A recent audience question at a webinar outlined the extent of the challenge local transport faces in the UK:

Councils often use metrics as subsidy per passenger journey as a means of deciding value for money. In Kent, the figure is £3 and a number of routes are potentially to be withdrawn for exceeding this figure. Is DRT viable within such a limit?

Obviously, there’s no straightforward reply. The routes that fall to councils to fund are, by their nature, the ones that bus operators cannot make commercially viable. The question is, are they ‘a little unviable’ (meet the up to £3 / passenger journey threshold) or ‘very unviable’ (require more – and in some instances – much more subsidy).

In most cases the problem is dealing with the network in route by route way. A gradual process of removal of unprofitable bits (entire routes or service hours) erodes the remaining services and creates a constant downward spiral.

The move to look at networks as a whole in the context of Bus Service Improvement Plans and Enhanced Partnerships could potentially move the focus and put these routes in context. This would help evaluate whether a point to point route or an area based DRT service (potentially wrapping more than one lower utilisation route into a single operation) is a better approach.

Increase passengers

Wherever possible, we look – as broadly as possible – at passenger groups, vehicle numbers and  operators to determine the optimal service.

The questions we ask are ‘where can DRT drive up patronage, so that the per passenger subsidy goes down?’, ‘How can we reduce vehicle numbers to ensure that the fleet is efficient?’ and ‘How can we combine operators and services available to ensure that all capacity is utilised?’.

The first approach, driving up patronage, is most likely to work in densely populated areas. The ball-park estimate for DRT to be fully commercial is an average of 7-8 people per vehicle throughout the day. However, because it uses smaller vehicles, DRT doesn’t have the same capacity for higher loads and peak fares to cover off-peak times, so the vehicles have to be matched more closely to demand. In services at larger scales, we can use data to plan vehicle deployment and keep the utilisation rates as high as possible.

In addition, encouraging advance booking really helps with both increasing passenger numbers and operational planning. Pre-booking means people can plan their days in advance and depend on the service. The information from pre-bookings ensure that the operator has good information ahead of the start of each day. We see around 75% of passengers booking in advance, which validates our expectation that people use this as reliable public transport rather than a taxi equivalent.

Segmented, not fragmented

The second is to drive down costs per person by ensuring that the services provide transport to people from different groups and with different travel needs. This is considering passengers as segments of the travelling public, rather than as fragmented groups.

In most cases this requires an honest look at services and identifying where they are siloed. For instance we’ve seen several cases of Ring & Ride access services being operated in parallel with DDRT services because different funding streams procure different resources, and the services don’t speak to each other.

Back during Total Transport pilots, over capacity was identified by authorities and there was a huge desire to maximise utilisation of vehicles. Whilst there was some success in reducing requirements it proved difficult to execute sophisticated ideas about fleet optimisation or combining use cases and we still saw costs per passenger trip of over £20 in some cases.

However, the capability of the technology has come a long way in the last 3 years. The Padam Mobility platform is able to combine multiple operators into a single service. Our sophisticated software means we can also merge different use cases with one service.  It also offers a paratransit software element in order to handle social service and health care transport, providing the right vehicle for the trips needed and optimising the overall fleet management. This can radically cut the subsidy required. We now have use cases in which we blend dial-a-ride, DRT and other forms of transport to reduce the overall spend for Local Authorities.

In one area we combine DRT with home to school transport using the same vehicles. This reduces the the cost of the home-to-school from around £10 per head down to £5. Adding in further deployments which increases the utilisation could lower this further. In Strasbourg, we blend door to door ‘paratransit’ with bus stop to bus stop DRT, using the same fleet. We are now in advanced discussions with one UK authority to launch a similar service this year.

There has also been a reluctance to register some commuter shuttle style DRT – often serving previously unserved business parks and out of town distribution centres – as part of the wider public transport network. Whilst this imposes additional constraints on the service provider, Enhanced Partnerships are an opportunity to work out how to make the broadening of registration worthwhile in order to increase the numbers of people served. Bringing these services into wider use through integration onto a publicly managed DRT platform could improve services relatively cheaply.

Optimise multi-operator services

It’s increasingly worthwhile to look at how DDRT platform technologies – such as Padam Mobility – can host efficient cross contract services. A sophisticated DRT platform can manage a service supplied by community transport or even taxis at some times of day whilst moving to a bus operator on a fixed time table at others. Padam Mobility has combined multiple operators in this way for the Île-de-France Mobilités service that connects people who live on the outer edges of suburbs beyond the Paris metropolitan area. We observe instances where the work of 20 minibuses can now be done by 12, which obviously implies significant savings.

So whilst it’s difficult to bring costs per passenger journey right down in isolation, we’ve found that a holistic approach will bear dividends.

In the current climate, as local authorities and operators work on networks together, there is the possibility to drive down per passenger subsidies to within the £3 limit – whilst still improving services and increasing the number of people who have the option to take the bus.


This article might also interest you: Integrating DDRT into BSIPS – Six Practical Tips 

Learn more about Padam Mobility 

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Integrating DDRT into BSIPS – Six practical tips

london bus

With the funding announcement for BSIPs due in the next few weeks, we look at how dynamic, demand-responsive transport services can improve local transport for people, especially in rural and peri-urban areas.

Recently Jack Holland set out key insights and practical tips on how to succeed in implementing a dynamic on-demand system at a Transport Smart Class in Nottingham.

Jacks smart class presentation

Tip 1. Use Data to undertake a deep analysis and test your service

Padam Mobility’s pre-service deployment simulations are critical tools for designing your DDRT service. We help you answer:

  • When and where is demand particularly high?
  • How many passengers will be transported at different times?
  • What is the right service area? 

These questions help develop your service model and minimize potential risk. Our partnership with Prospective Labs also helps analyze the use of existing infrastructure in greater detail, and identify gaps in the network area.

There’s more about this topic and the partnership between Prospective Labs and Padam Mobility in our webinar „Using data science to increase the success of your DRT scheme“.

Tip 2. Determine the right service configuration

There are several configurations of DDRT that can meet different needs and improve the transport network.

For example, if there are a lot of gaps in the fixed line bus network (for instance in a more rural area)  a free-floating service may be the best choice to serve the demand.

Alternatively, where there are some important central locations, such as a train station, a hospital, a shopping centre, etc., it may make sense to set up a DDRT service in a ‘fixed route’ model, connecting people with key nodes based on demand.

Another potential deployment is as a feeder service that, for example, serves a zone connecting people within it to the nearest fixed route bus stop, train or tram station and thus ‘feeds’ the structural network.

Tip 3. Ensure advanced bookings are guaranteed

A key component in gaining the trust and satisfaction of customers is not only enabling bookings in advance but also ensuring they are guaranteed.

Padam Mobility’s algorithms guarantee a seat in a vehicle at the desired time by allocating a seat when the booking is made. Guaranteeing bookings in this way is a core feature that is ingrained into the foundations of the Padam Mobility system. This is different from most providers of on-demand services, who store bookings made in advance on a waiting list and thus can only provide customers with an approximate estimated time of arrival (ETA) window.

This feature is essential for a successful DRT service, as people need to know that they can rely on the service, allowing them to plan their daily schedules.

Usage data shows that advance bookings are extremely important to on-demand services. 75 % of all bookings via Padam Mobility solutions are made in advance. The remaining trip searches, for services in real-time, are only shown potential trips that have not been booked. This system fulfills all requirements equally and makes on-demand transport attractive for different types of users.

Tip 4. Offer a variety of booking methods

The choice of booking methods is key to making DDRT fully accessible to all types of users of all ages.

Users have the option of choosing between booking via mobile app, a booking website or a call centre. This flexibility eliminates the hurdle of making a booking, especially for users who cannot or do not want to use a smartphone. 

Padam Mobility offers all three booking components as modules, so operators can create their own service package. 

Tip 5. A clear and comprehensive marketing strategy

A marketing campaign for new DDRT services is essential, ideally starting before the launch of the service. Without (sufficient) advertising for the DDRT service, there is a high risk that not enough people will become aware of it and thus not enough users will be generated.

It’s important to integrate all the channels at the operator’s disposal. In particular, social media – including Twitter accounts and Facebook pages for the operator and any local area information service – are useful for monitoring the reception and use of the services. Targeted advertising on social media is also useful to reach different audiences with targeted messages.

Press work with local newspapers can also increase the visibility of services. It’s important to tailor information to the user groups and to convey positive messages about the benefits of the service (e.g. “DRT makes you independent from the parent taxi”) as well as providing basic information (e.g. “How does booking work?”). More generally, the entire area served should be included in the PR; besides newspaper announcements, flyers in residents’ letterboxes or billboards in central locations can also yield results.

In areas with fewer inhabitants, where news is often transmitted via the “grapevine”, it is important to involve people who have a large reach, for example, politicians or other public officials.

The principle of “recruitment” also works well. It is possible to provide passengers with promotional codes, which they can then pass on to friends and family members.

The opportunities to promote the service are numerous. Operators should consider in advance which channels and partners they can work with to achieve the greatest possible reach.

Tip 6. Think multimodal

A good public transport network is never one-dimensional. Transport managers should always ask themselves how different forms of shared mobility can interact in such a way that they complement each other and offer people transport options that fit their needs as closely as possible.

In concrete terms, this can mean that a DRT service can only be booked at certain times to certain destinations while pointing people to the structural network at other times. Or that fare and payment structures are aligned so that people can switch to different modes of transport using the same ticket.

The goal should always be to make mobility as seamless and accessible as possible to give people a good alternative to the private car.


jacks presentation

You can find Jack Holland’s presentation in full under this link. To access it, please first register on the smart classes website. All information can be found by clicking the link.

You can also contact Jack directly by E-Mail.

 Learn more about Padam Mobility.



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Padam Mobility Masterclass Series – #3 Scaling DRT – Using a flexible demand platform and a flexible vehicle supply model to grow patronage efficiently

Landor Links #3 Title

This Masterclass, on scaling, was the third in a three-part series of expert discussions covering the details of successful implementation of Demand Responsive Transport systems. The Padam Mobility Masterclass series was run in cooperation with Landor Links.

In the final edition, Asiya Jelani, Account Director at TRL and Women in Transport Board Member spoke with Daniel Mould, Managing Director at WeDRT and Jack

Landor Links #3

 Holland, Head of Business Development at Padam Mobility about how DRT services can be effectively introduced and scaled to achieve optimal coverage and economic viability.

What is scaling?

Scaling is essentially matching the number of vehicles to demand efficiently, as your DRT service grows. It’s possible to predict that services will grow from the outset with modelling. However, Jack Holland explained that it can also be planned once a service is in operation:

Scaling is not a gut feeling decision, but is carefully planned and decided during the run phase of a DRT service based on specific KPIs. This might relate to user numbers or pooling rates (the number of passengers on the bus at the same time) in a particular area, for example. If the available vehicles are constantly at capacity, this may be an indication that demand is not being served well enough and that potential users are unable to find a free vehicle at their desired time. These observations provide initial indications that an on-demand service needs to be adapted.”

As DRT can be configured to fit into local transport networks, it can be used to grow the overall ridership. Jack Holland again:

Efficient scaling depends primarily on the local conditions in which a DRT service operates. A service is only optimally used if it fits seamlessly into the structural transport network, i.e. if it brings passengers to major public transport hubs. In this context, the procurement of the DRT software plays a crucial role. On-demand services, which act as a complement to the scheduled network, can be configured in such a way that users are pointed to scheduled transport options in the app at certain times rather than booking a DRT vehicle for the desired trip.”

The ability to flex the fleet is also key. The WeDRT platform enables services to access properly registered and accredited fleet when services need more vehicles to meet demand. This is also useful when piloting the service or to test the market for additional areas or times of day when building ridership.

What about financing?

The expansion of transport services is generally assumed to imply an increase in costs, which means financing is a key concern. How can it be possible for an on-demand service to be economically viable? For Jack, this question needs to be tackled more holistically:

We live in a deregulated mindset but we need to look holistically at where we spend money on transport and how we can cross-subsidise different modes so that the overall cost is reduced for the local authority. That is how you make DRT viable in the UK. It is looking at these different subsidy pots, be it home to school, be it dial-a-ride, even be it corporate shuttles and how you can blend these different models.” 

However, regardless of external funding measures, it can also be possible to deploy a transport service in a way that is both demand-responsive and resource-efficient

Dan Mould:

Technical possibilities, such as well-deployed DRT software, help transport companies to use their fleet much more effectively. Intelligent pooling allows for better utilisation of vehicles, which means that in many cases the total fleet can be significantly reduced, which in turn saves costs.”

Jack added:

While it is currently almost impossible to offer a profitable on-demand service, it is certainly possible to set the parameters in a way that lowers expenses. At around 8 passengers per hour, a DRT service is considered economically viable. When demand is low, however, it is conceivable to reduce resources or, even better, to reallocate them to other use cases in order to relieve the cost to the public purse, e.g. for ambulance transport, school transport or company shuttles.”

Scaling – the right pace

Predicting the vehicle requirement for DRT can be very challenging. It is not easy to assess from the outset whether or not a service area should be expanded or more vehicles deployed. Making the wrong decision can have a negative impact on performance. On the one hand, having too many vehicles or a too extensive service area can generate enormous costs; on the other hand, under-provision of DRT services can lead to disappointment on the part of users. A flexible supply base is one solution.

Dan Mould: 

What we have seen in the market, and where the opportunities lie to make this more efficient, is flexible supply. If you have a core of your minimum supply base, for example, three minibuses, then you can flexibly mobilise the fourth minibus, which you may not be certain to use, through the WeDRT system.”

This ability is a real asset for on-demand service operators because both an underused fleet and an unfulfillable demand will eventually damage the service

Determining the fleet size and other parameters as accurately as possible – for example during the initial test phase – comes down to the right model design and analysis of the area. Jack Holland explains:

It is crucial to study the exact needs and circumstances of a particular region and then deploy a DRT service where it best complements, not competes with, the existing infrastructure. Scaling can mean starting in a very small area and introducing, for example, an initial feeder service to the main railway station. If this service proves successful, further stops can be added or new use cases identified.”

DRT services in France and the UK – A fair comparison?

Padam Mobility’s DRT service in the area surrounding Paris – TAD IDFM – is a very successful example of scaling. The service has been gradually extended to cover 40 service areas to date. It coordinates 8 different transport operators on a single platform, which simplifies travel for people living in Paris suburbs.

Whilst transport policies and the funding frameworks in the UK and France are very different, what we can learn is that people living in areas underserved by public transport will respond positively when they are connected to the public transport network using DRT.

Scaling – what are the take-aways?

The ability to scale a service is another very important success factor for a functioning DRT service. So what are the most important insights our experts would like to share?

Jack Holland:

Start small, have clear KPIs in place. If the KPIs are achieved look for growth, if the KPIs aren’t achieved look for something else. So, have a clear plan of where you launch, what your KPIs are, in terms of patronage, in terms of revenue, in terms of passenger experience. Use them as your basis and then look to expand from there and scale.”

Dan Mould:

You will never be able to simulate exactly what the demand or the optimal supply should be. You just want to have that foundation in the early stages to be able to scale efficiently. You need to have the set-up you need to react to data that comes in.”

The masterclass onScaling is the third and final webinar in the current series, run by  Padam Mobility and Landor Links. The other events in this series covered the topicsData Analysis of DRT Services and Integrated Ticketing. Click on the respective topics to access the corresponding YouTube video. You can find the corresponding articles under these links:

#1 A smart ticket to ride – Ask the experts! 

#2 Using Data Science to increase the success of your DRT scheme 

On-demand mobility can be a very important component in providing an effective, user-friendly public transport system. We believe that it’s important to share our experience of the implementation of DRT services with public transport authorities and operators and show how on-demand services could play an important role in BSIPs. We’re always happy to talk about how DRT can improve your bus network. Just contact Jack Holland or David Carnero directly.

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