February 2024 Editorial – EPN Consulting Newsletter


A couple of days ago I attended the 2024 ITS UK Conference in Manchester (UK), organised within the larger “Interchange” event. The conference had excellent speakers and discussed challenging topics that made the day spent valuable.

One of the topics discussed was MaaS (Mobility as a Service) where many ideas, strategies, benefits, etc. were debated. This made me think about when I first heard of the MaaS concept and this was about a bit less than 20 years ago.

I remember the exceptional novelty described in those days where one solution (then app) could help people willing to travel by public transport use different means of transport and pay one total sum for going from A to B, no matter the service used (e.g. buses, metros, trams, shared bike, etc.).

The rationale behind it was to make the use of public transport more user friendly, and cheaper (the total cost of the A-to-B journey was planned to be cheaper than the sum of the cost of each leg) to convince travellers and commuters to leave their own car at home. Wonderful! one app to travel across a city first, and the country later (with the future vision of applying this solution to multiple countries in the EU), one (cheaper) payment, while receiving a customised and optimised itinerary.

I remember taking part in a meeting in London at the UK Department for Transport where several stakeholders were gathered around a table to discuss this matter and the biggest concern was how to make tickets payments secure. One stakeholder bank said the cost of implementing such a secure payment platform would have cost at least 1 million GBP (about 15+ years ago) and the next immediate question was: who is going to pay?

Then, during the years another problem came out: data. All transport operators willing to be part of this platform should exchange their data about services, timetables, real time information, etc.. This generated two sub-problems: data format and willingness to exchange data. Question for the former item: Why operator 1 should adopt the format of operator 2, even if it was better designed? Question for the latter item: operators didn’t want to make their own data available, assuming that these sets of data were generated by their own passengers so data belonged to them (the operators). I can state that, unfortunately, these issues were raised in many European countries.

Third problem: cost. Transport operators didn’t want to reduce their ticket cost even if this could generate more passengers aboard thanks to the friendly use of the MaaS app. From the passenger’s point of view, it is good to have one app for all PT services, but having a discounted total cost would certainly encourage the use of PT otherwise, well, the overall issue could be argued.

Finally, some patchy MaaS experiences were implemented in some parts of Europe, but they didn’t go as expected and collapsed. Certainly now, in 2024, we still need to have several transport cards to travel in cities. Personally, I have one Oyster card for London (which, by the way, is not accepted on the Stansted Express train service), one Leap card for Dublin and one Mobib card for Brussels.

What really happens today in normal trips to cities is: travellers arrive into a city, open Google Maps on their smartphone, build their itinerary, read the multimodal solution displayed, check the real time traffic information, get on and off several means of transport and pay for each of them, just like in the 1990s. Certainly, MaaS was a brilliant idea in theory but, probably, not applicable in practice?
We will see.

Stefano Mainero
EPN Consulting & EPN Consulting Research and Innovation Founder & CEO

Article written by human beings without any use of AI. EPN Consulting Ltd. copyright 2024