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Future bus transport contracts under mobility as a service regime in the digital age: are they likely to change?


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The digital age has opened up new opportunities to improve the customer experience in using public transport. Specifically, we see the role of smart technology in the hands of customers as the new rubric to deliver services that are individualised to the needs and preferences of current and future public transport users. This frontline of service delivery has become known as mobility as a service (MaaS) whereby an individual can book a service delivered through a range of possible modes of transport. At one extreme we have point-to-point car based services such as Uber, Lyft, BlaBlaCar and RydHero (for children), with futuristic suggestions of these gravitating to driverless vehicles (cars and buses). Variations around this future are bus-based options that include smart bookable ‘point-via-point-to-point’ services that offer up options on travel times and fares (with the extreme converting to the point-to-point car service, possibly also operated by a bus business); as well as the continuation of conventional bus services (with larger buses) where the market for smart MaaS is difficult or inappropriate to provide (e.g., contracted (often free) school bus services). This paper, as a think piece, presents a number of positions that could potentially represent future contexts in which bus services might be offered, recognising that a hybrid multi-modal state of affairs may be the most appealing new contract setting, enabling the design of contracts to be driven by the mode-neutral customer experience, and the growing opportunity to focus on MaaS. We suggest that the adrenal rush for mobility services, however, may not deliver the full solution that supporters are suggesting.

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