Real Time Information System for Milton Keynes

In 2007, Milton Keynes purchased an RTI system from INEO, a French RTI company with experience in managing large UK contracts. The purchase was funded by the Homes and Communities Agency, and the system was handed over to MKC in January 2010. However, for technical reasons it did not go live to the public.

A maintenance contract with INEO expired in June 2012 so Milton Keynes Council decided to seek proposals in 2012 for a refresh/replacement of the existing system, with the intention of taking advantage of the advances in technology in recent years to reduce the amount of equipment required on the bus and removing the need for bespoke communications links. Nimbus Journey Information (now r2p UK) was successful in winning the contract and started work in late December 2012.

Initial situation

The tender specification comprised of the provision of feeds from 86 buses and the upgrade of 55 displays including three 18-line LED units in central locations, including replacement of PMR with GPRS communications equipment. The initial intent was to consider the choice of either installing dedicated on bus units or implementing the use of DAIP 1.1 (the latest and emerging RTIG protocol for communications between buses and RTI systems) via new ticket machines. The latter option was chosen after consultation. Phase 1 involved the delivery of the basic system. The project incorporated setting up a link to the Peek UTMC system to trigger traffic lights while Phase 2 was to include the provision of apps for mobile phones, web feeds, a feed to Traveline and additional displays.



r2p's solution

Working with Arriva the Shires, Parkeon and Milton Keynes Council, Nimbus Journey Information (now r2p UK) took a proactive project management approach using Prince2 methodology. In doing this Nimbus was able to ensure that cohesive and collaborative ways of working were followed throughout the project.




From the outset, Nimbus used a full suite of processes and controls compliant with Prince2 methodology. Meetings were structured around project plans, progress reports, control registers and exception reports, and a central document repository was set up using Cloud-based file sharing. r2p UK's Managing Director, Russell Gard, acted as Project Director with Keith Willis as Project Manager and Tony Pettitt as Project support.

Progress and Delivery

Commencement was delayed slightly due to an extended Alcatel period, and so Nimbus started internal preparations and design work at its own risk.

Once the project started in earnest, the displays were upgraded to GPRS and modern communications within six weeks. This was achieved through the development of a bespoke software and communications unit with an identical form factor and port layout to replace the existing components while re-using the display chassis, power supply and screen. Nimbus then commenced work with Parkeon to get the DAIP working and prove the system.

Initially, delays were encountered during the first stage of the project due to issues connected with ticket machine communications - this deployment being one of the first in the UK. Extensive testing was also required. However, with open communication the partners worked very successfully to overcome any issues and the DAIP feed went live on 16 April 2013. This then went to live test during a period of very open silent running.

Data was supplied using TranXchange 2.4 and in some cases, CSV files. The data was tested, cleaned and checked. Again close partnership between David Batchelor and Nimbus resulted in an excellent and comprehensive data set rather larger than the specification had allowed for. As the system copes easily with large data sets, without the requirement for additional processing or time, this did not result in any issues.

Result and Discussion

The Milton Keynes project was particularly challenging as it required some new approaches to data management and handling, as well as use of DAIP 1.1. Due to the history of the previous system it was also subject to very close scrutiny by the client.

Nimbus's management of the project resulted in a strong and open partnership where problems were solved without laying blame. Careful project control helped to minimise delays and the system went fully live within six months. Sign-off occurred on 13 June 2013 after a significant period of testing and continuous running, including three weeks silent running.

Also, of primary importance, delivery was within budget.

Nimbus worked effectively to overcome the technical challenges of this interesting project and deliver a successful outcome according to plan and budget. All partners expressed the feeling that the project was successful and Nimbus received compliments from Milton Keynes Council, Arriva and Parkeon for its efficient management and open approach.

Andrew Coleman, Passenger Transport Manager for Milton Keynes Council said: "Milton Keynes Council and Nimbus Journey Information delivered an extensive bus real time system to budget and in good time during early 2013. This was a technically challenging project and Nimbus worked well to solve problems without laying blame and in the interests of the council. They also provided project support and managed the registers and logs on the projects behalf. They communicated well and appropriately and without fuss. I would recommend them as partners."



David Batchelor, RTPI Project Lead, Milton Keynes Council, commented: "The Nimbus Team have shown understanding of the needs of the project combining the restoration of old equipment and the application of new standards. "They are using the PTIC National Operator Codes and the TNDS TXC data for services where the Operator is unable to supply local TXC. The Project Team have coped well with the various changes due to third party arrangements and been very adaptable in responding to the work on DAIP v1.1 and the different sorts of system reports required to identify problems leading to faster issue identification and resolution."

Russell Gard of Nimbus said: "The partners are now looking forward to developing the system with priority being give to the development of a Smartphone app as well online access to the real time data. These developments will be funded through the Council’s grant from the Better Bus area Fund."