There is a huge amount of excitement about the potential of digital transformation in public transport today. From smart technologies like artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things, through to new revenue models such as Mobility-as-a-Service, and even robotic maintenance and autonomous vehicles, the possibilities keep growing.

This is all very exciting, but before we get ahead of ourselves, public transport businesses need to get the fundamentals of digital transformation right. Even today, many transit companies continue to rely on decades old mainframe systems and traditional IT to run their day-to-day operations.

Before we can begin innovating with exciting new technologies, we first need to get the fundamentals of digital transformation right.

4 building blocks of public transport digital transformation


Digital transformation simply refers to the modernisation of IT. There is no single picture of what digital transformation should look like, and it will mean different things to different types of business. The digital transformation of a bus company, for instance, may focus on smart route planning, whereas the digital transformation of a rail firm might focus on new ticketing systems.

Case study: How Arriva is digitally transforming

Whatever digital transformation looks like at your firm, there are several fundamental building blocks that are vital to pretty much any digital transformation in public transport. Here are four key ingredients:

1. Cloud-based information management

‘The cloud’ refers to datacentres which can be accessed via the internet. Rather than storing all your files, applications and data locally on servers in your company’s basement, it is stored online and can be accessed by anyone with login credentials and an internet connection.

Migrating to the cloud provides a host of benefits – from immediate improvements (such as easier access to information, faster data sharing, remote work), through to more sophisticated opportunities. Think things like using AI to find patterns in customer behaviour, or ‘Big Data’ analysis to improve ticketing strategies. The cloud gives you instant access to very powerful tools that just wouldn’t work in your traditional on-premises environment.

  • For example, a bus company with operations in multiple towns and cities might struggle to share information between offices because everything is stored in local servers. But, if they used the cloud, all that data could be stored in a central place for the whole company to access and use.

2. Collaboration technology

Another fundamental of digital transformation in public transport is the opportunity to boost collaboration. Using modern workspace tools like Microsoft Teams, it becomes much easier to organise work, share ideas within the business, and even run internal conferences.

  • For example, a rail firm could use Teams calling for planning meetings, which would traditionally have had to take place in person and involve a lot of travel and expense.

Related: 7 technologies that can help public transport adapt to a new era

3. Cyber security

There is a lot of excitement in public transport circles about things like customer apps, Big Data, flexible pricing technology and much more. As great as these possibilities are, it is vital to get a solid cyber security strategy in place first. Any business which processes large amounts of customer data must ensure it is well protected to minimise the risk of breaches and data loss.

  • For example, a city might decide that it wants to set-up a Mobility-as-a-Service offering for its citizens. This is a great way of using new technology to help people save money whilst also encourage more use of the network.

However, right from the beginning the city needs to plan for cyber security and ensure the principles of ‘security by design’ are embedded in the technology. This not only makes breaches less likely, but it also improves trust in the technology.

4. Training and adoption

There is very little value in investing in sophisticated new technology if none of your staff know how to use it. For this reason, training and support are among the most important parts of digital transformation in public transport. Before deploying new technology, you need to have a plan to ensure that your employees have a genuine understanding of the value and purpose of new IT, and how to use it.

  • For example, a train company has decided to implement a new maintenance system using a task management app for its engineers and technicians. To ensure its investment is actually used, they would provide training so employees can get the most out of the platform.

eBook: Your guide to business change management

Get public transport digital transformation right with FITTS

At FITTS, we work with a variety of public transport businesses (both public and private) to support them in their digital transformations. Thanks to our experience with a wide variety of cutting-edge digital technologies, we are able to advise you on all fundamental aspects of digital transformation for your public transport business.

Contact us today to talk about your plans for digital transformation.