DataJam North East: Event Series – #3 Mobility

Train on a bridge

Around this time of year, DataJam would usually be running a series of face-to-face events including the DataJam conference – an annual event first held in 2018 – which has had great success in producing data insights, tangible outcomes and funded projects for our region.

Although we are not able to hold a physical conference at the new Catalyst building on the Newcastle Helix site this year, DataJam North East are holding a series of virtual events to explore five key themes:

  • Health

  • Environment

  • Inclusivity

  • Mobility

  • Smart living

We hope that the ideas and projects identified at these remote events will, through broader community engagement in a series of follow-up meetings, be developed into projects which the DataJam community can work on together and be taken forward to the next DataJam conference.

Mobility event – data insights

Transport is a key facet of social and economic advancement and, as we’ve all seen, an important aspect of the battle against Covid and the steps towards recovery.

On 13 August the data community gathered for the third DataJam Event Series webinar, which focused on the theme of Improving Data Usage to Address Mobility Issues.

This event brought together people working in the data, transport and mobility communities to hear about some of the fantastic data-related mobility work being done in our region, and encouraged us all to think about post-Covid planning for the future use of such data.

Public and private sector participation

Over 45 people from across 22 organisations gathered to hear 12 speakers from public and private sector organisations discuss the use of data to address mobility issues.

Speakers came from organisations including:

  • Go North East

  • Nexus

  • Worldline UK&I

  • Abellio UK

  • Newcastle University

  • Urban Observatory

  • Newcastle City Council

  • North of Tyne Combined Authority

  • Streets Systems  

Watch the full event

Speed talks

A brave new world in transport offers a real opportunity

Martin Howell, Head of Transport, Worldline UK&I

Martin opened the speed talks with a discussion of the opportunities afforded by the current situation, to attract the public back to the public transport network and to elevate the network to a better place than it has been before.

Highlighting the role that data has to play in this change, Martin sought views from the community as to how ‘mobility as a service’ benefits could be brought into the mainstream and how a truly data-led, integrated bus and train network could sit right at the heart of such a service.

Find out more about Worldline UK&I.

Follow Worldline UK&I on Twitter.

Covid: a catalyst for change

Alex Finkel, Business Intelligence Manager, Nexus

In his talk, Alex laid out Covid's impacts on mobility and the changes we have seen in our region over the last six months. He explored the legacy of these impacts and the accelerated changes which are arising as a result.

Highlighting the challenges which are faced by the transport network, Alex explored the importance of understanding the future needs of passengers, the necessity of adapting to changes in travel patterns and predicting changes with no precedent, as well as the data-led solutions that could help and the data gaps in the monitoring of demand that needed to be filled.

Find out more about Nexus.

Follow Alex on Twitter. 

Missing numbers – a data overview from NCC Transport Team

Alistair Baldwin, Senior Specialist Transport Planner, Newcastle City Council

Leading on from the previous talk, Alistair gave an overview of the transport data in use by Newcastle City Council.

He went on to discuss the data gaps that exist and the necessity of acknowledging the limits of and problems with transport data in use by local government.

Alistair identified four key challenges with transport data and sought the advice of the community as to how these issues – timing, coverage, inclusion and complexity – might be addressed. 

When building for a post-Covid world of transport data, Alistair urged the community to think about what data is not being collected, who we’re not collecting it on and the impact that this has.

Find out more about Newcastle City Council.

Follow Newcastle City Council on Twitter.

Economic impacts of Covid-19 and planning for future

Rob Hamilton, Chief Economist, Newcastle City Council

Rob gave context to the issues already raised in his talk concerning the emerging thinking that has been done within the region around Covid economic recovery.

He discussed the types of interventions and potential recovery packages in terms of key phases and described steps which have been taken to understand how that support can be delivered to residents, businesses and communities, around digital and transport schemes.

In conclusion, Rob summarised transport-related recovery issues for the participant organisations urging them to consider these and the help that could be provided by the data community as they plan the short-, medium- and long-term future of transport within the region.

Potential topic discussion

Graham Davies, Group Head of Data, Analytics and Insight, Abellio Group

A potential data challenge was offered to the data community by Graham from Abellio Group, who provided a national perspective on transport issues.

Abellio, a public transport operator for trains and buses across England and Scotland, had prior to Covid carried up to 1.2 million train passengers and 500,000 million bus passengers each day. Even then, it was difficult to balance fluctuating demand, and this will now prove more difficult as people’s habits and work patterns have so dramatically changed.

Graham asked for the community’s assistance in understanding how to be reactive to customer demand and how to use data to help balance that fluctuating demand with appropriate supplier trains or buses, as well as how to link up with other transport methods, enabling a seamless transport experience.

Find out more about Abellio Group.

Follow Abellio on Twitter.

Man riding bicycle

Can cycling help start the wheel of industry?

Robert French, Consultant, Eyecademy

Robert, himself a keen cyclist, discussed this increasingly popular method of transport and how it might be used going forwards to turn the wheels of the economy.

He outlined reasons why employers and local government might want to encourage people to cycle more, discussed what the data sets show in terms of the benefits that could be gained and floated possible data solutions that could be put in place by the better sharing of data.

For example, Robert discussed Strava, whose mission is to make active transportation accessible, safe and efficient for everyone. Strava wants local authorities to share their cycling data to better inform plans for future cycle routes.

Find out more about Eyecademy.

Follow Eyecademy on Twitter.

Controversy, the highway and data

Luke Smith, Deputy Director, Urban Observatory, Newcastle University

The Urban Observatory is one of the largest open real-time urban environmental monitoring networks in the world.

Luke discussed recent controversial highway schemes in the context of disruptions and the window they provide on possible adaptations. He explored the opportunities that have come about with the recent changes in transport and mobility.

He highlighted the need to make better use of open data, emphasising the necessity of embedding the skills and capabilities necessary to examine and analyse this data into local and national government so that we can adapt our transport systems appropriately.

Learn more about the Urban Observatory’s work around Covid-19.

Find out more about the Urban Observatory.

Follow the Urban Observatory on Twitter.

How many seats?

Stephen King, Commercial Director, Go North East

Stephen King shared some of the work Go North East have been doing with data during lockdown, examining how they could open their data up to make it available and of use to customers and thereby improving confidence in real-time and future journey planning.

Working with their technology partners, Go North East initially used real-time data to give passengers up-to-date information on the current capacity and facilities of their bus services.

Stephen went on to describe how his team developed this work into a new planning tool, with predictive capability, which can support the public in planning journeys on the network.

Find out more about Go North East.

Follow Go North East on Twitter.

Managing a crisis – Department for Transport response to Covid

Phil Blythe, Professor of Intelligent Transport Systems, Newcastle University

Transport was one of the key areas that was shut down or minimised by Covid early on.

Professor Blythe discussed the Department for Transport’s response to Covid, the steps that were taken, the data that was available to the government to make decisions and the difficulty in obtaining transport data.

Professor Blythe posed the question, 'Could coronavirus drive a revolution in travel?'

He went on to explain the currently ongoing research to support restart and recovery and what is still needed in terms of the significant gaps in reliable local and regional data, the necessity of open access and the sourcing of new data sets.

Find out more about the Department for Transport.

Visit Phil Blythe's staff profile.

Capturing mobility data in Newcastle using machine vision

Tom Bailey, Director, Streets Systems

Streets Systems is a small business based in Newcastle city centre, specialising in building equipment that supports the monitoring of city centres including cycling and pedestrian activity.

In the context of the immediate application of data, Tom discussed the research projects under way at Streets Systems, including deploying cameras around the city and tracking the proximity of people in public spaces.

In terms of the latter, translating data that’s extracted from video in perspective into data which has meaning in terms of what’s on the ground has been a particular challenge.

Find out more about Streets Systems.

Follow Streets Systems on Twitter.

Transport North East data sources

John Horne, Analytical Officer, Transport North East Strategy Unit

Transport North East have previously monitored transport plans on an annual basis. John discussed the changes that were put in place with the impact of lockdown to give a more timely picture of road, rail, metro and ferry data in the region.

He outlined the data that was available to the unit, their reliance on other organisations to supply that data, which allowed them to view actual usage numbers for comparison with typical usage, and also went on to describe the unit’s need for more local data sets and the difficulty of obtaining timely data. 

Motorway traffic


In the final section of the event, a panel of speakers including Graham Grant, Head of Transport NCC, Martin Howell, Graham Davies and Rob Hamilton drew on the talks and their organisations’ needs to raise the following to the community:

  • How we can create a means of sustaining data for the entire region over the long term

  • Commercial organisations sharing data for the social good

  • Scaling up and establishment of a framework of local data sources

  • Collating useful data sources on behalf of the Regional Coordination Group to baseline and to measure the effect of interventions put in place during lockdown and in the coming months

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