Transport technology and rail sector welcome new ‘open by default’ approach to data in Draft Rail Reform Bill

23 February 2024: The draft Rail Reform Bill, published this week by the Government, has said the new Great British Railways industry body will take an ‘open by default’ approach to rail data; a move that has been welcomed jointly by Intelligent Transport Systems UK, the industry association for transport technology, and the Railway Industry Association, the national trade association for rail suppliers.

The Impact Assessment, published alongside the draft Bill, says the new rail body “will require the ability to use and disclose data that it obtains from TOCs [Train Operating Companies] through its role as franchising authority in order to effectively plan rail services, allocate investment and resources, and ensure the efficient running of the railways.”

The Assessment adds: “This will support the open data objectives set out in the Plan for Rail, to accelerating innovation by enabling third parties to develop new data-driven tools and services for the industry and its passengers.”

Welcoming the commitment to open data, Max Sugarman, Chief Executive of Intelligent Transport Systems UK (ITS UK), said: “The inclusion of an ‘open by default’ approach to data in the draft Rail Reform Bill is hugely welcome and will be positive news to the many transport technology providers who utilise data from the public sector to develop new products and services for the travelling public. The use of transport data is having an ever-greater impact on how we travel, allowing passengers to be more informed, making journeys between modes more seamless and making our transport network more efficient. This approach by Great British Railways can only be a positive step in developing a truly data-driven rail network.”

Milda Manomaityte, Innovation Director at the Railway Industry Association (RIA), said: “We welcome the Government’s ‘open by default’ data approach outlined in the draft Rail Reform Bill, a significant endorsement of transparency, collaboration, and innovation in the rail sector. This commitment not only aligns with our longstanding advocacy for open data but also marks a crucial step towards transforming the railway industry. By facilitating easier access to rail data, the bill promises to enhance operational efficiencies, improve passenger experiences, and encourage a more inclusive engagement with suppliers and innovators.”

In September, RIA and ITS UK held a ‘Digital Decade for Rail’ Summit, setting out how the railway could be transformed through digital signalling, data and AI and smart ticketing. A report from the Summit will be published in the coming months.

Note to Editors

  1. The commitment to an ‘open by default’ approach to data can be found in the Draft Rail Reform Bill Impact Assessment on page 39.
  2. About ITS UK: Intelligent Transport Systems UK (ITS UK) is the national association representing the transport technology industry. ITS UK provides a national platform to support the roll out of technology for a cleaner, safer and more effective transport network, both at home and abroad. We support our 160+ members – from both the private and public sector, and covering all sizes and disciplines – through advocacy to policy makers, connecting people and organisations, promoting the industry overseas and supporting innovation across the intelligent transport
  3. About RIA: The Railway Industry Association (RIA) is the voice of the UK rail supply community. We help to grow a sustainable, high-performing, railway supply industry, and to export UK rail expertise and products. RIA has over 360 companies in membership in a sector that contributes £43 billion in economic growth and £14 billion in tax revenue each year, as well as employing 710,000 people. It is also a vital industry for the UK’s economic recovery, supporting green investment and jobs in towns and communities across the UK; for every £1 spent in rail, £2.50 is generated in the wider economy. RIA’s membership is active across the whole of railway supply, covering a diverse range of products and services and including both multi-national companies and SMEs (60% by number).