Management > Open Data

TfL: “Our release of open data is boosting London’s economy”

David Bicknell Published 13 October 2017

New Deloitte research suggests release of open data by London transport organisation is generating annual economic benefits and savings of up to £130m a year


Transport for London (TfL) has said its provision of “free, accurate and real-time open data” is helping London’s economy to the tune of £130m a year.

New research, commissioned by TfL and conducted by Deloitte, shows that by providing open data to developers, TfL is improving journeys, saving people time, supporting innovation and creating jobs.

The report points out that for almost ten years, TfL has been releasing a significant amount of data – notably timetables, service status and disruption information – “in an open format for anyone to use, free of charge.” This has allowed developers and partners to bring new products and services to market more quickly, and therefore extend the reach of TfL’s own information channels within stations, at bus stops and online.

It added that TfL has worked with a wide range of professional and amateur developers, from start-ups to global innovators, leading to more than 600 apps now being powered by TfL’s open data feeds, which are used by 42 per cent of Londoners.

The report found that TfL’s data:

  • Saved time for passengers, with open data allowing them to plan journeys more accurately using apps with real-time information and advice on how to adjust their routes. It argued this provides greater certainty on when the next bus/Tube will arrive saving time, estimated at a value of between £70m and £90m per year.
  • Provided better information to plan journeys, travel more easily and take more journeys, the value of which is estimated at up to £20m per year.
  • Created commercial opportunities for third party developers. The report suggested that having free and up-to-date access to this data increases the ‘Gross Value Add’ (a term analogous to Gross Domestic Product) that these companies contribute to the London economy, both directly and across the supply chain and wider economy, of between £12m and £15m per year.
  • Leveraged value and savings from partnerships with major customer facing technology platform owners. TfL itself receives back significant data on areas it does not itself collect data, such as crowdsourced traffic data), which allows TfL to get an even better understanding of journeys in London and improve its operations.

London’s recently appointed chief digital officer, Theo Blackwell, said, “This research shows the full power of open data and how it can be embraced to improve our city to meet the needs of Londoners. The Mayor and I will set out a vision to put all forms of technological innovation at the heart of making our capital a better place to live, work and visit.

“I am looking forward to working with Transport for London and our other public services so that London is at the forefront of making the best use of data.

Vernon Everitt, managing director of Customers, Communications and Technology at TfL said, “With over 31 million journeys made in London every day, it is vital that people have the right travel information readily available to help them travel around the city. This new research from Deloitte backs our strong belief that providing data in an open, transparent and free-to-access way can be massively beneficial for both London and the wider economy.

In a foreword to the report, Everitt said, “Almost a decade ago, we decided to release a significant amount of our data – timetables, service status and disruption – in an open format for anyone to use, free of charge. Our hope was that partners would then produce new products and services and bring them to market quickly, thereby extending the reach of our own information channels. Our guiding principle ever since has been to make non-personal data openly available unless there is a commercial, technical or legal reason why we should not do so.  

“What is less well understood is the economic value and social benefits of this approach, which is why we asked Deloitte to undertake an independent review.

He added, “This is only the beginning. We will make further data openly available on a regular basis and will continue to work with our partners to improve transport for all Londoners.”

Simon Dixon, global transportation leader at Deloitte said, “Deloitte works with cities across the UK and globally, and open data has become a priority issue to unlock the potential of the future mobility ecosystem. Opening up data enables cities to keep pace with rapid urbanisation and population growth, enable innovation, and transform the urban environment."

Jeni Tennison, chief executive of the Open Data Institute said: “Open data is changing our everyday lives and how organisations like TfL work. In fact, data is becoming as important as other types of infrastructure, such as roads and electricity, which means building strong data infrastructure is vital to economic growth and wellbeing.

“The rewards can be enormous. For example, it’s been estimated that by using open data effectively, 629 million hours of unnecessary waiting time could be saved on the EU’s roads and energy consumption could be reduced by 16 per cent. It's great to see detailed in today’s report how, by investing in the provision of real-time open data, TfL has been able to save people time, support innovation across the UK, and provide a wider range of services than they could on their own.”


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