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Call to seize advantages of MAAS

Date: 30 January 2019   |   Author: Sean Keywood

Government support is wanted for a technological revolution that could deliver transport savings for organisations. Sean Keywood reports.

A parliamentary report that says mobility as a service (MAAS) could transform travel in the UK has received fleet industry backing.

Fleet operator organisation Acfo and the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) submitted evidence to a House of Commons Transport Select Committee inquiry on the subject of MAAS, the findings of which have now been published in a report.   

MAAS refers to digital platforms, often smartphone apps, through which people can access a range of public, shared and private transport options, using a system with which planning, booking and paying for travel is fully integrated. 

For fleet managers, this technology could lead them to instead become mobility managers, helping colleagues choose the most effective modes of transport from a wide range of options as part of an integrated process, rather than focusing solely on the traditional company car.

The report argues that MAAS could revolutionise the way people travel, just as online streaming services have changed the way they access entertainment. 

It says trials have shown benefits including reduced road congestion, improved air quality, healthier travel choices, more efficient transport networks and more effective management.

However, the report warns that if MaaS develops in an uncontrolled way, it could instead lead to increased road congestion and reduced air quality, and says that the government currently has too much focus on the growth of electric and autonomous vehicles, and not enough on MAAS. 

Among its recommendations are that the government should take a more active role in shaping MAAS, and incorporate it into its relevant policies and strategies.

It also wants government support for a more varied 'test and learn' approach to MAAS implementation.

Commenting on the report, Acfo chairman John Pryor said the organisation was pleased by its call for increased government involvement.

He said: "Acfo welcomes the conclusions in the MPs' report, which suggest that the government should take an active and direct lead in supporting the development of new digital platforms for planning journeys to ensure a 'travel revolution'.

"Acfo outlined in its submission to the committee that it believes MAAS should become the future norm, with employees using digital devices to select the most appropriate model of travel and pay for journeys to meet personal and business circumstances.

"Acfo is pleased that the report specifically warns the government that allowing MAAS schemes to develop in 'an uncontrolled way, risked unintended negative consequences such as increasing congestion and exacerbating digital and social exclusion'."

Acfo believes that MAAS will only work if government departments and agencies, along with local councils, work together on a joined up system that will allow flexibility.

"The integration of transport is not just timetables, but payment systems," Pryor said. "The ability to have fully integrated opportunities to buy and use tickets is a must in a fully rounded MAAS system."

The BVRLA also welcomed the report, and called for its members' continued involvement with the sector's development.

In a statement, it said: "The BVRLA welcomes the Transport Select Committee's MAAS report, which cites our submitted recommendations and acknowledges the role that car usership could play within MAAS transport solutions. Our members are perfectly placed to support multimodal journeys, offering flexible vehicle options, which can both help alleviate congestion and improve air quality by putting cleaner vehicles on the road. 

"We would encourage local and regional policymakers looking at Clean Air Zones to incorporate MAAS solutions as part of their mitigation factors to help drive behaviour change. While the call for funding of pilot projects represents a good step forward, there is also a real need for more infrastructure and investment as well as a long-term strategy that provides certainty for businesses and local government as they look to plan for the future."