MaaS: Enabling Rural Geospatial e-Solutions (MERGeS)

Rural MaaS offers choice beyond carsRural Technologies are pursuing a range of bids to develop innovative technology for rural areas. Its first funded project is MERGeS funded by Innovate UK through SBRI for the Geospatial Commission to undertake a feasibility study into rural MaaS.

MaaS: Enabling Rural Geospatial e-Solutions(MERGeS)

MaaS is the multi-modal use of transport to get from A-to-B cost and time-effectively. It relies on complex geospatial data which varies from trusted certainty of organisations to the socially-created by individuals. In between is data of its moment such as capacity and demand created by algorithms and the acceptance/decline of offer or connection.

Travel is an essential component of modern life. Mobility as a Service (MaaS) has social, economic and environmental benefits but this is not a quick fix. It’s far more easily deployable in urban areas. Why? Urbanites see hopping on a bus/train/tram to be normal/easy. Their app questions are transactional-when does it go?

MaaS in rural settings has major obstacles of inflexible supply/demand exacerbated by silo thinking not integrated customer-first solutions. Demand inconsistency and cuts in rural bus routes impact route sustainability; the fix is seen as spending more on historic failed approaches, not innovation for the future. Rural questions are firstly awareness and secondly behavioural change aligned to net-zero thinking.

COVID creates an economic disaster. It seriously impacts on rural transport network resilience where the only option becomes private cars. As company closures begin, those less able to afford cars are unable to get work. Safe rural mass transit flexibly following the restrictions of the day, must be part of building back better. 

Strategic Best Practice

If successful, MERGeS:

  • accelerates the shift to low carbon transport;
  • improves business efficiency; and 
  • innovates for a more sustainable public sector.

The project falls squarely into Geospatial Commission’s missions. At its core is the ethical use/safeguarding of geospatial data across organisations; it improves access to better location data services in rural areas to level up left behind communities; and enables pragmatic innovation in areas of foreseeable connectivity issues.

MERGeS follows the best practice and opportunities identified by KTN’s Power of Place 2020 to collaboratively unlock data silos to advances in cloud-based computing to harness knowledge securely for more responsive seamless rural transport systems. And seen in Decarbonising Transport, Setting the Challenge March 2020  “mobility innovation, will change the way vehicles are used. Clean, place-based solutions will meet the needs of local people; including how digital tools empower consumer choice.”

The feasibility defines the prototype technical build that enhances the practical usability of the system.