Rail Industry Focus


TravelSpirit and making Mobility as a Service a reality

Alex Burrows, CEO of TravelSpirit, discusses the work to make the concept of Mobility as a Service a reality.

Over the past year a significant proportion of the transport sector across the world has become aware of the concept of Mobility as a Service (‘MaaS’).  The main principle of MaaS is that the passenger pays for the mobility opportunities they actually take advantage of, without the need for investing in the purchase of a significant asset such as a car or a public transport season ticket.

This innovative new model for providing transport services is now possible due to the emergence of new technology and supporting social and economic trends.

The technology supporting MaaS requires widespread use of smartphones and/or Internet-of-Things enabled devices in combination with effective data networks that allow users to have instantaneous and up-to-date access to personal travel accounts, as well as location-based services. At the same time, the adoption of trends such as sharing economy services, and a general shift in consumer preferences of young people to paying for things by subscription rather than owning assets, mean the emergence of MaaS is being taken very seriously indeed.

Morgan Stanley recently predicted that the global shared mobility market would be worth $2.6 trillion annually by 2030. That market is for services that consumers want to use to get around in a future where congestion and pollution are significant factors in the design and delivery of transport services. A future where the megatrend of urbanisation means two-thirds of the global population will live in cities. This means that our transport solutions will have to adapt and innovate in order to keep people moving and to deliver the transport services that are required for the health, wealth and wellbeing of everyone.

This is why we believe that the development of MaaS should be considered mission-critical for transport authorities. It can provide huge benefits in many ways, encouraging modal shift, making transport more affordable, increasing accessibility and social inclusion, reducing pollution and congestion, encouraging active travel, improving public health, the list goes on. Ultimately it provides better outcomes and can reshape the design and delivery of transport to be focused around every single transport user, providing a personalised service for everyone that can, ultimately, provide the behaviour change that unlocks wider benefits for everyone.

While a number of major global businesses are moving into this space – such as Daimler, Ford, GM, BMW – there is sufficient space and incentive for innovators to bring start-ups successfully into this arena, either to rival these big names, or become part of their new supply chain. In particular, contrary to the current disruption caused by US-based firms such as Uber, there will be new opportunities for local businesses to take a larger slice of the market created by these ‘first wave’ companies. This is where TravelSpirit comes in. 

TravelSpirit was founded in Manchester last year with the aim of providing a dedicated global open source software resource and community to enable actors to come into the MaaS sector and develop and test innovative new ideas that could bring MaaS services to market. While to date a lot of attention has been placed on providing open data, TravelSpirit is the first dedicated open source software resource in the world established to specifically support the development and implementation of MaaS.

These MaaS solutions could follow the example of the Finnish company MaaS Global who have just launched the world’s first MaaS product, Whim, in Helsinki and who describe themselves as “the world’s first ever mobility operator”. There are a variety of benefits to transport authorities of MaaS solutions built on TravelSpirit open source software; from creating a healthier market to procure from, being able to ‘crowd-fund’ necessary software developments and improved data-sharing and trusted-data provisions for planning purposes and for their customers.

TravelSpirit already works with a number of transport authorities, operators and other transport sector actors towards a common vision of getting new products and services to market that will deliver benefits for passengers. In addition to pro-active support from the DfT, the Finnish Ministry of Transport and Communications and TechNorth, the project has already achieved a wide range of endorsement from a number of notable large firms who see TravelSpirit as an important initiative to support their own business development agendas – including Accenture, Atkins, Barclaycard, BT, Ordnance Survey and Transdev (French-based international transport operator with operations in 19 countries).

On 28 June, TravelSpirit will convene our first Community Design Workshop in Manchester. Leading thinkers and doers from across the world will come together in Manchester to plot our course for developing a global open source community resource that will enable MaaS solutions to become a reality. 

The workshop will be punctuated by two keynote speeches; one from Sampo Hietanen from MaaS Global and the other by Alison Pilling from Transport for the North. This is open to all with the interest and enthusiasm to see MaaS and the TravelSpirit initiative succeed, either as part of the community working on solutions or from the perspective of operators and transport authorities, we are an open community and welcome all interest in our work.


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