Project title: Feasibility of Integrated Multi-Modal Smart Travel in Scotland


In 2016 Abellio, the commercial train operator owned by the Dutch national railways was awarded the franchise for the operation of the national rail network in Scotland. In winning the franchise they agreed to a number of committed objectives that they would achieve over the course of the 7-year period the franchise was awarded for. One such objective was to undertake a strategic study into the feasibility of multi-modal smart travel across Scotland;undertaken on behalf of the Scottish parliament through their transport executive, Transport Scotland, smart travel nationallywas apolitical aspirationset out in the Scottish Parliament’s transport strategy of 2006 and restated in 2015.

Due to resource constraints and a poorly received preceding review the franchise holder required urgent support to fulfil the objective by December 2016.

Work Completed

Over the course of the 16-week project we completed:

  • A comprehensive analysis of the smart travel landscape within Scotland which featured more than 20 discrete local pilots across rail, ferry and bus services.
  • Undertook a thorough analysis of the market for smart travel using both well established strategic analysis tools as well as an AMDS Consultants Ltd proprietary model for market entry programmes.
  • Developed an implementation plan for the infrastructure requirements to enable smart travel utilising a philosophy of “exceptional customer service”
  • Conducted a range of interviews with a large number of transport operators, non-governmental public bodies and customer groups to enrich the analysis with real-world aspirations and experiences
  • Developed a range of optional scenarios relating to the achievement of a national smart travel programme
  • Produced a final report featuring a number of recommendations, risks and areas for improvement in transport structures within Scotland

Issues Addressed

The biggest issue within the programme was the conflict between the ability to conduct an independent analysis of the practicality of realising smart multi-modal travel and the political pressure to get the “right answer”. Consequently, it was very important to maintain a certain distance from the government client while ensuring that the data gathered was valid and ratified.

Outcomes Achieved

The following outcomes were realised:

  • The strategic and market analyses were successful concluded representing a fair reflection of the real feasibility of realising the goal of multi-modal smart travel
  • The developed implementation plan has been broadly adopted by the transport executive and a number of specific procurements to address infrastructure short-comings are in progress
  • The franchisee, Abellio Scotrail Alliance, met its committed objective and averted a large penalty for failing to deliver a committed objective
  • The implementation of the preferred option derived from the analysis within the feasibility study should allow, in time, the Scottish Government to achieve their strategic objective of utilising smart travel to improve the economic performance of the nation.

Lessons Learned

  • While political imperatives might drive the aspiration for strategic studies to draw the preferred conclusion it is far better to allow robust independent analysis to properly define the most likely successful outcome or strategy
  • The successful conclusion of any strategic study is driven by the time given to and quality of the supporting analysis. In particular understanding the entire dynamic by being thorough leads to a higher value conclusion that can be realised.