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#TravelHack - what happens next?

Just over 4 weeks ago, we held #TravelHack - a day that gathered more than 90 people to help write the data strategy for Transport for the North's ambitious goal to create a pan-Northern multi-modal transport system. Now it's time to reflect. What did we think about #TravelHack and what do we think should happen next?

I'm Paul Connell, Founder of ODI Leeds, and I work on innovation. I led the team that planned & delivered the #TravelHack project for Transport for the North (TfN). You can see all of our outputs here.

All of our open innovation pathways have a broad 3 stage process:

  1. Research, Engagement & Activation - Find out what questions need answering, find out who needs to be involved, and give them a reason to join in.
  2. Hosting, Convening & Collaboration - Provide an open space - physical & virtually on the web - for everyone who is able to collaborate . We convene this openly with some structure.
  3. Communicate, Share & Connect - In real time, place all the outputs on the web and ask for comment & input.

In some cases, we are asked for our opinion and point of view on what should happen next. In many cases the participants in the process use the energy, activity, and assets to progress their own actions.

For us there were three things that were important:

  1. The positive energy that Transport for The North creates.
  2. What the people who contributed managed to achieve - Innovation, Outputs & Ecosystem.
  3. Definite actions for what happens next.

Other people will have their own perspective and context. It is important to see and experience those different points of view, so if you would like to share your story with us, please get in touch.

So, taking these points in turn:

Positive Energy

This project is unique - it is a devolved project, the money is committed, and all decisions will be made here in The North. Does this make a difference? We think it does.

TfN describes itself as "making the case for pan-Northern strategic transport improvements, which are needed to support transformational economic growth."

This isn't about transport - it's about economic growth. TfN is not a transport authority, it is an engine for growth. This distinction is extremely important, this is what it will be measured on.

All of the TfN staff we meet speak about how their projects will make a difference - to them, their families and their communities. They are working on important stuff.

The people and organisations that have engaged know the decisions will be made here. That makes a difference - they know that they need to take it seriously and engage with the organisations and institutions that are based here.

We saw this at #TravelHack - there was a definite energy and engagement. In our opinion this is because we all knew that we were close to those that had power, and we all had the opportunity to influence.

We have many experiences where even with the best ideas, the right organisation and commitments, we don't have the connections or access to where power is. And this is far too often centralised in London.

The fact that we were able to convene nearly ninety people from all over the UK, and make the first draft of TfN's Data Strategy, in one day, in the open, is a testament to the energy and commitment to those that contributed before, during, and after the day.

Innovation, Ecosystem & Outputs

Our aim at #TravelHack was to build the first draft of TfN's Data Strategy.

What we've also been able to do is create the conditions for Innovation with the data, create & highlight some early Outputs (or prototypes that need to be built) and Activate the eco-system. This means we have a platform that we can springboard from.

In our work we know that Innovation needs Starvation, Pressure and Perspective Shift (from Dave Snowden & Cognitive Edge). We welcomed a number of people and organisations to share what they are working on and give lightning talks to demonstrate innovation that is happening in transport & data - this needs to accelerate and amplify. We are at the start of a journey and more needs to be done to deliver on the promise of innovating with data for TfN.

The Outputs from the day are held in this document - #TravelHack Innovation Day - Collaboration Doc. This is forming the draft of TfN's data strategy.

We worked on six key themes

New Sources of Data & Open Data

Data Infrastructure

Travel Choices

Disruption Data



The Ecosystem that came together through the #Travelhack project is one that included representatives from across the whole spectrum of people and organisations involved in the travel and transport sector, not just public transport and not just trains & buses. If there was one set of people we maybe needed more input from it was the people and citizens who use the system. However, the power of ODI Leeds as a neutral convener was demonstrated over and over again, as groups that would either never be convened in a formal process formed, or groups that really struggle to have offline informal conversations came together.

My two favourite sessions being the fares data session led by Julie Williams of Traveline (more of that later) and the impromptu session of bus operators, DfT, and TfN to discuss how the Buses Bill can be implemented to address the problems identified at #TravelHack.

This ecosystem is what will help us create, deliver, and manage the investments, projects, and programmes that TfN will be delivering.

So, what happens next?

There are a number of proprosals that we are discussing and thinking through with TFN about what we could do next. We will of course open this up for discussion and input - and if you want to add to the discussion please send me an email

We have three current areas that are being explored:

  • #TravelHack2 - hosted in a different northern city.
  • Co-ordinating data strategies with other transport agencies and actors (for example Highways England and HS2 - there are lots more). Can we create a transport data infrastructure?
  • Focusing on one of the themes identified at the Innovation Day - the current favourite is fares data, which is something that has generated the most interest. Get some data and hack about with the presentation to customers.

In short we'll be doing, not talking about, innovation, innovation, innovation.

For us at ODI Leeds, one of the strongest themes that came through was how the current system is unnecessarily complex, particularly when we consider fares data. In order to make the system able to flex and deliver for ordinary customers over and over again, we need to focus on this. Tom Forth, who leads our Technical Challenges Team, has written about it here.

We think starting here, and focusing on fares, would be one of the most valuable things we could do next. If you want to join us, or have something to add to the conversation (be that data, research, your experiences, etc) then please get in touch. The power in projects like this is the energy of those committed to the cause, from the smaller pieces (such as fares data) to the bigger picture (a data infrastructure that powers a transport system). A seamless transport system didn't exist in London until they tried to build it. Let's do the same for the North.