CitySwift lets passengers know how full buses are

New Irish technology aims to ease commuters’ fears about travelling during the pandemic

 CitySwift will provide a tool for passengers that can help them decide when best to travel on buses.  Photograph: Getty Images

CitySwift will provide a tool for passengers that can help them decide when best to travel on buses. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Galway-headquartered CitySwift has rolled out new technology for one of Britain’s biggest public transport companies aimed at easing commuters’ fears about travelling during the coronavirus pandemic.

The move sees CitySwift working with the Go-Ahead Group to provide a tool for passengers that can help them decide when best to travel during a period in which social distancing restrictions mean less availability on buses.

The “When2Travel” tool, which Go-Ahead is rolling out across Britain, lets users know when buses have sufficient space on a stop-by-stop basis. This marks the first time that CitySwift, which provides data-driven scheduling and planning technology for public transport companies, has developed a customer-facing solution.

The company uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to gather data from sources, including real-time GPS information and consumer travel cards, to establish traffic patterns and help public transport companies work perform more efficiently.

Founded in September 2016 by Brian O’Rourke and Alan Farrelly, CitySwift has just raised an additional €2 million from existing backers amid expectations that its technology will be in demand from public transport companies coping with the challenges arising from the Covid-19 crisis.

This brings to €4 million the amount raised by the company to date. Investors include Irelandia, an investment group founded by the family of former Ryanair founder Tony Ryan; ex-CarTrawler chief executive Mike McGearty; and Act Venture Capital, a Dublin-based VC whose tech-focused portfolio includes Drop, Buymie, ChannelSight, SilverCloud, Ekco, Keevlar and Cubic Telecom.

Speaking to The Irish Times, Mr O’Rourke and Mr Farrelly said the company had experienced a big jump in business in recent months as both new and existing clients seek to adapt post-Covid.

“Close to 90 per cent of passengers disappeared overnight, and they are very gradually coming back. But companies need the data to be able to manage this as patterns have changed. We saw the big surge in business and approached our investors to get extra investment so that we can accelerate growth and become market leaders in the UK,’ said Mr O’Rourke, CitySwift’s chief executive.

“This is a pivotal moment for public transport, with a once in a lifetime opportunity to look at different ways of providing it.”

Expansion

CitySwift is also looking at expansion in continental Europe, with pilot programmes under way in Germany and Portugal and others to be announced shortly in Spain and France. It is also in talks with public transport providers locally.

As well as working with Go-Ahead, which employs 29,000 people and generates over 1.2 billion passenger journeys each year, the company has also partnered National Express, which employs 52,000 people and is behind more than 938 million journeys.

“Selling business to government is extremely difficult so we have put all our resources into signing up PLCs, especially in the UK,” said Mr Farrelly, CitySwift’s chief operating officer. “The plan was to get the flagship clients there and then go beyond that.

“I’m hoping we’ll be operating in Ireland in the next 12 months, but we also have opportunities with existing clients that have a major presence elsewhere around the world.”