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A Look Back At 2018

By January 4, 2019Programme Updates

The Billion Journey Project is the UK’s most extensive privately funded multi-modal transport innovation accelerator programme. It was launched by the Go-Ahead Group this year following the successful development of London Midland Labs, the UK’s first rail accelerator programme. Working with inspiring, innovative tech companies it aims to improve the experience of our passengers, who make 1.3 billion journeys on Go-Ahead’s services every year.

The project is proud to back some of the UK and Europes’ most exciting transport scale-ups as they continue to grow and thrive. Go-Ahead has an excellent track record in bringing new technology to passengers, and we’re committed to building on that through the Billion Journey Project.

The project supports start-ups with mentoring from industry leaders, access to Go-ahead data, and the opportunity to build valuable relationships, getting under the hood of the UK’s leading public transport provider. However, in return, we get to learn from some of the most dynamic young businesses out there and join them in exploring precisely what the future of transport looks like.

The output of this year has seen Go-Ahead, and it’s operators granting a number of new contracts to companies from the Billion Journey Project, including to BonTouch who will be looking to launch a product in 2019.

“Bontouch had an amazing experience on the Billion Journey Project. The weeks of the programme flew by with insights into the industry, unparalleled access to key personnel and a real drive from the scheme sponsors to turn our cohort into genuine suppliers.”
Chris Hanage – UK Director, BonTouch

Billion Journey Project Innovation Cohort Two

The teams from Cohort Two during a behind the scenes tour of Blackfriars Station


In 2018 we have seen 20 of these brilliant companies come on the programme and are proud that Go-Ahead and its operating companies have awarded ongoing contracts to more than 70% of them, making the Billion Journey Project one of the most successful accelerators of its type in the UK.

“The Billion Journey Project is the next level of innovation in the transport sector, linking Bus and Rail for the first time with the ability to positively impact one billion passenger journeys, this is not only exciting for Go-Ahead Group but represents a truly unique and exciting opportunity for any business scale up looking to get into the transport space.”
Ian McLaren – CFO, Govia Thameslink Railway


A Perspective from Bus – Patrick Warner, Head of Innovation & Strategy at Brighton and Hove Bus

Our participation in Billion Journey Project has been very beneficial on a number of levels. We’ve worked closer with colleagues from our sister rail business than ever before and built some strong relationships that will lead to closer collaboration and innovation for our shared customers in the future. This goes beyond the normal efforts to synchronise bus and rail timetabling where possible, step in with rail replacement services in the future and team up to enhance the wide-ranging work of the Sussex Community Rail Partnership but is likely to include the delivery of MaaS (Mobility as a Service) across our shared area of operation with joined up bus and rail journey planning and ticketing available in one place for the first time with multi-mode options following shortly after launch but we have also discussed how we can work together to  provide 24 hour connectivity between Brighton and Gatwick Airport for the many shift workers, some of whom experience a gap in connections during the middle of the night.

The process has also been good for stretching us culturally, opening minds up to new ways of working, collaborating with innovators and the solving pain points we know that our customers experience. The compact programs of work with the first two cohorts have also sharpened the focus on how quickly innovation can be trialled and delivered which should enable us to be far more agile and responsive as a business in the future.

MetroBus Crawley Innovation Billion Journey Project

Patrick Warner on camera at the Metrobus Depot in Crawley.


To date, we have carried out a number of live trials within the Brighton & Hove and Metrobus businesses and have further such trials in the pipeline. These include the use of beacon technology to change the way we charge for travel, helping to save customers money by introducing automatic capping based on the actual journey taken – something which is also likely to feature in our forthcoming MaaS solution. We’ve also trialled a big data tool which analyses the way our customer’s travel and the ongoing discussions we are having here seem set to give us a new scheduling and planning solution in the future that could enable our networks to become even more responsive to the needs of our customers. We’ve looked at how we can make the identification of bus faults by providing drivers with a tool that provides real-time information to Engineering colleagues and we are also about to trial a range of new sensors on our fleets that will predict some wear and tear items before they fail in service, provide mapped evidence of potholes that should enable smoother journeys, reduced maintenance costs and air quality monitoring.

Ambitions for 2019:

The Billion Journey Project has been conceived to help Go-Ahead use technology and innovation to improve the experience of our passengers and our prevailing belief is that ‘One idea can transform a Billion Journeys.’ In the year ahead we are aiming to refresh the structure of our programme. We are developing a greater focus on augmenting a more robust outreach plan for bringing the best innovators from across Europe and the World to deliver new solutions to improve the experience for our passengers.

Running in parallel comes the ongoing work to deliver the solutions generated over the past two cohorts of the Billion Journey Project. In the first few months of 2019, Govia Thameslink Railway look to launch Commuter Club (a solution to allow customers to benefit from the cost savings of an annual season ticket but paid on a monthly subscription basis) and Airportr (a service that collects and bonds air travelers’ baggage at home all the way to their destination) across GTR. Brighton & Hove Bus will be trialling a frictionless ticketing solution with Urban Things and SouthEastern look to roll out an innovative train cleaning solution with HPC. There are also three other companies from cohort one who we will be working with in 2019 across rail and bus.

To read more about the status of all the companies from the Billion Journey Project, please follow us on Twitter @billionjourneys and LinkedIn The Billion Journey Project.

Billion Journey Project Go-Ahead Transport Accelerator

The teams networking with Go-Ahead during cohort one, at our Lab HQ in Huckletree West


The Billion Journey Project Team attended the World Rail Festival in Amsterdam earlier this year, coming away with many key takeouts for what the future of transport holds in 2019. You can read more about this here:


We saw that despite being a rail event, almost every presentation concentrated on the broader multi-modal picture — a clear demonstrator that transport operators will have to move towards an ever-increasing connected journey, breaking down barriers and working closer together than ever before. Our work on the Billion Journey Project in 2018 has helped solidify this and is a clear demonstrator that this programme will play a key role in ensuring the Go-Ahead Group remain at the centre of this changing world of public transport. We want to be the keystone in the future of transportation and connected mobility.

Finally, we would also like to extend an invitation to attend our second Demo Day on the 23rd of January 2019, between 17:00 – 20:00 at White City Place, London. The event will feature pitches from the ten innovative companies on the second programme of the Billion Journey Project, along with more fantastic street food, Rory Sutherland (Vice-Chairman, Ogilvy) as our keynote speaker and a chance to network with innovators in the transport sector and beyond. To confirm your free place at the event, please complete registration in the link below.


Billion Journey Project Demo Day