Transport for London (TfL) is one of the largest transport authorities in the world. Tait is a long time communications partner for TfL, recently integrating a Push-To-Talk-over-Cellular solution which was an integral part of an award-winning COVID-19 response.
This blog post is adapted from an article featured in Connection Magazine issue 11 – download the magazine for the full article
On any given weekday, the Transport for London network has over 60,000 radio calls, reaching 74,000 during major events. To keep a complex transport network like that running smoothly, it’s essential to have a communications system that is reliable, flexible and interoperable.
A Complex PTToC Integration
A Push-To-Talk-over-Cellular (PTToC) solution was a fundamental part of the contract that was awarded to Tait for upgrading TfL’s communication system to a DMR Tier 3 network in 2019.
To provide a reliable and robust service, Tait engineers worked with TfL to implement “one of the most complex integrations of a Push-To-Talk-over-Cellular services to date, that is fully interoperable with TfL’s existing Surface DMR network,” said Thomas Brewster, Transport for London’s Service Delivery Manager Technology and Data for Surface Transport.
The Tait PTToC solution that was delivered is fully interoperable with TfL’s DMR network (the largest LMR network in Europe), and allows TfL staff in iBus control centers as well as On Street Controllers and Garage Engineers to talk to the drivers in TfL’s 9,100 buses directly using their smartphones.
Another benefit of enabling radio functionality on the smart devices staff use was that TfL removed the need for separate radios, meaning fewer equipment to deal with for users.
Adding External Capacity via PTToC
TfL used the PTToC integration in their daily operations through the COVID-19 crisis, Thomas explains: “TfL are providing additional capacity on our school bus routes to enable social distancing, and buses have been brought from all over the UK to supplement our services.”
To provide ‘external’ buses with access to the TfL radio network, TfL and Tait worked together to quickly modify the Tait TeamPTT solution and make it suitable for external bus drivers.
The project moved from engagement to deployment in just four weeks, with some buses arriving in London less than 24 hours before entering service with the PTToC equipment.
“To meet the challenge, the project mobilised rapidly. Working closely with our comms partner Tait Communications, we modified our Push To Talk radio service, making it suitable for in-cab use. The ‘external’ bus drivers have a comms link with their control centre and emergency line to TfL’s Network Management Control Centre… The Tait TeamPTT app has shown just how flexible it is. It already works well for our On-Street users, and it doesn’t look out of place in the cabs of our extra school buses either”
– Thomas Brewster, Transport for London’s Service Delivery Manager Technology and Data for Surface Transport (Source: LinkedIn)
Award-Winning COVID response
The innovation, product reliability and quality shown in this project, despite some very challenging constraints, won Transport for London and Tait Communications a prestigious International Critical Communications Awards (ICCA) for “Best Use of Critical Communications in Transport” at the 2020 Critical Communications Week.
Talking about the project, Thomas stated: “This coordinated approach with teams across the business and external stakeholders enabled, at short notice, a seamless, socially distanced return to school for London’s children on our buses last September (2020)”. Watch Thomas discuss the award-winning project in the video below:
“This was an exceptional project that moved to some really tight timescales. With the vehicle availability being so close to go-live, TfL couldn’t just roll out a spare set of radios from their existing radio system. This forced TfL to really think outside the box, and come up with a new solution to this problem, because on a TfL contracted school route, no radio means no service.”
– Thomas Brewster, Transport for London’s Service Delivery Manager Technology and Data for Surface Transport
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