Transport Direct is an information website for UK travellers that attempts to provide the world’s first multi-modal transport portal.

Ultimately it will offer one-stop access to train, bus, coach, tram, maps, updates on delays and ways to buy tickets. Though the site still has some way to go to meet all those aims it is gaining in consumer acceptance, says its CEO, Nick Illsley.

What is Transport Direct and who runs it?

We came out of the government’s 2000 announcement of an integrated transport plan which is being co-ordinated by the Department for Transport, working in partnership with the Scottish Executive and Welsh Assembly.

Back in 2001 we started seeing clear signs industries like the airline business were taking electronic channels very seriously but there was no way to link all that information to other forms of transport, like rail or car.

Industries said they would support such a system if it were developed but they wouldn’t do it themselves, so government stepped in.

What has been achieved?

We have had a live website since the end of 2003, though eventually the service will be deployed on a range of devices beyond online – mobiles, digital TV and so forth.

The system is being built and maintained by a consortium headed by Atos Origin, which won a 10-year, £14.9 million contract at the end of 2002.

Other members of the group include the BBC, which is advising us on usability issues; Atkins; and geographical information systems specialist ESRI. Microsoft .Net is the base technology.

Is anyone using it?

Momentum is building and in our best ever week so far we had over 1m page impressions; at the end of our first full year we’d had 3m user sessions and 25m pages viewed.

Yes, given that the whole UK population could benefit from this we haven’t reached everyone yet but we are confident the service – which is unique – is increasingly useful.

How exactly is it unique?

A lot of us travel by habit – to go from Brighton to Reading they would go the way they normally go.

So part of the issue here is to get travellers researching their journey options in more depth. They should compare more than one method, say, or think harder about making their connections efficient. It’s only by having a truly integrated portal like ours that you can start changing habits by presenting all the solutions possible and making integrated transport more workable.

There is a certain amount of cultural change here. Another lesson learned is that you can’t make good information out of bad data – the more real-time and accurate the better. But we are confident our goal of 10m unique visitor sessions by the end of 2006 is very achievable.