Skip to main content

The Covid-19 Essential Travel Assistant

Providing travel advice for essential workers during the pandemic.

Providing Essential Travel Advice for Care Workers, Volunteers & The Public

Government Coronavirus travel advice covers second homes, recreation, and foreign travel ( Advice on regional domestic travel for essential workers or trips is scarce and sometimes contradictory. Essential workers, and volunteers in particular, are fearful and anxious about their travel options. Reserved parking areas are not being effectively communicated. Pop-up ‘Nightingale’ hospitals and new test-centres don’t feature on Google and as people are redeployed, untypical patterns of travel and reduced public transport timetables are not catered for. This current gap in travel management puts care-workers and volunteers at increased risk of catching and spreading Covid-19 rather than curtailing the pandemic.

The Covid-19 Essential Travel Assistant directly addresses this problem. Additionally, it provides a seamless extension to managing social distancing throughout the recovery phase and accelerates the opportunity for sustainable on-demand transport.


The Covid-19 Essential Travel Assistant

Working in parallel with regional and local authorities and facilities managers we will deploy our existing web-based travel assistant service to advise people on essential travel to critical services. The ‘Covid-19 Essential Travel Assistant’ utilises our configurable routing technology. This enables the inclusion of bespoke ‘access points’ to regional hospitals, test centres, pop-up and re-purposed care facilities and allocated parking areas for care workers.

Designed and built in accordance with the UK governments Digital Service Standard, Technology Code of Practise and Data Ethics Framework the GDPR compliant system offers a free personalised travel plan subscription (via email or SMS) detailing routes, modes and journey steps that mitigate social contact during transit. It allows service-users to add travel preferences and opt-in to free alerts that will notify them of transport network events that may affect their journey, e.g. bus and rail timetable changes, planned roadworks and diversions.

Most importantly it will deliver routing via bespoke access points to critical services. Administration of access points via the Travel Assistant’s service-provider dashboard will be managed by our team in collaboration with public-sector licensors.


Trials & Generation Of Critical Regional Data

An extendable one-month trial will focus on up to 5 selected critical service locations, hospitals, primary-care centres, pharmacies and supermarkets. The Essential Travel Assistant can be easily embedded on local authority travel advice websites and sent to care workers via a simple web-link, providing them with the confidence and assurance to travel safely and securely by the most appropriate route and means.

In parallel we can facilitate anonymous Essential Travel Assistant data being cross-referenced with national data sets of registered care-worker addresses, volunteer registrations, Covid-19 cases, hot-spots and 111 enquiries. Ultimately these combined data sets will enable finite mapping of demand, and the supply of available human resources alongside faster more widespread testing, Covid-19 detection, care provision and prevention.

[emaillocker id=”23985″]Click this link to download full proposal[/emaillocker]


Demonstrating Impact & Success

The existing Travel Assistant application programming interface (API) has the capability to expose all data-points captured during initial trails and throughout the project lifecycle. Previous trial deployments, commissioned by Innovate UK, have allowed us to refine our data capture, analysis and visualisation methodology around sector specific key performance indicators. This methodology, combining quantitative API based data and qualitative survey data will be applied to deliver a short-term impact assessment and report on the following objectives in respect of care workers and volunteers:

  • ability to get to essential services
  • time to get to essential services
  • availability of parking at essential services
  • total cost to get to essential services
  • extrapolated travel demand and supply options for essential services
  • impact of adequate travel provision on mental health and well-being

Extending Trials To A Regional Deployment

During trials the team will leverage the Covid-19 Essential Travel Assistant to create a low-touch collaborative ecosystem between facilities managers and local authorities, proving a replicable model for rapid regional roll-out. The following sub-headings give an overview of this activity:

– Essential Travel Assistant Roll-out & Supported Adoption (up to 12m / 100 destinations)

A milestone driven project plan to introduce the Essential Travel Assistant via regional authority, local council services and private sector touchpoints has already been drafted. This will be tailored to each region based on the impact assessment performance indicators from the initial trial, its geographic distribution of essential services and expected demand.

Ease of adoption by local authorities, essential service-providers and communities, who can publish it without technical support, guarantees rapid deployment and impact of the Travel Assistant. It’s as easy as embedding a YouTube video on a webpage or posting on social media.

We expect to be able to integrate 30 essential service destinations per public sector licensor by July 2020, at a rate of 10 per month. These would be clusters of 5-10 essential services in a single region, making region-wide roll-out targeted around centres of increased risk or need, managed in accordance with care-worker and volunteer resources.

Beyond this first phase of high-intensity Essential Travel Assistant deployments we hope to extend the service in accordance with the Chief Medical Officers social distancing advice, to a wider audience and range of services, including but not limited to:

  • Additional care facilities
  • Pharmacies
  • Supermarkets
  • Regional school and colleges
  • Job Centres
  • Community Hub staff
  • Third sector services

This approach will enable the managed re-introduction of services, care-workers and volunteers to regular patterns of travel whilst maintaining critical observation of travel patterns and their impact on the continued suppression of the Coronavirus.

– Data Management & Data Quality Assurance

Enabling effective channel engagement and intervention between ‘demand side partners’ (e.g. hospitals, care trusts, supermarkets, job centres) and supply-side partners (e.g. transport service providers and operators) creates a unique ‘single customer view’ across the supply-chain. The ongoing attribution and analytics of transport-led interventions will highlight where investment is still required to deliver continued improvements for effective socio-economic recovery.

The challenge of maintaining consistency of public transport service information, combined with a lack of information about travel demand, the availability, capacity and resourcing of transport services, is common to all markets. In the UK the Travel Assistant addresses consistency of information through integration with the ‘Traveline’ transport information partnership between national agencies (Highways England and Rail Delivery Group), local authorities, transport operators and passenger groups, and Transport for London’s open journey planner API. This model ensures accuracy of source data whilst enabling bespoke routing transport operator timetables to be manually overridden on a hyper-local basis. YST is also able to ingest telematics vehicle tracking data, further ensuring interoperability and scalability in respect of deployments for essential services.

– Catalysing Significant Impact & Continuous Improvement

Following the trial-period we can deploy, deliver effective interventions, capture data and start to demonstrate impact within 6 weeks. The short-term impact methodology will be extended to a region-wide roll-out over a further 8 weeks demonstrating significant impact, i.e. extending tracking of the Essential Travel Assistant KPIs (ability to get to essential services, time to get to essential services, availability of parking at essential services, total cost to get to essential services, extrapolated travel demand and supply options to essential services and impact of adequate travel provision on mental health and well-being), and critically, overlaying the travel attribution model to the spread of Covid-19.

Continuous Improvement: Built into our deployment model are the operational costs for continuously iterating the service (via our dedicated in-house software engineering team) to effectively respond to changing user needs, environments, and mission objectives. The approach to continuous improvement based on the appraisal of data analytics and user needs will be fine-tuned by working directly with public and private sector stakeholders, responding to monthly reports that will be published once the service is launched. This ensures impact is maximised for all stakeholders throughout the deployment.

– Managing Social Distancing

Its ‘ease of integration’ capability, enabling adoption across multiple existing services without additional deployment costs, means the Travel Assistant can become a key tool for the delivery of ongoing “whole place” community planning and management. In the longer-term it can be rolled-out to additional service-user groups, for essential trips and the maintenance of effective social distancing.

The wider the deployment the greater the impact and the faster the recovery by making essential travel choices visible across the supply-chain, based on people’s specific requirements and best practice in social distancing.


Equality, Diversity & Inclusion

The YST Travel Assistant was originally developed to include the special assistance needs of disabled people, funded by the Department for Transport through the Rail Safety Standards Board. It includes the default option for service-users to apply the following filters to planned trips, either as part of a stored profile or on an ad-hoc basis, for each journey query:

  • I require step free access
  • I’ll have a guide dog with me
  • I’ll have heavy luggage with me
  • I’ll need a place to park my bicycle
  • No. of adults / children

Recommended routes are updated in accordance with these preferences (and accessibility preferences are configurable if additional options are required, e.g. “I’ll have a chaperone with me”). To ensure key recommended routes are accessible we provide a route and venue audit service in partnership with leading accessibility consultants Goss Consultancy Limited. Accessibility audit costs are not currently budgeted but can be procured ad-hoc, as required.

The Essential Travel Assistant has the option to enable a ‘Request Assistance’ feature in line with the recommended journey step information for specific critical services destinations. This enables a service-user’s ‘assistance request’ to be forwarded to staff en-route (i.e. train operator staff) or staff at the destination. ‘Request Assistance’ configuration will be defined as each new essential travel location is added to the system, dependent on the availability of staff to provide assistance. It can be added and updated at any time during the Essential Travel Assistant’s deployment.

Additionally, the system can be integrated into call centre applications, supporting manual interactions and advice offered by phone if required. During roll-out appetite for phone-based deployments, via local authority service’s call-centres for example, will be assessed.


Additional On-demand Transit Partnerships

The following are established partnerships that can utilise Essential Travel Assistant demand data, and be implemented anywhere in the UK.


Through our partnership with the on-demand coach travel service, SNAP, we are able to aggregate Essential Travel Assistant demand to key destinations, and subject to volume, commission bespoke coaches with special Covid-19 social distancing measures:

  • 50% utilisation (i.e. window seats only)
  • Door-to-door pick-up, no waiting
  • Vehicle Location Feeds
  • Sanitisation between each journey
  • Full contact tracing


BookingLab currently provide a service booking platform for 25 local authorities, including the provision of pool car bookings for employees who are unable to use public transport for social distancing or other reasons. The Essential Travel Assistants’ integration with the BookingLab platform can quickly address high volumes of Covid-19 test centre reservations.


Example Deployment Messaging

Travel advice: Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Guidance for essential workers, volunteers and anyone making an essential trip.

If you have to travel in the West Midlands during the Coronavirus outbreak you should plan your trip in advance and register for essential travel updates. This applies to essential workers, volunteers and the general public. Recommend journey plans to pre-loaded destinations are configured to mitigate social contact during transit.