Passengers at Brighton station in front of Thameslink train

Go-Ahead crowns Swiftly winner of its 2020 innovation programme

  • Go-Ahead’s Billion Journey Project is the UK’s largest transport accelerator programme for start-up and scale-up businesses
  • Swiftly worked with bus company Go South Coast to improve efficiencies by 15 per cent to enable more reliable and quicker journeys
  • Nine innovative companies trialed their technology across Go-Ahead’s bus and rail businesses

The Go-Ahead Group has announced Swiftly as the 2020 winner for its annual innovation programme, the Billion Journey Project.

The Billion Journey Project – named because Go-Ahead provides more than a billion journeys a year to bus and rail passengers – is a programme that attracts innovative start-ups and SMEs from across the world.

The proof-of-concept programme gives companies the opportunity to test their technology in Go-Ahead’s bus and rail companies over 12 weeks. 

This year, nine companies took part. This included Esoterix - a specialist provider of flexible season ticket technology, Peakon - an employee engagement and feedback portal and Aclima, who measure and track air quality across the globe at hyper-local street level.

All participants presented their ideas at a ‘demo showcase’ virtual event. More than 150 Go-Ahead colleagues viewed pitches from start-ups, such as BetterPoints – who drive behavior change by rewarding passengers with ‘points’ for taking public transport – and Optibus – who use artificial intelligence to track bus supply and passenger demand.

San Francisco-based company Swiftly, the world’s first big data platform for public transport, partnered with Go-Ahead bus operator Go South Coast, with the aim to improve customer experience and timetabling.

Go South Coast – who provide bus services in Southampton, Bournemouth and Poole –  examined efficiencies across bus routes, including shortening running times and changing bus frequencies.

Swiftly tracked 100,000 bus departures a week as well as 38 routes on the Bluestar line in Southampton. The company’s platform sped up access to key data sets which reduced scheduling processes from three days to just five seconds.

Through collaboration, Swiftly recognised that performance could be improved by 15 per cent through operational changes – meaning passengers could benefit from more reliable services.

Craig Nelson, Swiftly’s European Business Development Manager said: "The Swiftly team is honoured to be the winner of this year's Billion Journey Project. We are proud of what we achieved with Go South Coast over 12 weeks and are excited to work further with Go-Ahead Group to improve the efficiencies of their services and ultimately improve the overall passenger experience - especially during Covid-19.”

Katy Taylor, Go-Ahead’s Commercial and Customer Director said: “Innovation is critical for us to stay ahead of customer expectations, both now and in the future. All the start-up companies and SMEs who worked with us this year provided valuable insight into how we can improve passenger journeys further.”

"The Coronavirus pandemic has impacted bus services and usage significantly.  Innovation is helping us respond to the needs of the Government and customers and to provide clean and safe services that passengers feel confident to use".

At the virtual event, big data analytics and visualisation company Emu Analytics received ‘People’s Choice award’. The company had partnered with Plymouth CityBus to track real-time location and movement data of bus fleets to gain insights into delays that can impact services.

Other participants of the project included Concured, a content platform based on artificial intelligence and Pulsar – a social listening and audience intelligence platform.

The Billion Journey Project is a partnership between the Go-Ahead Group and innovation disruptor Co:Cubed, a London-based innovation agency, which specialises in running partnership programmes to connect corporate challenges with start-up solutions.

Previous successes of the project include Passenger Assist – a “life-changing” app for disabled transport users, and CitySwift, who recently launched “When2Travel”, a transport tool that uses artificial intelligence to help passengers socially distance by indicating how full each bus will be.

Contact Information

Sophia Danielsson-Waters

Notes to editors

The Billion Journey Project

The Billion Journey Project was developed with the ambition of helping start-ups and scale-ups implement their product across the rail and bus industry. Powered by the Go-Ahead Group, the programme offers ambitious businesses the chance to improve the experience of a billion passenger journeys a year across multi-modal travel. For more information, go to

The following participants took part:

  • Aclima: tested air quality sensors on board buses
  • Better Points: used their reward-based app to encourage behaviour change and sustainable travel
  • Concurred: used consumer insight to help target car drivers
  • Emu Analytics: developed a powerful visualisation tool to help inform data-driven decisions
  •  Esoterix: developed a flexible season ticket trial for rail
  • Optibus: developed a lifestyle-based roster system for driver schedules
  • Peakon: piloted an employee engagement tool
  • Pulsar: created an AI=-driven tool to improve the targeting and personalisation of communications
  • Swiftly: harnessed big data to improve bus timetable efficiency