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Transport for Greater Manchester TfGM Taps Snowflake

February 10, 2020

Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) is using Snowflake’s cloud-built data platform to harness and analyse crucial mobility data. Migrating to Snowflake has allowed TfGM the freedom to ingest data, extract insights and gain value to support its business operations. This transition has given its users a more seamless experience when travelling around Greater Manchester.

Transport for Greater Manchester is the local government body responsible for delivering Greater Manchester’s transport strategy and commitments. It is responsible for improving transport services and facilities in Greater Manchester and ensuring easy, efficient travel for customers. TfGM works with bus, tram and train operators and oversees some of Manchester’s busiest roads by managing a 360 mile ‘Key Route Network’. Data and technology are at the heart of the organisation and enables the continual improvement of travel options and services for people in Greater Manchester.

Ensuring Greater Manchester’s transport services run smoothly is a massive task, as more than 5.6 million journeys are made across the region’s transport network each day. Every individual journey contributes to the huge volumes of data made available to TfGM. Its greatest challenge has been capturing this information and analysing it to gain crucial insights. Since migrating to Snowflake in July 2019, TfGM has been able to focus on getting business value from data rather than worrying about data infrastructure, storage or performance. Business operations can now focus on extracting insights from data and improving the transport network for people in Greater Manchester.

Snowflake provides TfGM with a data platform model that enables flexibility and scalability. TfGM now runs micro simulations of transport networks and extracts travel patterns from its datasets. This enables TfGM to pinpoint the amount of people entering and exiting certain stations during busy events, including Premier League football matches and big music concerts. Identifying exactly where people are coming from on such big occasions means additional trams and staff can be made available in the right place at the right time.

In July 2019, Greater Manchester’s Metrolink network, the largest light rail network in the UK, joined New York, London, Rio de Janeiro and Singapore as a major city with an “intelligent” contactless system that eliminates the need for paper tickets or having to download an app. The initiative introduced a quick, easy touch-in and touch-out function at tram stops and included a contactless system that delivers customers the cheapest fares for their journeys.

After introducing the contactless service, TfGM needed the ability to use network data in order to understand and make improvements to the network, services and products provided to customers. Information such as anonymised data is useful for understanding what is happening across the network, and helps TfGM respond to incidents in real-time in addition to informing long term improvements to services and products. Utilising Snowflake has led to new insights into travel patterns and behaviours for TfGM to adapt the network and add improvements to contactless services.

To ensure a successful and reliable data platform, TfGM enlisted the expertise of data warehouse & public cloud specialists Crimson Macaw to improve its wider technology stack. As well as Snowflake, TfGM adopted AWS using AWS Lambda functions, Matillion ETL and Tableau online. Crimson were able to bootstrap a full production, test and development environment in weeks allowing TfGM to attach data feeds, transform the data and create reports.

Malcolm Lowe, Head of IT at Transport for Greater Manchester said, “We have lots of data and information on the transport network and the challenge is capturing all this information, the dependencies and getting insight from it. Snowflake allows us to meet these challenges and focus on business value. When we don’t have to worry about technology, infrastructure, storage or performance, it means we can concentrate and focus on getting insight to improve the transport network and travel of people in Greater Manchester.”

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