Buses and control rooms across the West Midlands are set to receive what is claimed to be no less than a “transformational” communications upgrade over the next 12 months, after National Express West Midlands (NXWM) awarded a contract to critical digital infrastructure technology design, build, support and management firm Telent to implement enhanced digital mobile radio (DMR) communications and services to more than 1,500 buses in the region.
A wholly owned subsidiary of National Express Group, NXWM is the largest bus operator in the West Midlands and one of the largest in the UK. Its services are used by more than 2.8 million people across the region.
The technology contract will cover nine bus depots, including all routes across the West Midlands conurbation. The communication offering includes the phased replacement of the existing analogue technology and core communications infrastructure currently used in the vehicles, control rooms and associated radio base station sites.
Upgrading to a Telent DMR Tier III system is designed to provide NXWM with digital speech clarity and system resilience. It will also deliver enhanced features and the capability to add increased functionality to meet business needs.
“When identifying suppliers to work with for this major upgrade project, we identified Telent’s … as, in our opinion, the most comprehensive and reputable solution,” said NXWM’s operation technology manager, Steve Smith.
“Working with Telent as a long-term partner will enable us to take advantage of the latest and most innovative radio technology for our fleet, which is critical to the smooth delivery of our operation and quality of service to our customers,” he said. “The transition will increase overall passenger and bus driver experience by providing added protection on all of our bus services.”
The long-term contract, valued at an estimated £14m, will be provided as a managed services agreement. The migration will be fully managed and delivered by Telent, and includes GPS positional tracking, emergency call prioritisation, status messaging, ticket machine integration, dynamic group call allocation and smartphone PTT application.
Telent is partnering with radio services manufacturer Tait Communications for the migration from analogue to DMR technology. The new radio systems will be initially deployed in analogue mode.
When all vehicles in the fleet have been upgraded with the new technology, the system will be switched over to digital mode. This will ensure minimal disruption to regular bus services, and a seamless transition for the customer’s users. The initial roll-out of the upgrades will start later in 2022.
“As an engineer who has been working on analogue and digital communication solutions, and in particular this customer, for more than 35 years, I am thrilled that Telent will be playing such an integral part in modernising public transport in the West Midlands,” said Telent solutions architect Adrian Philips.
“It is essential that public transport receives the most up-to-date and sophisticated technology, and by migrating to DMR systems, this will ensure that buses in the region stay fully connected and maintained,” he said.
The news comes hot on the heels of Telent announcing it had completed a network refresh to support station-end systems for a major fire and rescue service in England.