Transport for London asks Capita to fling Congestion Charge system into the cloud

For that and other work, hard-pressed integrator cops 5-year £355m contract. What the worst that could happen?


Capita has scored a hefty contract with Transport for London that includes sending the body's on-prem IT systems for the Congestion Charge, and the Low and Ultra Low Emission Zones (ULEZ), into the cloud.

TfL hired Capita to manage tech for the Congestion Charge when it was first established in 2003. It then replaced the integrator in 2009 with IBM only to return the contracted work back to Capita in 2014.

The latest five-year £355m renewal from October 2021 comprises an extension to further work on the Congestion charge's digitisation, and other fresh elements such as the expansion of the Ultra Low Emission Zone to include the inner London area bounded by the North and South Circular Roads.

The contract will include running the registration and monitoring service for TfL's Direct Vision Standards to measure the level of direct visibility an HGV driver has via their cab window. This is supposed to reduce the risk of accidents. Capita will also implement more changes to the Low Emission Zone (LEZ) standards for HGVs and buses.

The ULEZ has, according to TfL, contributed to a 44 per cent reduction in roadside NO2 within its current area of use and 79 per cent of vehicles entering the zone have met its emission standards.

Capita said it will look at "transforming and further improving the efficiency of the ways TfL customers can address their queries about the services, through the introduction of digital technologies".

"This includes migrating the existing technology – used to operate the Congestion Charge, LEZ and ULEZ, and which processes an average of 1.5 million roadside images a day – to the cloud. This is designed to ensure that the operations are more flexible and should enable the company to scale the service quickly to incorporate the ULEZ expansion being delivered on behalf of TFL."

To cope with the contract expansion, Capita said it is set to hire and train 900 more staff, the "majority" of which will be "encouraged" to work from home.

Capita CEO Jon Lewis, hired in 2017 to help turn the business from a loss-making entity into something altogether more sustainable, was cock-a-hoop with the renewal, pointing out that Capita had previously rolled out the ULEZ "on time and on budget, and will draw on our track record of transformation and digitally enabled services, as well as adding value for our shareholders".

Let's not forget the shareholders.

Lewis failed to mention previous implementation delays in rolling out new IT systems under TfL's congestion charging project in 2016. But why would he? This was before his time.

Helen Chapman, TfL's director of licensing, regulation and charging, said: "These projects are vital to cleaning up London's toxic air, encouraging people to make more sustainable travel choices and keeping people safe on the capital's roads. The expansion of the ULEZ to the North and South Circular will be transformational, reducing road transport NOx emissions by around 30 per cent and improving air quality for millions of Londoners."

Phew, thank goodness it is in capable hands. ®

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