Wave and pay becoming the norm
ational Express West Midlands has been busy rejuvenating its approach to ticketing.
Last July it awarded a contract to INIT to equip 1,600 buses with driver consoles, onboard computers, ticket printers and EMV (Europay, MasterCard and Visa) and ITSO-certified validators as well as to deliver a hosted back office. INIT is responsible for any maintenance required.
The ticketing system supports the Swift card from Transport for West Midlands.
The technology allows contactless bank cards to be used to pay for tickets. INIT’s UK managing director Jens Mullak, believes their use will grow, not just in Britain, but worldwide.
"I think it's going to be a gradual process but I'm sure they will increasingly replace cash payments," he observes.
It is a view shared by Parkeon. It points out that more than 60 million debit cards with a contactless capability are now in circulation, according to the UK Cards Association, and adds that it will be rolling out equipment that will help deliver the bus industry's vision of contactless travel across the board by 2022.
Its contactless technology is already in service in multi-modal automatic fare collection initiatives in Finland and Australia.
Closer to home, Parkeon has supported Transdev Blazefield in the roll-out of the country's first contactless transport scheme outside London. The contactless-enabled Wayfarer6 console has been specified by Transdev Blazefield for its entire fleet in Lancashire and the Wayfarer200 consoles it uses have been upgraded to include an EMV contactless reader.
Contactless will be a key feature of a contract Parkeon has won to develop a new ticketing solution for Translink in Northern Ireland. Covering rail as well as buses, it will replace one that was introduced 15 years ago and handles some 80 million passenger journeys annually.
Implementation is set to begin in 2018 to coincide with the launch of Northern Ireland's Belfast Rapid Transit network which, like the ticketing system, will form part of a £45million investment in public transport in the province. The Parkeon contract covers everything from contactless card and e-purse payments to ticket vending machines and the creation of an online app that will allow customers to manage their accounts and top up their smartcards.
"This is a key milestone in our plans to transform public transport and make it the first choice for travellers," says Translink group chief executive Chris Conway. "We are looking forward to introducing modern technology that will create easier, integrated ticketing options offering customers more choice and convenience."
Greenock, Inverclyde-based operator McGill's hopes to be able to offer its customers the ability to pay using contactless cards soon thanks to a £1million investment in new ticket machines and back office software across all five of its sites. The machines have been supplied by Ticketer, the software and related services by Nevis Technologies, and it took eight weeks to roll out the entire programme.
McGill's managing director Ralph Roberts is delighted by the results to date. "We've successfully future-proofed our ticketing platform for years to come and with no interruption to the business," he observes.
Not to be outdone by its competitors in the ticketing sector, Metric has come up with SmartQUBE.
Complete with an 8in colour touch-screen and ready for contactless payment, it supports ITSO concessionary and commercial card schemes and has built-in 4G for real-time passenger information. It is always online, says Metric, and can deliver instant information on ticket sales to the bus depot while receiving immediate data on online card top-ups.
It allows the bus it is installed in to be tracked and the driver can send and receive messages.
Also available from Metric is Mobile POS, a tablet-sized portable point-of-sale terminal complete with a card reader and a printer. Both SmartQUBE and Mobile POS can be supported by FutureFleet, a web-based solution designed to manage all aspects of a bus company's ticketing operation.
Features include the ability to create route networks and timetables or import them from third parties.
INIT is not the only business providing ticketing services to National Express West Midlands. Still a somewhat-unfamiliar name in the UK bus industry, Masabi is supplying National Express with JustRide, which allows students to buy monthly travel passes on their smartphones.
JustRide is already in action in London as well as in Greece and the USA and recently went into service with the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
Earlier this year Reading Buses introduced a mobile ticketing app – Mticketing – which allows customers to buy tickets in advance using a smartphone. There was a discount on seven-day fares bought through the Mticketing app at the time of writing.
Using smartphones as a payment medium is likely to become increasingly common, says Mullak. "Mobile payment solutions such as Apple Pay and Android Pay along with open payment systems such as contactless EMV are set to revolutionise the fare collection landscape over the next few years," adds Parkeon head of sales and marketing, Gavin Trimnell.
In a brief guide to mobile and open payment arrangements, Parkeon makes the point that they eliminate the costs to operators incurred by having to issue their own cards or handle lots of cash because they accept cards and mobile devices that customers already hold. And because cards and devices can be used as both payment methods and tickets, it says that boarding times are faster and schedules more likely to be met.
They also make account-based ticketing easier to introduce, according to Parkeon.
"It enables users, families or companies to create single or shared accounts, offering greater convenience for travelling consumers but also opening up marketing opportunities for operators," it states. "Account-based transactions are stored in the back office or in cloud-based systems such as Parkeon's CloudFare and reconciled through secure bank communication once the journey has taken place."
The McGill's package referred to earlier will accept bar-coded mobile phones alongside the aforementioned contactless plastic, smartcards, e-purses and even good-old-fashioned cash.
While mobiles and contactless may represent the future, smartcards issued by operators or local authorities still have some life left in them.
INIT is playing a key role in the UK's first fully-integrated capped-fare multi-modal ITSO smart ticketing scheme with the introduction of the Robin Hood Card in Nottingham and the surrounding area. The scheme brings together a number of bus companies – others are expected to join it – plus the city's tram network.
INIT worked with Nottingham City Council and transport consultancy Systra as well as with the operators concerned to put together the programme, which it says is the most advanced Oyster-like solution for smart travel in the UK outside London.
Nor is the paper ticket dead yet; and it can still form the basis of a useful marketing programme.
In an initiative launched at this year's Euro Bus Expo show at Birmingham's NEC, Ticketer is now offering operators the ability to add bespoke coupons to tickets as they are printed by its machines.
On the face of it that is nothing new; money-off coupons have been printed on the backs of tickets for years. What Ticketer is providing however is the ability to generate coupons that can be tailored to the time of day, day of the week and to the route or ticket type.
A cafe on a particular route may want coupons produced that promote discounted breakfasts first thing in the morning, switching to discounted lunches a few hours later. Seasonal offers can be created too; at Christmas or Easter for example.
The service is available to all existing Ticketer clients through the Ticketer back office, enabling them to set up the coupons themselves, including logos as well as the wording. All operators need to do is log on and access a new page to set up the necessary parameters.
"The great thing is that it costs our clients absolutely nothing," says Ticketer managing director John Clarfelt.
Not everybody wants to pay their bus fares using plastic or smartphones. A lot of travellers are happier with cash; and the coins in their pockets and purses will see a significant change in 2017.
Next March will see the new £1 coin enter circulation and the Royal Mail will be making more than 1.4 billion of them. Featuring a 12-sided design and bi-metallic construction – nickel-brass and nickel-plated alloy – with the aim of making it more difficult to counterfeit, it is markedly different from the current coin.
As a consequence bus operators will have to ensure that their coin counters can cope with it, says Scan Coin, which specialises in cash-handling equipment. It has introduced upgrade kits for its SC 303/313 and SC 350/360 counters.
If older readers feel that the new £1 feels vaguely familiar then that should come as no surprise. That's because it is the same shape as the old threepenny bit – in circulation from 1937 to 1971.