Contactless ticketing plan for all British bus routes by 2022

Contactless ticketing plan for all British bus routes by 2022

Following the announcement of multi-operator bus ticketing for England’s major metropolitan areas, the five big bus groups are planning to roll-out contactless ticketing technology on every bus in Britain by 2022.

The major operators – Stagecoach, First Bus, Go-Ahead, Arriva and National Express – are preparing a business case, which is expected to be completed by late spring 2016, for a scheme that would be largely funded by the private sector for EMV contactless technology on more than 32,000 buses outside London, involving more than 1,200 bus operators and make contactless travel available for 5.2 billion bus passenger journeys a year across Britain.

The scheme would offer cashless travel for those who want it and capped pay-as-you-go-fares in all urban areas, say the groups in a statement issued on their behalf by Stagecoach.

Contactless transactions are already accepted on London’s 9,600 buses and commuters in the capital were responsible for about 1 in 10 of all UK contactless payments in December 2014. 

The groups say that new government legislation would be needed to ensure contactless ticketing was offered by all individual bus operators. 

“This contactless initiative would be the biggest smart ticketing project ever delivered in Britain and a major milestone in providing simpler travel for the millions of people who rely on buses,” says Robert Montgomery, Stagecoach UK Bus managing director and chair of the major operators’ steering group on smart ticketing. 

“Smart bus ticketing is already widespread across the UK, with ourselves and Go-Ahead having over 1.5 million smartcards in circulation. New technology has brought new opportunities to deliver even simpler, faster and more integrated travel using contactless debit and credit cards.”

Transport minister Andrew Jones adds: “The smart ticketing revolution is helping to build a modern, affordable transport network that provides better journeys for everyone. By working together, industry, city regions and government have been able to ensure more and more people can use smart ticketing to get around. We are determined to continue driving progress so passengers get the quick and simple journeys that they want and deserve.” 

The Department for Transport’s Smart Cities Partnership involves nine city regions outside London - Centro, Leicester City Council, Merseytravel, Nexus, Nottingham City Council, South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive, Transport for Greater Manchester, West of England Partnership and West Yorkshire Combined Authority - and there are currently 700,000 smartcards in use in SCP cities.

Meanwhile the Campaign for Better Transport asserted that despite the private sector-led developments, there is still a need for a national strategy on ticketing and fares.

“We welcome this progress with smart ticketing in principle, but passengers will want to see real benefits in the fares they actually pay,” says Stephen Joseph, chief executive, Campaign for Better Transport. “If contactless and smart cards, and the multi-operator and flexible tickets they enable, come with a big premium over ordinary fares people just won’t use them. What’s needed is a national strategy to deliver ticketing and fares that will allow for seamless, door to door travel on one card, valid on all operators with flexibility for part-time workers. Passengers in London already benefit from Oyster in this way, so why is it taking so long to have a similar nationwide scheme?”