Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Growth of multi-operator smartcard ticketing system

Multi operator smartcard for Nottingham buses

I have been noticing increasing news about the multi-operator tickets being implemented on bus services throughout England.

First off, North West of England has introduced a new multi-operator smart card called SmartZone.


·         Region’s bus users to benefit from innovative smart ticketing initiative
·         Seamless multi-journey travel across the major bus operators of the North East - Stagecoach, Go North East and Arriva
·         Unlimited travel with any bus operator from less than £2 per day
·         Bus passengers across the north east of England will benefit from smart, multi-operator travel from today (Monday 14th December).

Bus operators Go North East, Arriva and Stagecoach North East have introduced a new multi-operator smart card – “SmartZone”  which allows travel on buses operated by all three major bus companies in Sunderland, Newcastle and North Tyneside, providing unlimited travel from less than £2 per day.

Today’s announcement follows a pledge made last year by the country’s major bus companies to deliver multi-­ ‐operator smart ticketing to millions of bus customers across England during 2015 as part of the government’s Smart Cities initiative. 

Regionally, this new initiative follows the launch of the South Tyneside SmartZone scheme last December.  Since then bus companies have worked together across the country and made a multi million pound investment to deliver smarter ticketing for millions of bus passengers.& ;

The new SmartZone products can be loaded onto either a StagecoachSmart Card, a Go North East Key Card and Arriva Connect Card and will be accepted on any Stagecoach, Go North East or Arriva services in Tyne and Wear, within the SmartZone boundaries*.

Once purchased, customers can catch the first bus that comes along, making their journeys even easier and more convenient. Passengers simply hold their card over the ticket reader when boarding the bus to record their journey.

The new tickets offer unlimited travel from as little as £13.50 a week or £52 for 4 weeks in Sunderland, £14.30 a week and £55 for 4 weeks in North Tyneside and £14.50 a week and £56 for 4 weeks in Newcastle.

Tyne and Wear already has one of the highest levels of bus use in the country, along with high customer satisfaction, and it is hoped the new smart ticketing will encourage even more people to get on board the region's buses.

In a joint statement, the managing directors of the bus companies involved (Phil Medlicott, Stagecoach North East, Kevin Carr, Go North East and Nick Knox, Arriva North East) said: “Our buses are used by millions of people every year across the North East. Collectively we are investing millions of pounds in new digital technology to make it easier for people to use the bus. Smart ticketing, better information and easier ways to buy travel are at the heart of our strategy and support the government’s wider objectives to make buses better through effective partnership working.”

Also Nexus (Tyne and Wear Passenger Transport Executive) have issued a press release introducing Pay As You Go on their Pop Card system.

Pop Pay As You Go smart travel is officially launched

Passengers on the Tyne and Wear Metro can now enjoy the convenience and value of Pay As You Go smart travel using the Pop card.

Transport Minister Andrew Jones and Cllr Nick Forbes, lead member for transport on the North East Combined Authority, met at Haymarket Metro station in Newcastle on Monday, 2 November to launch the distinctive new purple Pop card, the first outside London to offer a daily price cap.

Customers can top up their cards in advance avoiding the need to pay every time they travel.

Pop Pay As You Go provides a discount compared to normal single fares on Metro – while a best price guarantee means people will pay less than the price of a DaySaver for the zones they use, no matter how many journeys they make.

And Pay As You Go customers can also use their cards to travel on a growing number of bus routes across the North East on which the smart technology is now being tested with passenger groups.

Investment by local councils, Government and bus operators has made the North East the first region outside London to offer a single multi-operator smart card.

Cllr Nick Forbes, lead member for transport on the North East Combined Authority, said:  “The north east is at the forefront of smart travel and I am delighted that the new Pay As You Go Pop card is going to make life much simpler for travellers across the region’s Metro and bus networks.

“The Pay as You Go System makes paying for journeys easier and cheaper. I have already signed up for mine and I am sure this is going to be just as popular as London’s Oyster Card.

“Nowhere other than London and the North East currently have this system and many are watching with interest. I hope that before too long we can create a wider network of joined up journeys and ticketing as part of our Transport for the North plans.”

Transport Minister, Andrew Jones, said: "The Pop Pay as you go card is a great initiative that will ensure passengers across the North East can enjoy seamless journeys and save money on their local bus and Metro services.

"The government is fully committed to improving the ticketing experience for all passengers. That is why we’re investing £2.2 million in smart ticketing technology in the North East as part of our £12 million Smart Cities Partnership scheme.

“Congratulations to the Nexus team for launching the first capped pay as you go ticketing outside London.”

The new Pop Pay As You Go card goes on sale today at Travelshops and from later this month will also be on sale at selected shops in the PayZone network across the region. 

The card allows users to store a cash value topped up online, at PayZone agents or station ticket machines.  Pop Pay As You Go customers on Metro also benefit from a ‘last journey’ guarantee – allowing them to travel even if the journey takes them into a negative balance, provided that they top up to a positive balance before they next use the card.

Customers touching in and out at Metro validators and gates will see the best fare for them calculated automatically. 

Single journeys made with Pop Pay As You Go cost 10p less than the standard fare, and all day travel will cost 20p less than the equivalent DaySaver price for the zones used.  The smart system keeps track of journeys made, and stops charging once a guaranteed daily price cap has been reached for the zones used.

The launch of the purple Pop Pay As You Go card is the latest phase in the roll-out of smart travel in Metro by Nexus, which owns and operates the system.

More than 80,000 Metrosaver season ticket, student and Gold Card passengers already use smart cards for travel.   Metrosaver and student customers can ‘click and collect’ online, loading their new ticket onto their card as they pass through a station the next day.

The fast growth of smart travel has helped increase Metro passenger numbers to their highest in five years, with more than 39 million people using the system in the last year.

On bus routes Pop Pay As You Go can be used to pay or single and return fares purchased from the driver, instead of passengers having to search for notes and change.

The North East Smart Ticketing Initiative, a partnership of local authorities, transport operators and Nexus has delivered a single multi-operator smart technology from the Tees Valley to the Scottish border.

The card can already be used in this way on Arriva services in Northumberland and those services operating ‘North of the Tyne’, with some Go North East and Stanley Travel services accepting the card in County Durham and some Stagecoach services in the Tees Valley.   The number of routes will continue to grow as bus companies introduce Pop Pay As You Go alongside their own smart products.

And over in Manchester, Transport for Greater Manchester have also launched their own Multi Operator smartcard ticket.


·         Region’s passengers benefit from launch of new smart multi-­ ‐operator bus travel
·         Cost of multi-­ ‐journey bus travel cut by an average of 10% with switch from paper to smart technology
·         Bus operators working with Transport for Greater Manchester deliver on pledge to introduce multi-­ ‐operator smart ticketing to the city region
·         Transformational initiative welcomed by Transport Minister Andrew Jones
·         Millions of bus passengers in Greater Manchester will benefit from cheaper fares from today with the introduction of a new smart ticketing scheme that works across bus companies and the region.

The ground-­ ‐breaking scheme is one of the largest in the UK outside London and is the result of collaboration between more than 30 bus operators through industry body Greater Manchester Travelcards Ltd (GMTL), the organisation behind the System One brand, in partnership with Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM).

From today, customers can purchase great value multi-­ ‐operator travel, which is stored on a smart card and can be used on buses across Greater Manchester. Fares will be cut by an average of 10% for the new electronic products compared to the equivalent existing printed products, saving customers up to £5 a week. Customers can buy adult and junior 1-­ ‐day, 7-­ ‐day and 28-­ ‐day products, providing unlimited bus travel across the Greater Manchester area.

The new product range, branded get me there, is an extension of the equivalent existing printed System One multi-­ ‐operator products. Customers will be able to load the new products onto  widely available smart cards issued by bus operators, including StagecoachSmart or by TfGM, including igo passes for young people, other concessionary passes, and a get me there smart card.  Passengers then touch in at smart readers when they board the bus to validate their travel.

The scheme has involved joint working between private and public sector organisations and represents a combined multi-­ ‐million pound investment by Greater Manchester’s major bus operators and TfGM, in partnership with GMTL, to support the regional economy by making it cheaper and easier for people to travel by bus.

Today’s announcement follows a pledge made last year by the country’s major bus companies – which include Arriva, First and Stagecoach – to deliver multi-­ ‐operator smart ticketing to millions of bus customers across England during 2015. It also delivers on a commitment by TfGM to introduce the next stages of its get me there smart ticketing scheme for Greater Manchester before the end of the year.

Transport Minister Andrew Jones said: “Smart ticketing will transform everyday journeys in this great city, making travelling across transport modes easier and saving people money. We’re committed to rolling out smart ticketing across the country through our Smart Cities Partnership, and it’s great that Greater Manchester is leading the way.”

Currently, System One printed tickets are the only ‘multi-­ ‐bus’ option for bus passengers. More multi-­ ‐operator and multimodal products will be made available as part of get me there over time.

The city's major bus operators have invested heavily in the new scheme and have delivered the technology in partnership with GMTL and TfGM. GMTL, working with TfGM, has ensured that get me there travelcards can be used with any bus in the scheme whilst also allowing interoperability with individual operators’ own smart cards.  TfGM has funded the on-­ ‐board smart card readers for smaller operators so that customers can have seamless access to travel on Greater Manchester buses.

Trevor Roberts, Chairman of GMTL, said:  “It has long been our aspiration and an integral part of our business development plans for some time to bring the flexibility and accessibility of smart travel to our System One customers who have enjoyed the benefit of multi operator multi-­ ‐modal travel for over 20 years.  It is by working in a strong partnership with transport operators across the Greater Manchester area and with TfGM that we can now start to move our products across to smart card technology utilising the back office infrastructure of the three major operators and TfGM.”

Councillor Andrew Fender, Chair of TfGM Committee said: “We want to make travel easier and more attractive in Greater Manchester and technology and smart ticketing is one of the ways we can help. We’ve worked hard with operators to ensure that get me there was built into their smart ticketing plans and I’m delighted that we’ve been able to bring on board even more operators.

“With eight of every ten public transport journeys made by bus and most Greater Manchester bus services part of this new scheme, today marks a good step forward on our smart journey with passengers.”

Stagecoach Manchester Managing Director Christopher Bowles said: “This is great news for Manchester’s bus users. Stagecoach is making an £11million investment across the country in new
digital technology to make it easier for our customers to use the bus. Smart ticketing, better information and easier ways to buy travel are at the heart of our strategy. This announcement shows that, by working together, bus operators, local authorities and the Government can make buses even better for the many people who rely on them every day.

Teresa Broxton, Managing Director for First Manchester added, “The introduction of the rebranded get me there smart tickets will help make bus travel even more convenient for customers. We’ve worked together with other operators and our Manchester transport partners to invest in technology to improve accessibility for customers across the network.”

Phil Cummins, area managing director for Arriva Manchester said: “Arriva’s commitment towards innovating for the good of our customers has always been right at the heart of our business and we welcome the opportunity to partner with our peers in order to explore new technologies which will enhance the passenger experience. The launch of the get me there smart card scheme is another example of how collaboration can deliver greater choice and better services for customers, and make bus travel a more enticing, accessible method of transport.”

Next up is Norfolk where Norfolk County Council have introduced their own smartcard ticketing system as well.

holdall® is a Norfolk County Council initiative in partnership with some bus operators in Norfolk including lynx, Norwich Park & Ride, Sanders, Simonds and West Norfolk Community Transport. You can pay for tickets on the bus with money pre-loaded to your card in the sQuidTravel Purse.

What benefits do I get from using holdall®?
·         Discounted bus fares on all types of lynx bus tickets that are originally £50 or less.
·         Special offers exclusive to passengers that use holdall®.
·         No need to worry about having the correct change for the bus.
·         Easier and quicker boarding times.
·         If you’re a parent/guardian you can add funds to a holdall smartcard® or Norfolk school bus pass so that your son/daughter doesn’t have to carry cash to pay for bus fares.

Lastly, Nottingham City Council has introduced their own multi-operator ticket for their local bus services.


Travelling around Nottingham is about to be made easier and cheaper with the new pay-as-you-go Robin Hood smartcard.

Available from Citycard ticket machines from Monday 14 December, the card will create a hassle-free way of getting around Greater Nottingham on bus or tram – even when using different transport operators.

As part of its introductory first phase of testing, the smartcard will run on buses and trams to ensure everything is working properly across the network.

In 2016, other retail outlets such as travel centres, newsagents, web and tram stops will come on line.  More bus stop vending machines will also being added.

The Robin Hood smartcard will work like London’s Oyster card – customers can add money to the card to pay for bus and tram fares. Passengers will always know they are paying less than the standard daily rate: 10% cheaper than a day ticket when paying with cash. The Robin Hood card itself is free and the fares are set by the transport provider.

It is the first scheme of its kind outside London, where the Oyster card has revolutionised the way people get around the capital, and has come about through a partnership between the City Council and local transport providers.

The Robin Hood card will be valid for travel on Nottingham Express Transit (tram), Nottingham City Transport (NCT) – including Pathfinder and South Notts buses – Kinchbus, Trent Barton and the City Council’s Linkbus network (including park and ride) within the Greater Nottingham boundary.

To use the card, a customer will present it to a smartcard reader once for each trip made. On bus services, this will be the reader on entering the bus. To use the tram, the Robin Hood card should be touched on to the validator on the platform. It’s easier and quicker, too, because passengers only need to scan as they get on their bus or tram, not when they get off. This is important to prevent being charged twice.

Councillor Nick McDonald, Portfolio Holder for Growth, Jobs and Transport at Nottingham City Council, said: “This is a really exciting development and further underlines our commitment to providing a world-class public transport system for Nottingham. An integrated travel card has never been done before outside London and I’m delighted that we’ve been able to work with our commercial partners to make it happen.

“The Robin Hood card offers a flexible way to pay for travel across participating company services and guarantees to be the cheapest way to move around the area without using a season card. It is a crucial part of providing integrated ticketing in the city to make travelling by public transport as easy and appealing as possible.

“We hope that other bus companies and East Midlands Trains will be on board soon. The Robin Hood card will be valid over the Greater Nottingham area, from Arnold to Ruddington, and from Netherfield to Beeston, so will be great for occasional public transport commuters and for shoppers and visitors to the city.”

A single trip on one day will be £1.70 with any operator. Unlimited day trips can be made for £3.15 from any one given operator or £4.00 for more than one operator. The minimum top-up on the card will be £10.

Over the next year it is planned to introduce weekly fare capping, out-of-the-area travel and child and student cards.

My conclusion

Many Councils are implementing multi-operator smartcard ticketing systems for their local services and this is a step forward towards a cashless society. Transport for London made London Buses cash free during the summer of 2014, but passengers that have a UK Contactless Bank card are able to pay the fare on London Buses and rail services which is covered by the Oyster card system. The question is, will it be the end of paper tickets for the London Transport service as smartcard payments are the cheapest option to pay their fares? It’s still a long way off until we are able to see contactless bank card payments for bus services around England.

I believe it will spread to other bus services around England, but it will take time because cash payments are still in use. The Fastrack Bus Rapid Transit service from the KentThameside area is still using cash payments where passengers can pay their fare at the bus stop.

I found an article from 1997 which talks about the Smartcard ticketing system for London Transport services. It can be read here.

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