Entire UK bus network could support contactless payments by 2022

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Contactless travel could be in place on every bus in Britain by 2022 under ambitious multi-million-pound plans being developed by the ‘big five’ bus operators.

Stagecoach, First Bus, Go-Ahead, Arriva and National Express are working together to produce a business case which is expected to be completed by late spring 2016.

The scheme, funded predominantly by the private sector, could see new EMV contactless technology installed on every one of the UK’s 32,000-plus buses outside London. It would offer cashless travel and capped pay-as-you-go-fares in all urban areas.

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

The new project would complement that scheme, covering more than 1,200 bus operators in England, Scotland and Wales, and making contactless travel available for 5.2 billion bus passenger journeys a year across Britain. Associated government legislation would be needed to ensure contactless ticketing was offered by all individual bus operators.

Robert Montgomery, Stagecoach UK Bus Managing Director and Chairman of the major operators’ steering group on smart ticketing, said: “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.

“Smart bus ticketing is already widespread across the UK, with Stagecoach 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.

“This is an ambitious programme which needs careful planning and close partnership working both between operators and with local authorities. We are serious about transforming travel for passengers with this initiative, which would be funded predominantly by Britain’s bus companies, working in partnership with transport authorities.

“It demonstrates how central the private sector is to delivering the vital investment needed to improve bus services for customers and meet the social and economic aspirations of communities across the country.”

The Government has been accelerating the development of smart multi-operator commercial bus tickets through cross-sector body the Smart City Partnership (SCP). In November 2015, Chancellor George Osborne also signalled the government’s commitment to smart-ticketing by announcing £150m for schemes in the North of England.

Transport Minister Andrew Jones said: 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.”