UK Smart Ticketing – Mystery Shopper Project – Part 2
By Trevor Crotch-Harvey, 22.2.17
This is Part 2 of my blog post on the Mystery Shopper project on UK smart and mobile ticketing schemes during October – December 2016.
- Ticket products offered on cards are not what passengers want
One of the biggest discoveries of the project was how unattractive many of the ticket products offered on cards were. Very few operators offered a day pass/ticket that could be loaded onto a card ahead of time, removing the need to carry/offer cash. (This is a perceived benefit of smart ticketing frequently cited in Transport Focus reports.) An exception to this was the Avon Day Rider product, but even this appeared unknown in its home market.
In city after city, the minimum product that could be loaded onto a card off bus was a weekly pass. And there is a disconnect between products. In one instance I wasn’t able to use the stored value I’d purchased on a card to load a day pass onto the same card – at the authority’s own travel office in a major station! Apparently, the only way to achieve this was to present the card to a tram conductor, who issued me with a scrappy little paper ticket. No wonder people aren’t using cards!
- PayPoint and Payzone have a long way to go
Most major cities in the UK have come to an arrangement with PayPoint or Payzone or both, to provide ticket loading facilities on local travel smart cards. On the face of it, this is a good idea, adding at a stroke dozens of outlets where passengers can reload travel rights. I wanted to test how well this is working in practice.
The result was disappointing. Both schemes provide maps on their websites showing outlets with their terminals. However, I found one outlet which no longer had a terminal, and one outlet for each scheme which had a terminal but did not top up cards. I had to be super motivated to keep going to find an outlet which offered top ups – I’m not sure regular passengers would feel the same. One outlet which did load stored value for me told me I was the first person to ask for this on over a year, and staff had not been shown what to do. Only one outlet of five I tried said they got a number of requests to top up cards. For this good idea to be worthwhile, the two schemes need to focus on a much slicker implementation.
- Contactless is embryonic
I only found one instance of a bus operator outside London accepting contactless bank cards as a means of payment – the 36 service operated by the Harrogate Bus Company (owned by Transdev) between Leeds and Ripon. This implementation is the retail model, with a separate payment terminal, not the TfL model, where a contactless card can be presented to an Oyster reader. I saw one person use it. Bus operators are making announcements about their intention to roll out contactless, prompted by the government – it will be interesting to see how this is done and what the reaction of the travelling public will be.
- Scotland is getting its act together
I found Scotland more integrated and interoperable than England, albeit it has a much more manageable scale. Scotrail cards are interoperable with Bramble, so can be used on the Glasgow subway. I also bought a rail ticket online, which was downloaded onto my Scotrail card when I tapped a reader at a station gate. Also in Glasgow, the First app works perfectly, allowing me, as a visitor, to purchase tickets/passes ahead of time and not have to worry about buying tickets.
However, there is no multi modal interoperability (between bus and subway) in Glasgow, but there is in Edinburgh (between bus and tram), although the latter is not ITSO.
- ENCTS is a lifeline
As an aside, I was struck by the common use of ENCTS cards outside morning peak hours. It appeared to me the use of these cards was a lifeline to elderly passengers, who were getting out and about when they might not otherwise.
I did observe a confusing difference in the way some operators have implemented ENCTS. Most do not issue a ticket to the passenger, but a few do. Where the operator was isolated, this wasn’t an issue. But in one city operators issuing tickets were in close proximity to others not issuing tickets. This confused many passengers and the floor of the bus was littered with unclaimed tickets. Is this so difficult to standardise?
- Fenbrook Gold Star
I like the Rambus ecebs card checker app – this is a useful, clear and user friendly way of checking what ticket products and stored value balances are held on cards. I also like the First app. These get Fenbrook bronze stars.
I like the Pop scheme in Tyne & Wear. I was able to load stored value onto the purple Pop card at Newcastle station, and then use it on the Metro, bus, and Shields ferry. The bus transactions were cash replacement, but the Metro had a daily cap of £4.60. Pop gets the Fenbrook Silver Star.
But the Fenbrook Gold Star goes to Nottingham’s Robin Hood card. I loaded stored value at a street TVM, and could use it on every bus and tram operators’ services. All trips were flat fare, so it was a simple tap for each journey, with no need to interact with the driver. And there was a daily multi modal cap of £4 – great value, very convenient, and efficient for the operator!
Let me know if you have any questions or comments about these experiences. You can call us or contact us through the Fenbrook website if you want to discuss any of this further: www.fenbrook.com, or use the Contact Form from this website.
Fenbrook Consulting advises businesses about the commercial opportunities and technical requirements of Smart Ticketing and Near Field Communications