Public Sector Focus

18.04.17

Stepping up to London’s contactless bus network

Source: PSE Apr/May 17

Reading Buses, the innovative operator wholly owned by the local borough council, has become the first town-wide contactless bus network outside London. PSE reports.

Reading Buses, the council-owned organisation that strives to reduce car dependency for visitors and residents, has become the first independent operator to go 100% contactless, meaning it is now the first town-wide contactless bus network outside of the capital. 

Bus users will now be able to use a contactless system which also includes an integrated card reader for all card types, whether contactless bankcard, ENCTS concessionary pass or other ITSO smartcards, as well as Android and Apple pay systems. 

Martijn Gilbert, its chief executive, hailed it as another example of the company bringing “firsts” to Reading. 

“Contactless is the final part of our new ‘three-part’ digital ticketing strategy which includes the use of ‘QR’ barcodes on paper tickets – with readers installed on the buses – cutting down the amount of waiting time as people simply scan as they board rather than waving their ticket at the driver,” he added. 

“The Reading Buses app forms the second element which has integrated journey planning, live bus tracking and mobile tickets, all on one platform, which again uses barcode technology – and has already been hugely successful with customers. All this builds upon a highly successful ITSO smartcard ticketing scheme which was one of the first in the UK at the time when launched back in February 2011.” 

The CEO acknowledged that the ‘exact fare policy’ of the organisation, which is wholly owned by Reading Borough Council, is important for safety and speeding up boarding times, but can “catch out” new users. 

“Contactless offers a great way for new or occasional users to pay on the day without the hassle of the exact fare or needing to download the app,” argued Gilbert. 

“Whilst we recommend that our regular customers download the app for their tickets, with period tickets of up to 30 days now available, and to stay connected with live travel information, our successful simplyBus smartcard will still continue to provide great value and service.” 

Great news for passengers 

The launch of the scheme early in March was attended by transport minister Andrew Jones MP, who said the roll-out of the technology on Reading’s bus network is “great news for the many passengers every day who use them around the town”. 

“I’m delighted to see Reading Buses giving travellers the choice to pay for their journey using a smartcard, contactless payment card or phone, making bus travel more convenient, cutting queues and speeding up journeys, as well as ensuring they get the cheapest fare,” the minister said. “Buses make vital journeys possible every day and we are doing everything we can to improve services for passengers.” 

As well as this initiative, Reading Buses is hoping to launch a contactless ‘tapping’ model for its £2 ‘simplyReading’ flat fare in the coming months. In the meantime, passengers can use contactless to buy singles, day tickets and period (seven-day) tickets, as well as the ‘four go together’ group ticket. 

The operator, which parades brightly coloured buses around Reading, has been transporting customers in the region for over 100 years and its buses now feature free wi-fi and several USB charging points. Approximately 70% of its fleet consists of environmentally-friendly buses, including 31 hybrid, 34 gas and 24 Euro6 diesel vehicles, in order to “dramatically improve” the air quality for the community.

FOR MORE INFORMATION

W: www.reading-buses.co.uk

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