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January 10 2017
By Mel Holley

Mel is the Editor at routeONE magazine. He has more than 30 years’ experience in road and rail transport journalism.


First sets out contactless
commitment for customers

First sets out contactless commitment for customers

First has announced a commitment to allow its customers to pay for travel through the use of contactless debit and credit cards. 

A contactless pilot is ready to go live in Bristol by end of January on Brislington and Portway park-and-ride services.

This will be followed by a wider rollout of contactless across First’s bus operations during 2017 and 2018, complementing its successful mobile ticketing and smartcards.

The roll-out will be underpinned by partnerships to deliver wider city and regional schemes. This includes working with Transport for the North (TfN) and Transport Scotland on delivery of multi-modal schemes providing better value for customers

First sees contactless bank cards as a further means of reducing the use of cash on buses and as a result speeding up boarding times and services across the UK.

Says First Bus MD Giles Fearnley: “It’s important that our customers understand and embrace the new contactless payment technology. 

“This we feel will be done best working with partners and other operators to clearly communicate the advantages of the new technology in wider multi operator schemes.” 

With 100 million contactless cards in circulation in the UK, customers are expected to widely welcome their introduction to bus travel. 

 Designed to make paying for goods and services more convenient, the contactless option on First will remove the need to carry cash or purchase tickets in advance, while the fast and easy contactless payment will improve boarding times and lead to quicker bus journeys.

The announcement shows that First Bus is pushing the boundaries with use of technology and is “setting the pace for customers to enjoy frictionless payment and better bus services.” T

he contactless announcement follows the news late last year that more than 1m passenger journeys a week on First services are now via mTickets.

The investment in contactless forms part of First Bus plans to transform the customer experience through innovative new technology, having already invested significantly in mTickets, free on board wi-fi and an on-line journey planner. 

The announcement also supports First Bus’s commitment to speed up bus services, given the chronic congestion issues across the UK, through less cash transactions and improved boarding times.  The company has demonstrated boarding times are 75% quicker if customers use mTickets or Smartcards.

Giles Fearnley continued: “The introduction of contactless payment alongside our success with mobile ticketing is pivotal as we continue to make bus travel a convenient, simple and attractive experience for our customers, despite the ever increasing congestion that we face in most of our operations across the UK.

“Use of mTickets is exceeding our expectations and yet continues to grow on a daily basis.  I fully expect customers to welcome and grasp contactless bus travel with the same enthusiasm.”

He added: “We are determined to transform the experience for all our customers.  The combination of journey planning, free wi-fi, real time information, mTickets and now contactless payment really does demonstrate how technological advances are making the bus an increasingly attractive option.”

Melanie Johnson, Chair of The UK Cards Association, said: “Following the great success of contactless ticketing in London, the cards industry has worked with transport operators to explore its introduction across the UK.

“Using contactless cards for travel will bring many benefits for First Bus passengers, such as no longer having to buy and collect paper tickets or worry about having enough cash, and we are pleased with this development.”

First Bus is currently running one of its biggest ever marketing campaigns showcasing the company’s existing technology customer proposition. 

The ‘get the bus with less fuss’ marketing campaign includes TV adverts, web banners, social media and focuses on the ‘First Travel App’, the ‘First mTicket’ app, free on board wi-fi, which is now available on around 60% of First Bus vehicles, and the Journey Planner facility on First Bus websites.

In October 2016 there were more than 312 million contactless transactions in the UK for goods and services totalling £2.8 billion. 



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