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October 03 2018
By Mel Holley

A former routeone editor, Mel has more than 30 years’ experience in road and rail transport journalism.

Ticketer rollout across First
increases revenue and cuts fraud

Ticketer has completed the national installation of over 5,500 contactless Electronic Ticket Machines (ETMs) for First Bus in record time. The entire First Bus fleet of 5,835 vehicles, from Cornwall to Aberdeen, now accepts mTickets and contactless payments.

The introduction of Ticketer contactless ETMs is part of a £19.3m investment by First Bus aimed at improving the customer experience and to encourage customers to move from cash to digital transactions.​

It has been so successful that First Bus is now processing 1.5m contactless payments per month, with 33% of payments from its Aberdeen operating company already contactless. Mobile sales have also accelerated, and are now running at a rate of 1.5 million transactions per week.

Dave Lynch, CIO, First Group, says: “The roll-out of the Ticketer ETMs has been hugely successful, in so many ways. Every implementation was completed successfully and bang on time, and passengers immediately embraced the ability to pay using contactless cards, smart phones and via our website.

“The introduction of Ticketer will enable us to meet our target for digital payments to exceed cash by mid-2019.”

Following the introduction of the new Ticketer ETMs, First Bus has seen its revenues rise significantly, and its margins increase very substantially.

It has also noted a reduction in fraud due to machine reading of QR codes and the level of unrecovered funds from contactless payments has fallen to 0.1%, significantly below the industry average of 1.5%.

Other benefits First Bus are reporting include faster passenger boarding as well as improved scheduling decisions for service optimisation due to the big data generated by the ETMs.

Built in Schedule Adherence enables drivers to be punctual with a countdown on the ticket machines to departure times. Passengers also benefit from the data from the ETMs as it is fed into the First Bus Travel Information app, providing real time information about bus service locations and vehicle tracking.

Sarah Mortlock, Retail Operations Manager, First Bus says: “We’re proud of the significant progress that we’re making with the rollout of contactless, as we’re seeing growth week-on-week, especially within our larger urban operations, such as Bristol and West Yorkshire.

“We noticed immediately that our drivers and passengers loved the new, easy to use ETMs. As a result, alongside our contactless offering, the use of mTickets is exceeding our expectations, and year-on-year growth (over 100%) continues to be strong.”

The Ticketer ETMs offer multiple payment options, from cash to mTickets with contactless flexibility offered through the payment service provider Littlepay. First Bus passengers can also now buy tickets on the First website, with a QR code sent to customers’ smart phones which are scanned as they board the bus.

Amin Shayan, CEO, Littlepay says: “The impressive transaction growth we've seen is indisputable evidence of passenger demand for a contactless payment option. First Group has led the way in responding to this demand with a rapid rollout across the UK and Ireland. The proven combination of Ticketer ETMs with Littlepay's processing platform has reduced the complexity, cost and risks of deploying contactless for operators of all sizes - with resounding success."

John Clarfelt, Managing Director at Ticketer, adds: “This has been a very exciting project to be involved in. I am immensely proud of our team, working in complete partnership with First Bus, for taking on board such a major customer, and successfully delivering the solution nationally in a hugely challenging timescale.

“Our aim is to make bus travel easier and our ETMs have clearly been welcomed by First’s customers as there was an immediate increase in the use of patronage, including mTicketing and contactless, following their introduction.”

The initial 4,000 vehicles were fitted, including two additional areas (Essex and Eastern Counties) following the successful initial roll out. The largest operating areas, West Yorkshire and Glasgow, with over 800 vehicles each, were completed over four weekends to keep downtime to an absolute minimum.

Greater Manchester was the final First Bus operator to switch to Ticketer ETMs, delivered within 12 weeks from order to completion of rollout.

Dave Lynch continued “We worked very successfully in partnership with Ticketer. We found them to be exceptionally professional and supportive throughout the process. Nothing was too much trouble for them, they just got on with it, often working all hours to complete each depot for successful rollout, time after time. At the outset Ticketer promised much - and they delivered it all.”

It has to be good news especially the growth in ridership and revenue. Perhaps now the group may consider restoration of payment of a dividend instead of focusing on paying their managers and directors exorbitant salaries.
Kenneth Farrington

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