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September 11 2018
By Mel Holley

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


World-class ticketing system glides into Belfast

The new £90m Glider bus rapid transit network in Belfast has been launched.

Using a fleet of articulated hybrid buses supplied by Van Hool, Glider offers a modern, high-capacity and high-frequency rapid transit service which integrates into the existing Translink bus and rail network. 

It also marks the first stage in delivering Translink’s new Future Ticketing System - developed by Flowbird Transport Intelligence - with off-board ticketing, another first for Northern Ireland.

Chris Conway, Translink Group Chief Executive (left), with Owen Griffith, Managing Director of Flowbird Transport Intelligence, at the launch

Glider customers will be the first to benefit from the ticketing system which will roll-out across all Translink bus and rail services in Northern Ireland over the next few years to create the UK’s largest integrated multimodal system outside London.

It will provide passengers with a range of flexible options to pay for their travel, including cash, smartcard and contactless payment cards, mobile payments and online accounts.

Translink and Flowbird were one of the first public transport operators and suppliers in the UK to implement smartcard ticketing in 2002 and all existing Translink smartcards are fully compatible with the new ticketing system.  

Flowbird has developed an entirely new back office architecture to manage the Translink ticketing infrastructure. CloudFare will act as the hub for Translink’s Future Ticketing System enabling administrators to monitor and control ticketing devices directly, view route performance statistics in real time, set automatic system alerts, manage passenger accounts and run comprehensive management reports.

Chris Conway, Translink Group Chief Executive, said: “Glider is the new face of travel in Belfast and is part of our ambitious plan to transform local public transport.   In a first for Northern Ireland, we are pleased to be implementing the first key milestone of our new Future Ticketing System introducing off-board ticketing for Glider.  The new systems will facilitate faster journeys and offer the same excellent value tickets as Metro with a focus on integration, flexibility and ease of use. 

“We look forward to the continued roll out of this innovative ticketing system that will improve the overall passenger experience and deliver long term benefits to transform how we access public transport across the region.”

Owen Griffith, Managing Director of Flowbird Transport Intelligence, said: “This milestone is the result of an excellent partnership between Translink and Flowbird. I am very much looking forward to continuing to work with the Translink team as the system is deployed across the other modes of public transport throughout Northern Ireland. The new ticketing system will help to improve the passenger journey experience and provide Translink with better information to serve their customers.”

In support of the Glider launch, Flowbird has installed 114 self-service retail units at halts along the network, supplied 230 platform validators and provided 45 handheld inspection devices. Passengers can buy tickets, top-up their smartcards, collect tickets purchased online and validate journeys before boarding, thereby improving the customer experience by speeding up the entire journey for all Glider customers.

Flowbird has also established a new permanent facility in Belfast to support the Translink’s Future Ticketing System, with engineers on call to provide maintenance support and technical expertise.

Next year will see Translink’s Future Ticketing System introduced on all Translink’s Metro and Ulsterbus services, followed by NI Railways in 2020. Further customer enhancements, including a customer smartcard portal and online top-ups, will be available in 2021.



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