Contactless: Catching the bus just got easier

Successful trial sees tap-on/tap-off technology rolled out across Kinchbus and Trentbarton

Do you take contactless?

It’s a question that someone who takes payments for a living hears on a regular basis – daily and even quite possibly hourly.

For the bus sector, contactless has been installed by a number of operators throughout the country, and one bus firm that has taken the plunge into the contactless-service world is Trentbarton’s sister company Kinchbus.

routeone spoke exclusively with Mark Greasley, Group Projects Director, about the roll out of Ticketer’s latest innovation, tap-on/tap-off contactless ETMs on Kinchbus’ Loughborough-based Skylink service.

For the customers

Contactless is not a new concept for the industry, but the operator is proof that slow and steady can achieve great things.

Mr Greasley acknowledges the delay in installing the technology, but with good reason.

“I know contactless has been adopted widely, and lots of operators are using it, but we wanted to make sure that when we did roll it out, it catered for everybody,” he says.

“Skylink was a really nice testbed for us to install contactless.”

Running an 11-strong fleet of high-spec Mercedes-Benz Citaros with on-board wi-fi, USB charging points, CCTV and real-time information, Skylink operates between Leicester and Derby city centres with various locations within the route, with one of the main destinations being East Midlands airport.

Mr Greasley explains that the “heavily used” service carries a variety of customers – from those travelling to Leicester or Derby or other areas for work or to shop, to holidaymakers going to the airport.

The benefits

Since 3 February, Skylink has been trialling Ticketer Standard, the technology firm’s most popular ticket machine, but with the added bonus of the tap-on/tap-off ticketing solution.

Ticketer launched the tap-on/tap-off system at last year’s Euro Bus Expo, with Kinchbus getting the ball rolling with its trial in December.

Contactless payments have huge benefits on a bus service. As well as speeding up boarding times, it is a more convenient way of paying for tickets, which is important more so now than ever before as we progress to a ‘cashless society’.

Having the ability to offer customers card payment methods – which include credit and debit and Android and Apple Pay – is especially vital, as Mr Greasley explains this adds more appeal to those returning from abroad who may only have foreign currency or high denominations of the pound.

“Ticketer has led the way to get tap on/tap off available, and we’ve trialled it and like the solutions,” says Mr Greasley.

“It’s been a chance to review what is out there in the market and Ticketer seems to be the best for us going forwards.

“In the last few years we have also invested in Omnibus’ OmniDAS system in our main office, so all of our information is open data. The systems all work together to make a more streamlined process for running the day-to-day operation.”

How it works

Tap-on/tap-off technology works by facilitating variable- and distance-based charging to ensure customers always automatically pay the best fare. It also gives operators a wealth of data on customer journeys for more accurate and fare charging.

For the Skylink service, the system always keeps an ongoing check of the customer’s spend to ensure that once they have reached either the daily or 28-day cap, the rest of their journeys within the capping period will be free.

For the customer, they don’t have to pre-select anything. They can just travel, secure in the mind that the system will work out the best price for them.

Speaking about how customers have adjusted to the new modes of payment, Mr Greasley says: “I think people are so used to using it already, they’ve just taken to it and it’s been encouraging.

“We’ve had a 20% conversion rate of journeys over to contactless so far, and I’m delighted to confirm that the Ticketer ETMs will be rolled out fully across Kinchbus and Trentbarton in the coming months.”

When investing in tap on/tap off, Ticketer can install the ticket machine which includes a contactless reader and an additional reader which is secured to one of the vertical hand rails at the door to accommodate the tap off. However, as most people will wait for customers to alight before boarding, Skylink has only installed the ticket machine for both ‘taps’.

Future of contactless

With the way technology is evolving, one has to wonder what the next steps are for improving the customer experience and technology’s involvement in that.

And with autonomous vehicles and tap-on/tap-off payments, is technology slowly removing the role of the bus driver?

Mr Greasley says he doesn’t feel the new ticketing solution is negatively impacting the driver, and in fact has actually improved the communication between them and their customers.

Alex Kerr, part of the Kinchbus driving team, agrees and says the system triggers more conversations from customers asking how it works and provides a more streamlined transition thanks to how smooth the process has been made.

routeone’s comment:

As the saying goes, slow and steady wins the race. 

As much as it’s great to have a all the latest technology and mod cons immediately, Kinchbus has shown with its Skylink service that it is not always essential straightaway.

It has made appropriate investments in other areas of on-board technology and the ticketing system has followed at a time that has suited the operator.

Being with its previous ticketing solution supplier for 10 years, it has opted to switch to Ticketer to help advance its fleet now that a solution has been found to attract even more customers.

It’s a great leap forward for the firm which has clearly put its customers at the forefront of its fleet development.

And the success and take-up of contactless payment has proven high, as it was revealed to routeone that the operator plans to roll out the system across its Kinchbus and Trentbarton network in the coming months.