Scotland’s bus operators to deliver smart ticketing for millions of passengers

  • Three quarters of Scottish population to benefit by 2017
  • Smart ticketing also to extend to rail, ferries and subway

Bus operators across Scotland have outlined their commitment to deliver multi-operator smart ticketing for millions of Scottish bus customers, paving the way for seamless travel between bus, rail, ferry and subway. 

The pledge by the country’s major bus companies – First, Stagecoach, Lothian Buses, McGill’s and Xplore Dundee – will deliver smart ticketing on buses across the country during 2016-17. 

The operators involved also confirmed that the project is expected to extend to rail, ferries and the subway in the near future. Technical work on the scheme has already begun, building upon existing smart platforms already used by operators which conform to the UK-wide Government ITSO standard.

Successful delivery of the first phase of the project will see smart ticketing made available to around three quarters of the Scottish population over the course of 2017. This will be done through the launch of interoperable, bus-to-bus, smart ticketing across Scotland's largest cities (Aberdeen, Dundee, Glasgow and Edinburgh) and the surrounding areas, with delivery of these schemes already under way. 

Once in place, customers will be able to store multi-operator tickets electronically on a smartcard rather than using paper tickets and will be able to travel on different buses using one smartcard.

As well as these city schemes, Scotland’s major bus operators will also support the introduction of a single standard e-purse, a Scotland-wide saltirecard scheme that will be developed and delivered by Transport Scotland, and which will enable customers to top up their smartcards with funds – similar to the way an Oyster card works in London. The Scottish major bus operators will cooperate so these smartcards can be accepted on all their buses. This will allow end to end journeys across Scotland to be completed on the various transport modes, inclusive of subway, rail and ferry.

To assist customer recognition of acceptance across all operators and transport modes a common saltirecard logo will be displayed on the smartcards.

Britain’s five main bus operators are also working on an ambitious plan to see contactless travel introduced on every one of the UK’s 32,000-plus buses outside London. 

The scheme, funded predominantly by the private sector and available to all operators to enable their participation, could see new EMV contactless technology installed on buses in Scotland by 2022, offering cashless travel for those who want it. 

Fiona Kerr, Chair of the Confederation of Passenger Transport in Scotland and Managing Director of First Bus in Scotland said: “The four multi-operator schemes already being developed are an important first step in delivering smart joined up ticketing across Scotland for our customers. With 80% of all public transport journeys in Scotland made by bus, we’re working closely together as an industry to give our passengers what they want.

“The Scottish bus industry is being clear in our commitment to transforming how our customers pay for their travel. Delivering smarter, faster, integrated travel will save them both time and money, and will complement our existing smart and mobile ticketing offerings which are available across all of our bus networks in Scotland.”

Derek Mackay, Minister for Transport and Islands said: “The use of Smart technology, using one card to fulfil many purposes, forms part of the Scottish Government’s long-term vision that all journeys on Scotland’s bus, rail, ferry, subway and tram networks can be made using some form of smart ticketing or payment. 

“This announcement is great news for public transport users across Scotland as it sees the bus industry on the cusp of delivering multi-operator ticketing and paves the way for multi-modal ticketing. This will offer passengers increased flexibility and value for money while reducing the need to purchase multiple tickets, while also using a common saltirecard branding making it easily identifiable.

“I am delighted that our commitment to partnership working has produced such good results, and pleased that bus operators’ investments are being coordinated to make multi-operator and multi-modal tickets possible. The Scottish Government will play its part in this partnership – working in consultation with the operators, Transport Scotland will procure the national Scottish e-purse to support this initiative.”

Published 23rd March 2016