We recently caught caught up with Luke Marion, Managing Director at Oxford Bus Company, on the power of partnerships. Luke talks all about new and innovative ways to help make bus travel easier for passengers and how partnerships are helping get them back on board.
WHY DID YOU PARTNER WITH TICKETER?
Back in 2016, we were working on a project to deploy contactless payments to our vehicles. It was what customers wanted, and we were seeing cash payments really decline in many retail environments. We found the attitude of the traditional ticket machine suppliers to be quite inflexible. They weren’t really listening to the customer requirements and they were trying to think more about themselves. We brought Ticketer into the process as our trusted partner because we were really impressed with the product that we had seen in the small municipal operators and the local independents.
“Ticketer were a flexible and dynamic partner – very fast moving! They delivered something that actually has worked really well for regional bus customers.”
do you partner with other operators?
Put simply, yes we do! We’ve rolled out multi-operator QR Code ticketing now on mobile apps which is great for passengers to encourage them to travel more. In the past, if people wanted a ticket to use Stagecoach and Go-Ahead buses, they needed to buy a smartcard and get that delivered to their house. Now they can just download the app, they can buy a ticket on the app, and use it straightaway on the bus with Oxford Bus, Stagecoach or Arriva. We’ve rolled out multi-operator ticketing in a number of areas in the Oxford Bus Company with our Smart Zone Tickets. It’s been popular with the local authority because they want to see bus passengers being able to use a ticket on any bus that they want to.
HOW DO YOU SHARE DATA WITH PARTNERS?
Since the pandemic, we’ve really been making use of the Ticketer platform and all the data power that it’s got. One of the things that we’ve done is launch a new app, with a new website. Within that we’ve got not only our data but also the data of other operators’ services.
The bus industry in the past has maybe been a little parochial. We’ve tried to do things and promote our own services, and maybe not the services of other companies. Really, it’s all about making it as easy as possible for passengers to use the bus. If you do that, the market will grow and more people will use the bus. That’s my view of what we need to do for customers, rather than trying to do everything for the benefit of our business only.
HOW ARE TICKETER HELPING YOU PARTNER WITH LOCAL AUTHORITIES?
Ticketer have been really, really good in helping support our relationship with local authorities. Obviously with the National Bus Strategy, we have now had to move into a world of enhanced partnerships and bus service improvement plans. We have needed to have lots of ideas about what we can do to improve the service.
One of the things in Oxford that we have a big problem with is traffic congestion, and our vehicles being delayed out on the road. Obviously, we want the local authority to do lots of things to help us with that, like bus gates and additional bus lanes. One of the things they’ve said to us is, ‘What can you do to support?’. We can point to the things like Tap On / Tap Off (TOTO) that we have done to speed up boarding times. We are also currently trialling Ticketer’s Traffic Light Priority (TLP) solution, to try and see if we can get that to work with the investment that the Council is putting in to traffic signals, to get buses through junctions more quickly. Whenever we do that kind of thing Ticketer are really responsive and they can generally turn things around really, really quickly. It makes us a responsive partner that’s able to deliver for the local authority.
HOW DO PARTNERSHIPS MAKE THINGS BETTER FOR PASSENGERS?
Partnerships make things better in every way for passengers! For me, the Ticketer ETM being able to generate SIRI feeds, basically a Real Time Information (RTI) data feed, is magic. It shares either the vehicle’s position or the predicted time it’s going to arrive at a bus stop, and we can output those feeds to various partners. For example, we’ve generated our own departure boards that we’ve installed at park and ride sites and at rail stations. So, when a local authority might not have the funding or they might not be able to install a screen in a particular location due to lack of available sites, we can work with other partners to put that on a TV screen which has been great.
Another thing that we did was at our park and ride in High Wycombe, where our machine now prints out a QR code. For anyone who’s used the bus service, they can scan that on the car park machine and that gives them a free ticket to exit the car park. Again, that was something that we could deliver really easily with Ticketer. I think with other suppliers I’d have been really surprised if we ever actually delivered that. So Ticketer’s ability to support those seemingly little initiatives, really make a difference locally on the ground.
“So for the last couple of years it’s been all around trying to rebuild confidence in our services, getting people back using the services, and bringing in new and innovative ways to help make bus travel easier for them, and get them back on the bus. Ticketer have been a great partner in helping us do that. I know our customers (passengers) generally don’t know the name Ticketer, but it is delivering a lot of benefits for them in their everyday lives.”