Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport, Andrew Jones MP, has visited Reading Buses to launch a new contactless payment option for bus travel on the operator’s services in and around the Berkshire town.
As the main bus operator in the town, this will form the UK’s first town-wide contactless bus network outside of London which means all residents in the borough will be served by a bus accepting the bankcards.
Reading Buses is also the first independent – non PLC – operator to go 100% contactless.
In another first, Reading Buses is the first operator using the Ticketer system to go contactless which also includes an integrated card reader for all card types, whether contactless bankcard, ENCTS concessionary pass or other ITSO smartcards as well as Apple and Android pay. Other contactless schemes have required separate card readers on the buses.
Martijn Gilbert, Chief Executive of Reading Buses, said: “Once again we are delighted to bring a number of firsts to Reading. We have been working hard and investing in upgraded ticketing systems, with our supplier Ticketer and payment services provider CreditCall, to get contactless launched across our entire Reading town network – something that we believe we are the first to do outside of London.
“Contactless is the final part of our new ‘three part’ digital ticketing strategy which includes the use of ‘QR’ barcodes on paper tickets – with readers installed on the buses – cutting down the amount of waiting time as people simply scan as they board rather than waving their ticket at the driver.
“The Reading Buses app forms the second element which has integrated journey planning, live bus tracking and mobile tickets, all on one platform, which again uses barcode technology – and has already been hugely successful with customers.
“All this builds upon a highly successful ITSO smartcard ticketing scheme which was one of the first in the UK at the time when launched back in February 2011.”
Against a backdrop of Reading Buses ‘even more ways to pay’ message, Martijn set out that customers can now enjoy a multitude of ways to buy their tickets whether in advance or on the day.
He said: “Our exact fare policy, whilst important for safety and speeding up boarding times, can catch out new users. Our app will always offer the best available fares, most of which are even cheaper than paying on the bus.
“But, at the same time, contactless offers a great way for new or occasional users to pay on the day without the hassle of the exact fare or needing to download the app.
“Whilst we recommend that our regular customers download the app for their tickets, with period tickets of up to 30 days now available, and to stay connected with live travel information, our successful simplyBus smartcard will still continue to provide great value and service. These are available both online for the best fares or from our bus shop in the Broad Street Mall.
“For occasional travellers, our saver 10 smartcards provide another way to save without needing to know how often they will travel, so there really is something for everyone – with the added advantage of even more ways to pay.”
The Minister also gave a short speech recognising Reading Buses innovation and the importance of bus operators giving customers the choice of how to pay for their travel.
Andrew Jones MP said: “Buses make vital journeys possible every day and we are doing everything we can to improve services for passengers.
“The roll-out of contactless payment technology on Reading’s bus network is great news for the many passengers every day who use them around the town.
“I’m delighted to see Reading Buses giving travellers the choice to pay for their journey using a smartcard, contactless payment card or phone, making bus travel more convenient, cutting queues and speeding up journeys, as well as ensuring they get the cheapest fare.”
Stressing the growing importance of contactless bankcards and the efforts being made by the UK passenger transport industry, Melanie Johnson, Chair of The UK Cards Association, said: “Following the great success of contactless ticketing in London, the cards industry has worked with transport operators to explore its introduction across the UK.
“Using contactless cards for travel will bring many benefits for Reading bus passengers, such as no longer having to buy and collect paper tickets or worry about having enough cash, and we are pleased with this development.”
In concluding the event, Martijn added that the initial contactless system on Reading Buses will work on a ‘retail’ model whereby you state your fare, ask to pay by contactless and then present your card to the reader, similar to buying food on the high street.
The company is now working on a ‘tapping’ model for the £2 flat fare in its central ‘simplyReading’ flat fare and hopes to launch this even easier and quicker way to pay in the coming months.