Bus Payment, Ticketing and Pricing in Major UK Cities

1. The Issue  

Payment and ticketing are the fastest changing aspects of the bus industry in the UK. Operators and local transport authorities have in the last few years begun to modernise outdated payment and ticketing processes.

 In the UK, London is seen as the beacon of light with Oyster and Pay as You Go Contactless well established but there is more going on in some other UK cities than is generally realised.  busreinvented.com took a snapshot of the status of Bus Payment, Ticketing and Pricing in major UK provincial cities in November 2017 to establish how much had been achieved and how much remained to be done.

 Like all benchmarking exercises, it begs some interesting questions.

  2. Methodology

 We behaved like customers and took the information for this Status Report from the websites of the operators and the local transport authorities and discovered it can, sometimes, be hard work being a customer !

 So, just to be safe, we showed the results in each area to the relevant operators to verify. Most responded, some didn’t, and there was enough change from what the website search told us to make that exercise worthwhile.  There may still be some misrepresentations despite those efforts.

 We identified the kind of payment methods and ticket types which customers would like to see and used a traffic light system of green where each payment method or ticket type is available, amber where, whilst it is available, it is restricted or constrained in some way, red where it is simply not available and blue where it would not be relevant to the city in question.  We then calculated a ‘Red Score’ for each city with one point for each red and half a point for each amber.

Interestingly, contrary to popular illusion, London did not win outright. Take a bow Leeds as joint lowest Red Score !  

Glasgow should blush as the highest although we know stuff is about to happen on several fronts there to narrow the gap.

Full results can be downloaded below.

On multi operator and multi modal pricing, we identified prices for each ticket type in each city designed to be reasonably comparable and highlight in red on the table those which appear to be highly priced outliers. 

None of this is designed to be judgemental but rather a factual, comparable set of data. Every Red has its reason as, too, does every outlying price.

  3. The Next Frontier


 The two most consistent gaps across the country relate to ‘Account Based Payment and Ticketing’ and ‘Pay as You Go capping on SMART and Contactless’.  Plugging those gaps can most easily come through the successful delivery by Transport for the North and the 5 Major Bus Groups of an Account Based and Contactless Back Office for the UK bus industry.

In London, it’s also about ‘Account Based Payment and Ticketing’ but also M Ticketing which has simply taken a back seat whilst all the effort went into Oyster and Contactless.

 Oh, and it gets a Red for not accepting good old fashioned cash for payment on buses. We well understand the reasons for that and, indeed, think the time has come for other cities to follow suit as part of a concerted effort to make bus speeds truly car competitive on core corridors, but there will be some customers who see it as a time honoured, valid way to pay.

It's not about getting a Red Score of zero but keeping it as low as possible and having a good story to justify any splashes of red ! 

 Robert Montgomery






Major City Payment and Ticketing Results Table - November 2017 (pdf)