UK Bus Operator Trials NFC Tickets with Orange UK
Mobile operator Orange UK and bus company Stagecoach have launched a small transit ticketing trial, which they say could lead to a national rollout next year.
The trial mainly puts weekly and monthly tickets onto Orange’s Quick Tap NFC phone models, the low-end Samsung Tocco Lite and the Samsung Wave 578.
The phones are part of Orange’s small Quick Tap NFC commercial launch, which also supports a MasterCard PayPass-based prepaid payment application on SIM cards. The transit ticketing application is also expected to be stored on Orange's SIMs.
To date, only the PayPass application, issued by Barclaycard, along with a retail loyalty program, are part of Quick Tap, which is available on few NFC phones. Some Android phones, such as the Samsung Galaxy S II, are expected.
The trial with the transit ticketing application will be modest. Orange, part of the Everything Everywhere telco joint venture with T-Mobile UK, is providing trial participants with only a total of 40 phones, according to a Stagecoach spokeswoman.
About 300 Stagecoach buses will be able to accept the contactless-mobile tickets in Cambridgeshire, the county that includes the university town of Cambridge, said the spokeswoman.
“We’re looking at lots of different ways to make travel more hassle free for passengers,” she told NFC Times.
The contactless-ticketing application supports the UK government-backed ITSO standard. Privately owned Stagecoach accepts ITSO cards on all of its 6,500 buses operating outside of London, said the spokeswoman. Buses and most other modes of mass transport in London accept the Oyster fare-collection application.
For the trial, participants can buy weekly and monthly passes, as well as unlimited passes that are automatically renewed by a debit of the users’ credit or debit card, said the spokeswoman. The customers buy the passes online, and they are automatically loaded onto the NFC SIMs when the customers tap the reader the next time they ride, she said.
Despite the small size of the pilot and low-end phones, the project “could lead to a nationwide roll out across select bus and rail services in 2013,” said an announcement by Orange and Stagecoach late last week.
Stagecoach, which also runs 1,200 buses in London, carries about 2.5 million passengers daily on a total 7,700 buses in the UK, said the company. It is also one of the largest rail operators in the UK, owning 49% of Virgin Rail Group, which operates the popular West Coast line.
Stagecoach also has experimented with contactless open-loop payment, accepting bank cards running a MasterCard PayPass application issued by The Royal Bank of Scotland. Stagecoach launched the open-loop payment trial in 2009 on nearly 200 buses in Liverpool.
The transit operator could eventually support both ITSO and open-loop payment on its readers, which riders could tap with either ITSO or contactless bank cards or corresponding applications on NFC phones.
Transport for London, the authority that manages mass transit in the London metropolitan area, is installing terminals on buses and, later, at metro gates and on other modes of transport that could accept open-loop payment, as well as its Oyster application and ITSO.
The authority had planned to have 8,500 buses, including the 1,200 belonging to Stagecoach, ready to accept contactless credit and debit bank cards in time for visitors arriving for the start of the Summer Olympics in late July. But Transport for London confirmed last week it had missed the deadline.