‘get me there’… Implementing multi-operator smart ticketing in Manchester

8 February 2016  •  Author(s): Transport for Greater Manchester

Transport for Greater Manchester’s (TfGM) mission is to make travel easier and smart ticketing is key to delivering that corporate commitment.

Implementing multi-operator smart ticketing in Manchester

Starting first on the Metrolink tram network it operates, TfGM began rolling out its get me there branded smart ticketing scheme in the autumn of 2014. This phased approach enabled Greater Manchester’s 500,000 concessionary pass holders to be the brand’s first customers.

A network of more than 450 readers across the tram network’s 90-plus stops now captures more than 60,000 journeys a week as pass holders touch in and touch out whenever they travel for free.

450 readers across the tram network capture over 60,000 journeys a week

Using ENCTS pass holders first – where there was no revenue risk for customers, TfGM, or its contracted operator MRDL – meant the system could be effectively live tested. And as the ENCTS passes were already ITSO-compliant it meant there was no need for a distribution and take-up campaign.

Brand profile could be allowed to grow, passenger behaviours rehearsed, the electronic back office bedded in, and the customer service experience honed.

Launch of Metrolink m-ticket app and multi-operator smart cards for bus passengers

Scroll forward a year and after parting company with smart ticketing technical delivery partner Atos, TfGM has launched two new get me there offers: an m-ticket app for Metrolink and a suite of multi-operator products for bus passengers utilising smart cards.

The easy-to-use mobile ticketing app enables customers with Apple or Android smart phones to buy a range of Metrolink travelcards anywhere and anytime before they board the tram – meaning they won’t have to queue at a ticket machine; the convenience promise from TfGM fulfilled.

So far around 10,000 passengers have downloaded the free app, with around 60 per cent of them using it regularly. Created with supplier Corethree the app includes ApplePay, a first for the UK transport sector.

Initially, the app offered travelcards for network-wide one day or weekend travel, and a 7-day stop-to-stop option. The next phase of the roll-out will include single or return stop-to-stop tickets, and a 28-day ticket available without the need to order a photo id card first.

Smart ticketing for bus in Greater Manchester today must work in a complex commercial landscape of multiple operators, and not just the big three of Arriva, First and Stagecoach.

Operators themselves had committed to rolling out smart ticketing so TfGM’s challenge was to ensure get me there was integral to how that worked in Greater Manchester.

Multi-operator smart ticketing established across bus network

Multi-operator, multimodal travel products were already available in printed form in Greater Manchester, under the established brand of System One, and it was the industry body behind this brand – Greater Manchester Travelcards Ltd – that was used to crack the smart solution.

The result, unveiled in November, is a ground-breaking scheme which includes more than 30 operators and is one of the largest in the UK outside London.

Scheme includes more than 30 operators

Under the arrangement, passengers can use either a branded get me there smart card or any other compatible ITSO smart card to travel smart on bus.

Operators are able to market their own smart products for use on their own smart cards and on their own services but get me there is the only smart product suite which allows travel on any bus. Currently adult and junior 1-day, 7-day and 28-day products are available.

Crucially, the Greater Manchester scheme allows operator-branded smart cards to hold get me there products as well.

Product retail is available on buses and through TfGM’s network of Travelshops, with operators being able to sell get me there products as well as their own. Operators get the revenue from their products and GMTL gets the revenue from get me there products, with the transactions captured by the relevant HOPS. Apportionment for get me there is managed by GMTL as it has done with its System One process previously.

System allows operator-branded smart cards to hold get me there products

The  contact centre and associated customer support services  for get me there, up and running since the launch to ENCTS pass holders on Metrolink, is housed within TfGM’s operation at its offices in Piccadilly Place, with CMS and other back office systems housed in ACT data centres.

So, it’s all about the products for customers, with TfGM and GMTL working out behind the scenes the technical and commercial arrangements, making it a simple message and a simple transaction for the passenger at the point they want to travel or purchase.

On average, smart bus fares give customers a ten per cent saving compared with the equivalent printed product – that’s an extra £5 in the passenger’s pocket. There is added value too because of the ITSO platform: TfGM’s pre-existing under-16 concession card – the igo – can be loaded with smart bus products, and cyclists using any of TfGM’s 14 parking Hubs can now use their membership and entry swipe-cards for bus travel.

The convenience for passengers is set to expand further when PayPoint outlets start to sell get me there in February, followed by further enhancements in the product range.

Get me there’s appeal is that it allows smart travel on any bus that’s part of the scheme – currently more than 30 operators – which covers most of Greater Manchester’s services. That this is so is because TfGM was able to secure DfT funding to smart-enable smaller operators, an essential part of the technical requirement to ensure a near-universal, simple offer for customers which will help drive interest and take-up.

Since launch, more than 8,000 get me there cards have been issued, and more than 11,000 get me there travelcards have been sold in TfGM Travelshops. Already, get me there travelcards make up more than 60 per cent of sales in Travelshop for products that are available as smart products.

The future…

TfGM recognises that its app and the separate availability of get me there on Metrolink and bus is only the start. Its ambition for an integrated smart ticketing solution which allows seamless travel across all modes and all operators remains at the heart of its corporate mission to make travel easier. It remains at the centre of its strategic vision too, with smart ticketing written into the recent rail franchising agreements, a key part of its work with Transport for the North, and with a keen eye on the Buses Bill expected shortly.

Trevor Roberts, Chairman of GMTL, said:  “It has long been our aspiration and an integral part of our business development plans for some time to bring the flexibility and accessibility of smart travel to our System One customers who have enjoyed the benefit of multi operator multi-modal travel for over 20 years.  It is by working in a strong partnership with transport operators across the Greater Manchester area and with TfGM that we can now start to move our products across to smart card technology utilising the back office infrastructure of the three major operators and TfGM.”

Councillor Andrew Fender, Chair of TfGM Committee said: “We want to make travel easier and more attractive in Greater Manchester and technology and smart ticketing is one of the ways we can help. We’ve worked hard with operators to ensure that get me there was built into their smart ticketing plans and I’m delighted that we’ve been able to bring on board even more operators.

“With eight of every ten public transport journeys made by bus and most Greater Manchester bus services part of this new scheme, today marks a good step forward on our smart journey with passengers.”

“This is great news for Manchester’s bus users”

Stagecoach Manchester Managing Director Christopher Bowles said: “This is great news for Manchester’s bus users. Stagecoach is making an £11million investment across the country in new
digital technology to make it easier for our customers to use the bus. Smart ticketing, better information and easier ways to buy travel are at the heart of our strategy. This announcement shows that, by working together, bus operators, local authorities and the Government can make buses even better for the many people who rely on them every day.

Teresa Broxton, Managing Director for First Manchester added, “The introduction of the rebranded get me there smart tickets will help make bus travel even more convenient for customers. We’ve worked together with other operators and our Manchester transport partners to invest in technology to improve accessibility for customers across the network.”

Phil Cummins, area managing director for Arriva Manchester said: “Arriva’s commitment towards innovating for the good of our customers has always been right at the heart of our business and we welcome the opportunity to partner with our peers in order to explore new technologies which will enhance the passenger experience. The launch of the get me there smart card scheme is another example of how collaboration can deliver greater choice and better services for customers, and make bus travel a more enticing, accessible method of transport.”

One response to “‘get me there’… Implementing multi-operator smart ticketing in Manchester”

  1. Alan Peters says:

    Getting Around In Manchester

    Manchester is a fairly easy city to get around, once you have an eye for the place and understand the layout with the help of some local landmarks you should be able to navigate around with ease. You can cover a lot of the city as a pedestrian but ensure not to venture into unknown territory at night. If you wish to traverse greater distances across Manchester there are a number of modes of transportation. Manchester a tram system called Metrolink, it has a number of lines that radiate from the city centre to the suburbs. There is a city wide bus system where passes can be bought to include multiple trips on more than one day. There is also the option to use Manchester Taxis, but be aware of slow moving traffic at rush hour. What ever method you use to explore Manchester make sure you see as much of the city as your can.

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