Contactless revolution for Go-Ahead

Go-Ahead has reported that three quarters of its passengers now pay digitally when they board the company’s regional buses.

The proportion of cash payments has dropped from 53% in August 2018 to 23% this month. The figures exclude London buses, which stopped taking cash altogether in 2014, but include services at Go-Ahead’s nine regional bus companies across England which run nearly 3,000 buses.

Instead of cash, customers are adopting bank cards, smart watches, phones and smart cards to pay for their journeys.

The pandemic has accelerated this shift, Go-Ahead notes. Cash payments UK-wide dropped by 35% during 2020 according to UK Finance, having previously been falling by 15% annually.

Go-Ahead was one of the first bus operators to roll out contactless payments across its entire bus fleet. Under a further modernisation, Go-Ahead is introducing “Tap On, Tap Off” technology under which passengers tap their cards at the beginning and end of their journey and are automatically charged the correct fare. Payments are capped at a daily limit.

The number of ‘Tap-On, Tap-Off’ transactions topped five million this month at Go-Ahead’s bus fleets in Brighton & Hove, Crawley, Southampton, the Isle of Wight and Gateshead.

Currently covering 30% of Go-Ahead’s buses outside of London, the company aims to have 60% of buses installed with Tap On, Tap Off technology by the end of September 2021.

Go-Ahead is seeking to establish more ‘multi-operator ticketing’ with other bus companies – where customers can pay a set price to travel, even if they use multiple different operators. The first smart trial will launch next spring in the Bournemouth-Christchurch-Poole area with Yellow Buses.

In addition, Go-Ahead is gathering feedback from customers without bank accounts to develop convenient and commercially sustainable solutions that work for all.

Go-Ahead uses a mix of ticketing technology for its contactless services across the Group. They include Ticketer for cash tickets, EMV/contactless payments and validation of smartcards/m-tickets (Littlepay processes the contactless ‘tickets’/taps). It also uses Bournemouth-based Passenger for mobile ticket sales and Imaginet/ACT for smartcard ticket sales.

“New technology is helping us to speed up bus journeys by cutting crucial seconds and minutes off dwell times at stops” – Go-Ahead’s Commercial Director, Mark Anderson

Go-Ahead’s Commercial Director, Mark Anderson, said: “New technology is helping us to speed up bus journeys by cutting crucial seconds and minutes off dwell times at stops. And installation of ‘tap on, tap off’ technology will take that further by automatically calculating the fare for any journey.

“We know, though, that digital payments can be challenging for some. We’re working with customers’ groups to ensure that easy payment options are available for everybody.”

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