‘Touch Cards’ launched in Bristol
Following weeks of testing with bus users in Bristol, the first phase of First’s smartcard programme has been launched. The introduction of the ‘Touch Card’ scheme in the city was marked with an event in Bristol Bus Station. To begin with, the Touch Card is only available for adults using FirstWeek or FirstMonth inner or outer zone tickets in Bristol. In the coming weeks and months this is expected to be expanded to include other passenger groups (children, young people and students) in the city, with increasing functionality also added over time.
The cards themselves are available for free and can be obtained either from First’s travel shops (in Bristol or Bath) or by ordering them online. Once a person has a card, they can choose to load up to three FirstWeek or two FirstMonth bus tickets onto it. This process can either be done in the Travel Shop, or on the bus, direct with the driver. The tickets can then be activated when the customer wishes them to start, offering either seven consecutive days, or 31 consecutive days’ worth of travel (depending on the ticket) from that point onwards. When the ticket expires the customer has the option to top up the card, or activate another ticket (if there is another pre-loaded onto the card). Through the process no paper tickets are required. The card itself is reusable. The operator is working on a process that will allow customers to top up their cards online. Work is underway to deliver multi operator tickets on Touch Card. This is expected by the end of the year and will mean bus users can add a BristolRider, BathRider, WestonRider or AvonRider ticket on their card.
First’s MD, Paul Matthews, said, ‘There has long been an appetite for smartcards in Bristol and we have been keen to deliver them as quickly as possible. It is fair to say we have encountered some hiccups along the way which have, frustratingly for everyone, delayed the roll out of the technology. However, we are pleased to say that we are now getting there. We’ve been testing Touch Cards with a small group of users for some months, and in June we started making the cards available to all customers via our Travel Shops in Bristol and Bath. Today the Touch Card gets its first formal launch. This is phase one of our delivery schedule: more developments are planned in the coming months and the functionality of the cards will grow and grow. As this happens we will make further announcements.’