1. The Requirement
PlusBus products are available on paper for all PlusBus zones across the UK and can be bought from Train Operating Companies (TOCs) and other Rail Delivery Group (RDG) approved retailers. Tickets can be bought online but these are also issued on paper and need to be collected from station ticket machines or posted out to the customer.
Some PlusBus schemes have developed and rolled out products on smart cards; RDG allows that these only be retailed by TOCs. The complexity of smart card implementation, its associated cost, and technical limitations on some bus operators have been a barrier to further roll out across other PlusBus zones in the UK.
The requirement therefore is for PlusBus to be made available as e- and m-tickets, collectively referred to here as barcode tickets, for all PlusBus zones in the UK and for both the first and last mile bus or tram journeys to or from a station, initially for the one day and 7 day products.
As the capability for on bus barcode (rather than visual) validation across the UK bus fleet increases over time, so the revenue risk will reduce and it will become possible to retail higher value products as barcode tickets.
The key objective of PlusBus is to make intregrated travel, and therefore the public transport offer as a whole, more attractive by providing a simplified offer and value for money offer; a single purchase for multi-modal travel that gives rail travel plus connecting journeys on bus operator networks right across the UK.
Making PlusBus available as a barcode ticket will enhance the customer experience by making payment and fulfilment more convenient and will appeal to the large segment of consumers that prefers e-ticketing over paper, and therefore for whom PlusBus is not currently an option.
Here are the project tasks that will help us to achieve this objective:
- Incentivise retailers to sell PlusBus products, which in turn will increase customer awareness and uptake
- Keep local implementation costs as low as possible by providing ticketing standards and other materials nationally; this will include toolkits which could be used locally for driver training, PlusBus promotion, and product testing/launch
- Ensure that all bus operators can accept and validate PlusBus barcode tickets by making the ticket look the same, no matter how or where the customer makes their purchase; this way it can be used as a flash pass where ticket machine validation is not possible
- Make it easy for bus drivers to recognise PlusBus tickets visually, including exploring the possibility of different coloured tickets to those for rail journeys
- To bring the national management of PlusBus and its local delivery closer together through more and better engagement and joint working with bus operators and scheme coordinators. This is vital not only to ensure that this project is as fully informed as possible for a smooth roll out, but to pave the way for further successful projects in the future
3. Proof of Concept
The West of England Bus Operators Association and Great Western Railway (GWR) have worked in partnership to develop a PlusBus barcode ticket in test, which First has successfully validated on bus using its Ticketer machines; Ticketer is currently the largest ticket machine supplier to the UK bus market.
GWR and First Bus will share local driver training and promotional materials to be used as required for the national toolkits available for use across the UK.
4. Tasks and Timescales
The key project tasks and outline timescales (start date – delivery date) are as follows, although some tasks will be ongoing throughout the project:
- Trial TOC/Bus operator barcode implementation (complete)
- Agree with bus operators and RDG how the tickets will look (in progress)
- Extend RDG e- and m-ticketing standards to ensure standard visual presentation (Sept-Dec 21)
- Create bus driver training materials/toolkit (Nov 21 – Feb 22)
- Test PlusBus barcode tickets with other bus ticketing suppliers (Jan 22 – ongoing)
- Brief TOC staff (Jan – Mar 22)
- Add PlusBus barcode to RDG rail fares engine (this alone does not make them ‘live’) (Jan 21)
- Agree roll out plan across the UK (Nov 21 – Jan 22)
- Enable sale of PlusBus products by retailers (can be done at station level) (Feb 22 – ongoing)
- Pre- launch engagement with rail retailers (Oct 21 – Jan 22)
- Internal communications throughout
- Customer/wider stakeholder communications and marketing from go live (Jan 22 – ongoing)
For further information about this project or to get involved, please contact Plusbus@traveline.info