As the TTG 2017 is hosted in London it is only natural that smart ticketing in London and elsewhere in the UK is covered extensively by speakers, in panels and on the exhibition floor.

I have wondered why the public transport in the UK has a different take on smart ticketing than seen in Continental Europe and elsewhere. Oyster in London is of course a major success and thereby setting a benchmark for other smart ticketing solutions using smart cards and latest contactless payment cards.

Actors from public transport, contactless payment card issuers, banks and private operators are now working on capitalizing on TFL’s success with Oyster through the developments of the Contactless Transit Framework. Read more on

So, what is going on across the channel. Here is what I have picked up so far by attending Transport Ticketing Global and other UK smart ticketing events recent years. For UK readers, please correct me if I got something wrong.

Oyster by TFL, London:

Crowd management: The gates at stations must not cause people to slow down or stop. In rush hours, it is critical for the service and safety that people unhindered can enter and leave the platforms. A key requirement is that you can pass through gates at walking speed. To allow this the ticketing operation should be complete in less than 300 msec. Above ½ second the opening delay of the gate will slow down or stop people.

Simplicity: As most people are using the TFL public transport often, the operation should be trivial and uncomplicated in daily use. The Oyster card has proved to be simple in use. The advent of contactless payment cards has allowed TFL to open for third party provided means of ticketing while preserving the key requirement of passing gates at walking pace. The additional advantage is that owners of contactless payment cards already are familiar with the simplicity of paying by tapping.

Bus and Coaches:

Many busses in the UK is operated by private operators in a deregulated market. A typical bus will only have one door in front. This allows the driver to do ticket inspection and sell tickets. The method result in low ticket evasion.


The downside is that while inspection and sales of tickets is ongoing the bus is not moving. A key driver for smart ticketing in these busses is to get the dwelling time at bus stops down. Like the TFL gates the entrance to the bus should ideally be at normal boarding speed limited only by the physical layout of the aisle inside and the number of passengers on board and boarding.

Bus operators must accept ITSO card holders as these typical are people with government funded right to travel. ITSO card validation time can be 1-2 seconds.

Mobile tickets are still seen as difficult to validate. It takes time for the driver to validate that the ticket is unique and not a screen-dump. Online validation cannot be guaranteed as routes can go through rural areas with low quality or no mobile network coverage.

Cash purchase of tickets takes the most time. Either the bus driver needs to map the passenger destination to the ticket structure and handle payment and possible change back, or the passenger is required to know the fare for the journey and have exact money in hand.

Pre-purchased paper tickets and passes also require visual inspection requiring boarding passengers to stop, present ticket to driver for inspection and await eye contact, nod or ok before finding a seat.

Use of contactless payment cards in busses allows passengers to tap in while boarding, however the bus driver still needs to verify by eye or ear that they indeed tapped in. Use of contactless payment cards in London busses are typical tap in only resulting in a flat fare. Private operated busses have a more complex fare structure so either you just pay for your ticket using contactless or you use pay as you go. Tap in –  tap out are required to provide the information necessary to generate the fare for the journey and charge the payment card used. Passengers now must learn a new ticketing skill when leaving the bus.

Contactless Transit Models and implementation

Contactless payment card as a ticket is projected to roll out throughout the UK:

contactless transit models


The models are described as follows by the Contactless Transit Project:

“The Framework includes three Contactless Transit Models:

Model 1, Single Pay As You Go: cash replacement model where the contactless card or device is used at the start of the journey with a known fare; primarily for buses and trams.

Model 2, Aggregated Pay As You Go: cash replacement model where the contactless card or device is used multiple times, and the fare is aggregated at the end of the day or journey leg; for multi-mode operators.

Model 3, Pre-Purchase: paper ticket replacement model where a contactless card or device is associated with the ticket in advance and then used as a form of identity to travel.”

Model 1 and 2 specifications for single and aggregated pay as you go (oyster models) have been completed whereas work still is in progress on model 3, Pre-Purchase.


One of the major challenges for public transport administrators and operators in the UK is how to provide seamless multimodal travel using contactless payment card in a model 2 set up.

Here follows my take on some of the major issues which all multimodal setups have to resolve

ticket in the cloud

Cooperation is needed at least on following elements:

Planning: Customers should be able to plan their journey driven by the customers travel requirements and get price information for the total journey. This requires plan information from all modes of transport in the multimodal scheme.

Ticketing: An account need to be established for the journey referencing the payment card being used as ticket and for settlement of ticket payment for the complete journey(s) during a day.

Travel data: travel data from busses (and trains) identifying the travel path for each contactless payment card used need to collected as a baseline for fare calculation and request of payment. The price should be equal to the price as indicated by the travel planner

Revenue Clearing: Based on travel data and the associated fares a system must split the revenue between the operators who have provided part of the multimodal transport services of the passenger journey from A to B.

Customer Services: Customers expect to be able to have access to customer service for any ticketing issues before, during and after travel, and somebody needs to sort out payment problems and be accountable for the rather large amount of money flowing through from passenger bank accounts to participating operator accounts.

As the operators are in free competition open sharing of actual travel data is not an option. However each operator needs to have payment for his part of the total journey from A to B.

So how is multimodal use of contactless payment cards going to be governed and financed and how is operator travel data treated in confidence sitting side by side with the competitions data? 2017 may be the year where the answers materialize. Quite exciting.

The Airlines industry managed to provide global multimodal A to B travel with cloud based ticketing and single payment back in 2008. This was done by sharing ticketing infrastructure but in a way where the competition on connectivity, service, price and revenue remained private data and today there still is a fierce competition in the industry benefitting travelers.

Wrap Up.

The momentum is increasing for broader roll out of Oyster like ticketing schemes across UK. Over the next few years we will witness the progress in implementing pay as you go using contactless payment cards. The best wishes for success.

Should you also go all in on the Oyster model? I would suggest to look on your local public transport setup and especially how users are embracing new ways of payment methods in your region.

While you also see gates in some other European countries and mega cities, non-gated stations are the normal setup elsewhere. Ticket validation is typical performed while travelling either by onboard staff or roaming validation teams. This opens for a broader variety of ticket schemes including the use of mobile phones to buy and hold ticket references for travel.

If you look at various UK public transport sites you will see several mobile ticketing schemes popping up too. Public Transport ticketing is becoming more diversified utilizing digital infra structures and cloud based solutions. It allows passengers to pay the way they prefer thereby lowering the bar for use of public transport.

However to get there you have to be smart and minimize your risks in designing and implementing your next ticketing scheme. Time from idea to rollout needs to be faster than the many years mega implementations just 10 years ago. Today planning horizons as seen in cloud based setups are months rather than years.