Multi-operator contactless open loop ‘Tap on, Tap off’ bus ticketing successfully launched in Leicester and is the first of its kind in the UK – Littlepay
Multi-operator contactless open loop ‘Tap on, Tap off’ bus ticketing successfully launched in Leicester and is the first of its kind in the UK
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Multi-operator contactless open loop ‘Tap on, Tap off’ bus ticketing successfully launched in Leicester and is the first of its kind in the UK

The official public launch of the initiative was held on Thursday 21st April – Leicester city centre with deputy mayor Adam Clarke, council officers, bus operators and representatives from Littlepay and Ticketer and the public.

Leicester City Council, bus operators and technology specialists from Littlepay and Ticketer have been working together to deliver a seamless contactless payment platform for customers to pay for their bus travel.

Tap on, Tap off contactless ticketing was launched in Leicester by First Bus, Arriva and Centrebus in 2021 and has been extremely popular with customers. The next step was to develop a contactless, multi-operator ticket version that provided customers with total flexibility to travel across multiple bus operators services. This has now been achieved and the multi-operator scheme is the first of its kind in the UK.

The technology is not only a contactless, flexible and accessible provision to pay for bus travel with a physical or digital debit or credit card, but it also helps speed up boarding times and journeys and improves reliability.

The newly launched contactless open loop capping scheme is expected to be accessible on 99% of all customer journeys made in the flexi zone. It provides customers with the peace of mind that they will always get the best value fare for their bus travel, no matter where or how many journeys they take. Customers can check charges by accessing the portal available on the Leicester Buses website.

Funding was awarded through the Department for Transport’s ‘Transforming Cities fund’ to purchase and install new tap out readers from Ticketer. The new hardware works in conjunction with the technology already in place to process, analyse and charge for a bus journey. 

Ticketer provides the on-vehicle ticketing equipment, including the Electronic Ticketing Machines and Tap-Out readers to capture the contactless card taps, as well as the fares repository used to indicate tap amount.

Littlepay’s back office aggregates card taps received by Ticketer readers, applies fare caps set by individual operators, and delivers a broker service to manage multi-operator caps layered over all three operators’ fare structures. Littlepay provides a secure merchant portal to each bus company, enabling them to view all passenger taps that contribute toward triggering a multi-operator cap. In addition, transaction and settlement reports provide the information necessary to ensure each bus company receives the correct share of fare revenue.

“If we are going to tackle the big economic, environmental and health challenges that all cities face, we need to make public transport as attractive, accessible, and affordable as possible. By introducing the latest technology and delivering a unique partnership, we are demonstrating that we in Leicester are moving in the right direction as fast as we can.”

Cllr Adam Clarke, Leicester deputy city mayor for transport and the environment

“It’s been an exciting journey working with Leicester City Council, First, Centrebus and Arriva to develop an authority-level capping service. Our multi-operator fare capping technology and unified customer portal will level-up passenger experience by offering seamless contactless EMV payments and added value fares regardless of the bus operator used. We’re proud to support Leicester in fostering collaboration between bus operators and simplification of bus payments.”

Sheryll Ricketts, Solutions Consultancy Lead at Littlepay

“Ticketer always aims to provide the tools and technology for bus operators to deliver great passenger experiences, and Leicester’s multi-operator contactless payments are an intuitive way to travel with a payment mode already in the passenger’s pocket. The passenger can tap and go without worrying whether they’ve purchased the correct type of ticket, and regardless of which bus operator is operating the service, secure in the knowledge that they will benefit from the best fare – a great experience that we hope will encourage the post-COVID return to greener bus travel.”

Bradley Todd, Group Chief Product Officer at Ticketer

“Introducing multi-operator capping technology to Leicester’s bus network is an incredible achievement and a significant step towards delivering more digital solutions that prioritise frictionless travel for customers. The success of this project is without doubt underpinned by collaborating with other operators and trusted suppliers who share the same vision, to continue improving the UK’s bus industry through innovation. We’re thrilled to partner with Leicester City Council during this initial phase, and look forward to the journey ahead; we are committed to building on our new partnerships and to rolling out multi-operator capping network-wide.”

Dave Lynch, chief information officer of parent company FirstGroup

“The introduction of multi-operator Tap on, Tap off makes bus travel in the city even easier. It provides extra convenience for passengers and we hope it will encourage more people to leave the car at home and catch the bus.  We’re proud to have worked closely with the City Council and our fellow bus operators in bringing this project to fruition.”

Dave Brookes, Director at Centrebus

“We’re delighted to be a part of this truly groundbreaking project, offering genuinely multi-operator price capping across large operators and independent businesses, and complimenting the existing ‘Flexi’ multi-operator season ticket range to ensure best value travel for customers in Leicester.

Arriva customers are already benefiting from Tap on, Tap off contactless ticketing right across our network of local and cross-boundary interurban services, offering simpler journeys not only to the people of Leicester but also those travelling throughout neighbouring Leicestershire and into parts of Warwickshire, Derbyshire, and the West Midlands.

Since going live with multi-operator Tap on, Tap off in March we’ve seen encouraging signs of growth, supporting our belief that simpler fares offering value for money at a price point that’s financially sustainable is key to making bus travel easy to understand and even more attractive to existing customers and new users.

Multi-operator Tap on, Tap off ticketing is just part of our shared vision for bus travel in Leicester, and we look forward to continuing the close working relationship with Leicester City Council and other stakeholders to deliver the ‘Big Bus Plan’ through Enhanced Partnership.”

Andrew Godley, Commercial Director at Arriva

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