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May 25, 2012updated 23 Aug 2016 9:13am

Orange begins trial of smartphone contactless ticketing on buses

Users will be able to tap their phones against terminals to pay for bus fares

By Allan Swann

Everything Everywhere (owners of Orange Mobile) and Stagecoach have teamed up to test the nation’s first Government Standard commercial deployment of mobile contactless transport ticketing.

The parties hope to see a nationwide roll out across select bus and rail services in 2013.

"We’ve already started a new movement in the way we make payments and receive retail rewards on the high street, so this really is the next step – providing customers with additional simplicity and convenience to help improve their public transport experience," said Gerry McQuade, Everything Everywhere’s CMO.

The trial, already underway on select Stagecoach buses in Cambridgeshire, allows users to receive, store and validate their bus tickets using their mobile phone, using NFC.

The system requires NFC smartphones, which remain relatively rare, but are launching in increasing numbers in 2012.

Orange’s brand of NFC is called Quick Tap, which also features a specially designed app which ensures compatibility with the local bus network’s smartcard readers. The effect is similar to London’s Oyster card – but instead of tapping a card, user’s phones do the job.

"Smart phones are playing an increasingly important role in helping people manage their busy lifestyles and are already used across many areas of life. We believe this technology can also make public transport easier and more convenient to use. Once this trial is complete, we will carry out a review of the findings and assess the potential to expand the scheme further for our passengers," said Stagecoach’s finance director Martin Griffiths.

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The Cambridgeshire trial uses the Department of Transport’s preferred ITSO (Integrated Transport Smartcard Organisation) smart ticketing technology, and will by providing analytics on the performance of Quick Tap to determine further operational and technical efficiencies.

The Government has pledged, along with transport operators and public sector bodies, to provide the national infrastructure to ensure that contactless ticketing is dominant by December 2014.

NFC has been mooted as a possibility for the London Underground, but TfL has said the technology is not quick enough – at around 1 second vs 200-300ms for the current RFID Oyster cards.

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