The UK’s largest bus operator FirstGroup is to invest £27 million in a new ticketing system that will enable contactless payment across its 5,000 strong fleet. Users will be able to purchase tickets with their mobile handsets as well as with contactless debit and credit cards, and smartcards such as concessionary bus passes. Smartcard users will be the first to feel the benefit of the new system when it launches this autumn. Users with contactless bank cards will be able to start buying tickets from late 2012. The company also says the new system will have the capability to accept payment from mobile phones but did not give a date for its availability.
FirstGroup wants to be the first bus operator outside London to offer a contactless payment system. London has its popular Oyster card scheme which at the moment does not enable debit or credit card payments. The city’s transport authorities plan to enable this to happen on the city’s 8,000 buses ahead of next year’s Olympics. Of the £27 million, FirstGroup has already earmarked, it will spend £18 million on new ticket machines, which are being supplied by UK vendor Almex.