Contactless transit expanding around the UK

This week I?m travelling up to Manchester, mainly for work, but with the added bonus of celebrating my nephew's birthday. I?ll be travelling by train from my home in south east London, on the tube from London Bridge to London Euston and then, having arrived in Manchester Piccadilly, I?ll be scooting around Manchester on the Metrolink. The time may be coming when, work papers in one hand and presents in the other, I will only need to reach into my pocket for a tap of my phone on a reader to complete all of these journeys, rather than fiddling with paper tickets or trying to work out a new ticketing system. And when I?ve collapsed at the end of a long day, I should be able to log into my bank account and see an aggregated charge for all my travel fares.

In 2017, UK Finance's predecessor launched the Contactless Transit Framework, a set of documents approved by the card payment industry, public transport industry and government departments, setting out how bus, train and other journeys can be paid for by using just a contactless card or device. Many people will be familiar with this system on Transport for London, which already sees over 50 per cent of pay-as-you-go journeys on contactless, of which over 15 per cent are on mobile phone. Now we are seeing this Framework expanding across the UK, with all of the bus routes operated by the major five bus companies contactless enabled, as well as around 70 per cent of all bus routes, including smaller operator launches. Plans are well advanced to introduce contactless technology on light rail or tram across other cities. Rail journeys are more complex, but UK Finance is continuing work to develop this opportunity.

Over 80 per cent of the UK population are now living in urban areas, and cities are being required to be smarter in their deployment of resources and to reach carbon emission targets by reducing car use. There is also a political desire to see regional areas more connected for economic purposes - this is evidenced through initiatives such as the Northern Powerhouse, which UK Finance is celebrating this week. Contactless transit can help by removing some of the cost of ticketing and promoting account-based ticketing, which can help transit operators understand passenger flows. Research from Transport Focus shows young people are more likely to use public transport if they are confident they will always have the right means to pay without having to find the exact change; but the benefits of contactless cards are not restricted to age - 60 per cent of 55+ year olds made contactless payments in 2018. With 124 million contactless cards in the UK, passengers already have the means in their hands to make journeys.

UK Finance is today publishing a review of contactless transit implementations across the UK. Our Framework is also being used further afield and has even been translated into Spanish for Costa Rica and other countries. But the UK is leading the way and has the opportunity to radically boost public transport usage if it provides the convenient experience those travelling for work and leisure are looking for.

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