The ground-breaking m-ticketing system introduced by Arriva UK Bus won the Innovation Award at last week’s UK Bus Awards.

Smartcard technology is now being rolled out quickly across the UK bus industry as operators seek to bring their ticket retailing options into the 21st century. Arriva is no exception – the group has invested in more than 4,000 smartcard-enabled Parkeon Wayfarer200 ticket machines for its buses and has a group HOPS back office system, supplied by Applied Card Technologies. But, alongside the expansion of smartcard ticketing, the group has also implemented in a nationwide mobile ticketing system. Arriva first introduced its m-ticketing system in November 2009 and this strategy received a ringing endorsement at the UK Bus Awards in London last week, where its system was named as winner of the Innovation Award.

Mobile phones have become an integral part of modern life, with more handsets than people in the UK, and Arriva’s view was that an m-ticketing system would offer a flexible and convenient new payment method by enabling its customers to buy, receive and validate a range of tickets on their mobile phones. The Sunderland-based group worked closely with Concept Data Technologies (now part of Trapeze) to create a system that is both secure and easy to use. It was created to be as inclusive as possible – the technology works on all mobile networks and with any GPRS-enabled phone, although there are also specific versions for BlackBerry, iPhone and Android-based smartphones. Tickets can be bought directly through the application via a registered card, or by purchasing credit from any PayPoint outlet or Arriva travel shop.

Arriva is making savings from the faster journey times and reduction in cash handling which has resulted from a higher level of pre-payment by customers. Some of these savings are being handed back to users of the m-ticketing system – who enjoy a 10% discount on four-weekly saver tickets.

The results, which have exceeded all targets, speak for themselves. The original aim was to have 20,000 customers to sign up to m-ticketing by the end of the first year, but the figure was actually more than 30,000 after 12 months – and hit 40,000 after 18 months.

Usage was also much higher than the 400,000 trips that Arriva has targeted for the first year. The actual result number of trips made after 12 months was 500,000, and the next six months saw a further 500,000 trips made – taking the total to over one million. Sales of four-weekly m-tickets now represent 8% of Arriva’s total sales.

All very impressive, but this is the bus industry and investments are expected to deliver a swift return. Here again, however, the m-ticketing system has surpassed expectations. The system was set a goal of getting revenue from m-tickets to exceed the investment by the end of the first year, but this was actually achieved in just six months.

Commenting on the system, Mike Woodhouse, marketing manager at Arriva UK Bus, said: “What we are seeing is m-ticketing bringing bus travel into the 21st century. Modern consumers expect the world to be at their fingertips and the success of m-ticketing is testament to that. The technology allows bus users to easily purchase tickets, 24/7, using just their mobile device.”

But that isn’t the end of the story. Arriva has already started to look at the next generation of mobile ticket types, including NFC-enabled phones, to ensure the company remains at the forefront of the bus industry with regard to developing ticket options for customers.

“Despite our successes the mobile team at Arriva is not sitting still when it comes to improving our offer and is anticipating future developments,” says Woodhouse. “ The next 12 months will see Arriva continue to lead the industry in innovation and customer service, as we reveal a number of new developments.

“We believe that m-commerce will explode in the coming years and this will allow us to be well positioned to take advantage.”

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