First Bus demonstrates 75% improvement in boarding times if customers switch from cash to mTickets, and seeks to raise awareness of tech options


First_mTicketmTickets are now used to pay for around one million First Bus passenger journeys a week


First Bus has launched one of its biggest ever marketing campaigns to show its customers how their journey experience can be transformed if they embrace new technology offered by the company – including mTickets, bus tracker apps, free on-board Wi-Fi and an online journey planner.

The Aberdeen-based operator is promising customers speedier bus journeys, despite the congestion issues across the UK, if they switch from paying fares by cash to mTickets, which enable them to use their mobile phones as bus tickets.

The company, which carries some 1.6 million passengers a day, made the promise after running a demonstration to compare the time it takes to board 50 people onto a bus with customers paying by cash versus customers using mTickets. The results were revealing – boarding 50 cash customers took 10.5 minutes, while 50 customers using their smartphones took 2.5 minutes – a massive eight-minute reduction, some 75%. 

If enough passengers make the switch, First says that boarding times will become so much quicker that average journey times will reduce, even with the ever increasing number of cars on the roads causing congestion. The change is already happening – despite it being a relatively new payment option, mTickets are now used to pay for around one million First Bus passenger journeys a week.

The company’s ‘catch the bus with less fuss’ marketing campaign includes TV adverts, web banners and social media. It focusses on four main tech options (see panel).

“Our demonstration has proved that converting customers from cash to mTickets or other forms of smart ticketing has a huge impact on boarding times and will help us in the battle to speed up the bus, despite the very stark congestion issues that we face,” said First Bus managing director Giles Fearnley.

“Boarding 50 customers in just 2.5 minutes using mTickets, eight minutes quicker than cash, is a huge step forward and gives us a real opportunity to speed up bus journeys and maintain a competitive advantage over the car.”

He continued: “We are determined to transform the experience for all our customers and I am delighted that technology is now able to deliver so many benefits for our passengers. The combination of journey planning, free Wi-Fi, real time information and mTickets really does make the bus an increasingly attractive option for so many journey needs.”



  • The ‘First Travel’ App allows customers to track in real time the progress of their service.
  • The ‘First mTicket’ App allows customers to buy tickets 24/7. They activate their ticket when the bus arrives and show the driver their ticket displayed on their mobile phone screens.
  • Free on board Wi-Fi is available on around 60% of First’s buses.
  • The Journey Planner facility allows customers to plan their journeys, across all modes of public transport.


This article appears inside the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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