There is always a reason to ‘diss’ the UK. Food, weather, politics – you name it. But there are also certain things that the UK does right. One of them being the acceptance and implementation of contactless technology in a variety of formats, from ticketing to payment. Some countries or regions look to the UK and how it has absorbed contactless technology and try their best to learn from it. Others, well, let’s just say that they have a way to go.
Take the ‘myki’ ticketing project in the Victoria region of Australia, for example. Myki was supposed to be Melbourne’s equivalent of London’s Oyster card but the differences have been vast. The project has cost the Victorian taxpayers $1.5 billion and been plagued by problems – many that we have followed over the last few years. Not that the myki card has been the only transportation card in Australia to have suffered problems. Sydney’s $1.2 billion Opal Card has not been immune from issues, with software problems overcharging some commuters. One plus for the Opal is that it takes only 60 minutes for the card’s balance to be updated after being topped up online. Users of myki are advised to allow at least 24 hours for their cards to be updated. Can you imagine London commuters waiting 24 hours for a top-up? Even 60 minutes seems a lifetime!
However, things could be changing – Cubic Transportation Systems, which also operates the Opal Card in Sydney and the Go Card in southeast Queensland as well as the all important London transportation contactless ticketing system – could be the saviour of Melbourne’s ticketing system. They, along with Accenture, which has been part of the rollout of the Presto card in Toronto and was recently awarded a contract to replace the public transport ticketing system in Washington DC, have been invited to bid for the tender of the state’s public transport ticketing system. Public Transport Victoria chief executive Mark Wild said the shortlisted bidders had the necessary experience to run the system and address current and emerging challenges. “While our main focus is the continuity of ticketing services, the chosen vendor must have the capability to identify and map pathways to deliver future technologies that support service improvements,” Mr Wild said. He said PTV was seeking an experienced operator to run myki and deliver “maximum value for money” for Victorian taxpayers. The tender process is expected to be completed by the middle of 2016, with the successful bidder due to commence their contract at the start of 2017.
However, Public Transport Victoria are obviously trying to claw back costs wherever possible. A recent report out of Australia claims that any prospective future myki operators have had to stump up $50,000 bonds to access a secret corporate-style cache of transport data, as the state government prepares to shortlist preferred tenderers. But the data they are paying to see may not truly reflect the $1.5 billion system: the Auditor-General recently found Public Transport Victoria did not possess a complete and reliable picture of myki’s operational performance. Tender documents show companies expressing interest in taking over the contract must pay the $50,000 acceptance bond to PTV, which will allow them to access a “data room” of information regarding Victoria’s public transport network.
Public Transport Users Association spokesman Tony Morton said it was odd that a contract involving fare collection for a public transport system was shrouded in commercial secrecy. “It’s the whole attitude to information within the state government,” he said. “This idea that any information about the operation of the public transport system is a closely guarded trade secret that is so valuable it has to be kept out of the hands of the public. If anyone seeks it they have to pay $50,000 to see it.”
One group of transport operators that is far from shy in telling you their experiences about contactless payments (or anything else for that matter) is that London street fixture – the black cab drivers. News came in last week that black cabs could be legally obliged to accept contactless credit cards, as a new set of proposals are opened up to consultation. Transport for London has put forward the idea as part of a move to modernise the industry and make it easier to get around the capital. The proposal was backed at a meeting last month between TfL, the deputy mayor for transport Isabel Dedring, senior taxi trade representatives and card providers. Just to clarify – there is no intention to stop taxis accepting cash payments. “The London taxi trade has long been envied as a world-leading service,” it said. “TfL and trade representatives are working together to maintain that reputation by trying to make it as easy and convenient as possible to use.”
Helen Chapman, TfL’s general manager of Taxi and private hire, said: “Card payments have become a central part of the lives of Londoners over the past few years, something that has only increased since the introduction of contactless payment. “We are always trying to find ways we can improve the services that we offer to our customers and, with only half of taxis currently accepting card, we are keen to hear whether passengers and drivers feel that this would be a worthwhile change.”
Finally, I wanted to draw your attention to the ‘Contactless Britannia’ banner on the right (OK, all over the site…), that is an indication of our editorial and conference direction for the 2015 – 2016 season. In this upcoming season, Contactless Intelligence is putting a focus firmly on Great Britain as an example to others. Editorial coverage, roundtables, insights into successful implementations and conference’s; we are looking to cover Europe’s contactless star. Great Britain has always been cool but now there’s a special something extra – it’s contactless. Contactless and cool! In the world of mobile and payment, GB has catapulted itself to the top position. Like no other EU member state, GB has introduced contactless technology as a de-facto transaction standard for every day life.
User-centric, convenient and large-scale implementations have created an international showcase that demonstrates, quite frankly, how to do it right. The most obvious example is the nation’s capital, London. Transport for London has provided its citizens and guests alike with the ultimate experience: An intelligent infrastructure that makes the best use of the technology that powers it. Beyond transport, most large retailers accept contactless and mobile payment, while charities, marketers and other sectors are utilising this technology to turn change into cash and creating real economic growth.
The exemplary use of technology is not just limited to London. An increasing number of towns are working towards the vitality of city centres and the success of businesses within them. The devolution of power from Whitehall to individual cities is a key project of the new Conservative government. Much has been made of the need for increased economic growth from out-of-town opportunities and the redevelopment of urban centres outside of the country’s capital. Increased economic expansion calls for growth through interconnected trade and transportation, local and visitor footfall and an urgent call to extend infrastructure in terms of technology and the understanding of how to successfully implement it. What is required is leadership by the the local authorities to partner with retailers, traders and transportation corporations to develop strong local and regional brands through innovative events, quick and easy payment and transportation opportunities and innovative proximity marketing campaigns.
We will be supplying further details in the coming weeks but please start by making a note in your diary of an upcoming roundtable session to be held in London on the 14th October. Two executive roundtables in which we hope to bring together UK town authorities, BID (Business Improvement Development) representatives, retail experts and technology providers. Participants will discover the needs and requirements from regional economic leaders, as well as transportation and retail executives, while also learning about successful technology implementations in different regions of the UK. We will also look to create dialogue on successful collaborations – across applications, across regions and across technologies. Technology experts will share their solutions and roadmaps for real technology implementations and the considerations that go hand-in-hand in using them to unlocking sustainable urban renewal and economic growth.
Further details are available here with contact details. If you want to be involved – please let us know ASAP.Steve Atkins Contactless Intelligence