All buses across the Liverpool City Region will be accepting contactless payments from the end of this month, making the city region the first outside London to offer this technology on each and every bus.
Stagecoach went contactless in July 2017, with Arriva– the city’s region’s largest bus operator, following suit in June this year. The end of July will see all other bus operators come on board− a move made possible by the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority earmarking £1.05m from the Transforming Cities Fund (TCF).
As well as making paying for journeys more convenient, contactless payments are up to seven times quicker than cash transactions, helping speed up boarding times and supporting bus punctuality.
The upgraded ticket machines will also support wider bus punctuality improvements, working with traffic signals to prioritise buses that are running late. This is currently being trialled on routes that run between Liverpool city centre and the airport.
Contactless improvements are part of a wider city region drive towards smart ticketing and more flexible payment options. Upgrades to the Mersey Tunnels saw contactless technology introduced in April and the rail network allows for contactless payments at all staffed stations.
An online portal for purchasing tickets is set to be introduced later this year, with a staged roll out of products.
The payment improvements support wider improvements to the bus network through the Liverpool City Region Bus Alliance which has seen better value for money fares, WiFi on all services, newer, cleaner, greener buses and enhanced cleaning regimes.
These initiatives have helped the Liverpool City Region buck the national trend of falling passenger numbers, with a 15 per cent increase in fare paying passenger journeys since 2013/14 and 91 per cent of bus users satisfied or very satisfied with services – the joint highest of any Metropolitan area* (Transport Focus, March 2019).
Said Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor, Steve Rotheram: "The roll out of contactless technology is yet another step in the right direction as we seek to create a Liverpool City Region transport system that is fit for the 21st century – and it brings us into line with cities like London.
“The bus alliance has allowed us to make good progress in modernising our bus network – but now, with the powers we have through the Bus Services Act 2017 – we can move ahead at speed, beyond incremental improvements.
“People need to feel that our buses work for them and so we are analysing the results of our Big Bus Debate carefully, before we make a decision on the long term future of the bus system in our region.”
The options being assessed by the LCR Combined Authority under the Bus Services Act 2017 are franchising of services, an Enhanced Partnership or a continuation of the exisiting Bus Alliance. The LCR Combined Authority is expected to receive a recommendation on the preferred option in early 2020.
The next phase of the Big Bus Debate will involve more detailed face-to-face surveys this summer. More than 1500 people completed the online survey which launched in October 2018. Feedback from the first phase has shown there are a number of areas people have suggested for improvement– punctuality, reliability, ticketing complexity, the overall cost of travel and service frequencies, coverage and hours of operation.**
Contactless payments will be valid for all ticket products under £30 that are currently available to purchase on board.