Manchester in the 19th Century, picture the scene. You are fortunate enough to be able to travel by train, so arrive at the station to buy your ticket. You complete your purchase and are handed a piece of paper (or card) that verifies your travel details.
Manchester, the 21st Century. You need to travel by train, however, the operator you are traveling with doesn’t yet offer mobile ticketing, so you head to the ticket office to buy your ticket. This is commonplace for the majority of the journeys you choose to make.
Switch travel method from train to bus, and still, little has happened. Almost 150 years separate the scenarios, and despite much happening with advent of modern technology, little appears to have changed.
However, the experience is set to be transformed.
We are on the cusp of seeing some of the most progressive changes in the transport sector that will close this centuries old gap, and bring a next generation to our experience of travel.
We’re not talking Marty McFly and hover boards or James T Kirk and teleporters. We’re talking cashless, contactless, ticketless transit.
Over recent years, Transport for London has embraced the concept of “contactless” and over the past two years the paper ticket has been visibly on the decline, as has the wildly revered Oyster card.
With Transport for London responsible for 11% of all contactless transactions in the UK, there is a clear appetite for cashless travel and visitors to the capital are clearly fans.
The advent of contactless payment and the inherent trust that is growing in simply tapping and paying, means the transport sector is now preparing for its own revolution.
A collaborative project involving the UK Cards Association, the main bus operators, and the Rail Delivery Group (which represents Network Rail and rail operators), is looking at taking the well-known system now famous across the Transport for London network (overground, underground, buses, boats, cable cars and bikes), and creating a blue-print for the revolution of public transport across the country.
In essence your contactless card (or maybe even payment enabled mobile device) plays the role of ticket and payment method. No ticket necessary, just the data link between your attributes, your bank account and your journey.
But what are the implications for all of the associations of travel? Does it spell the death knell for the supporting cast of station stores and eateries? We think not.
The behavioural change of trust and usage of contactless will prompt further growth. And with a halo effect that promotes travelling without cash, barriers are removed and the end-to-end travel experience far slicker.
Transport, particularly public transport, is very rarely recognised for its innovation. However, with both public and private sector gunning for a ticketing revolution, the prospect of jumping on a bus at John O’Groats and hopping off a train at Lands End with nothing but a piece of plastic as your travel companion, is not as far removed as you might think.
This is, after all, the 21st Century