Just over a decade ago, two new names appeared on the ticketing scene with the emergence of Ticketer in the UK and Ireland and FARA, a Norwegian company with a strong presence across the Nordics. Both of these innovative companies have a core philosophy of making things easier for public transport operators, local authorities and passengers, so it was perhaps inevitable that they would join forces at some point. The spark for that process occurred in 2018 when private equity company Tenzing acquired Ticketer from its founders. Ticketer subsequently went on to purchase FARA in late 2019. At around the same time, Andy Monshaw was appointed as Group Chief Executive Officer. He was tasked with exploring how these two companies which have a very similar philosophy could be brought together.
The bigger picture
Although part of the same group, they are still operating as Ticketer in the UK and FARA across the Nordics. “As well established and respected individual brands, we have no plans to merge the entities”, explains Andy. “We are though finding significant leverage between the two businesses, which is pretty exciting. Both provide similar ticketing solutions and a sophisticated data offering that is operationally invaluable to our customers. The buyer population in the UK is predominantly the operator, but we also work with local authorities across the country. In the Nordics it’s a little different – the buyer is largely the local authority, who mostly specify what the solution should look like and then it’s up to the operator to run. It is two very different approaches.”
The solutions that Ticketer and FARA offer are fit for purpose for those two very distinct markets, but there is also great opportunity to leverage on the solutions and technology. The Nordic market has an emphasis on information consolidation or, simplicity and standards – a plug and play solution that allows different technology to be easily integrated into vehicles and operator systems – for example, one common SIM card in vehicles that all systems can use. “That is something we are very keen to bring to the UK. We are uniquely positioned in that we can demonstrate we already have thousands of buses in the Nordics operating with these kind of systems in place.”
As the pandemic wanes, Andy believes there’s an opportunity to bring these fresh approaches to new markets. “The approach we were taking, and it comes out of some very simple things we were doing in both territories, is that we are putting the pedal down on partnerships,” he reveals. “Not only does an operator operate a bus, there’s a whole ecosystem on the bus that can make public transport better.”
Demand Responsive Transport (DRT), mobile apps, vehicle monitoring devices and reservations systems are all examples of solutions provided by third-party organisations, many of them small businesses, where Ticketer and FARA can play a role in integrating their systems. As Andy notes: “This is about making it super simple for operators and authorities alike to drive increased revenues and customer-centric improvements.”
A game-changer for public transport?
Andy and his colleagues clearly see that there are huge opportunities for the sector from the digitisation of systems and processes. Antonio Carmona, Ticketer’s International General Manager and Head of UK Sales, believes it means operators and authorities now have access to a huge amount of data that allows them to not only understand their networks better but also paint a better picture about the people that they serve. “What this means is they will be better placed to deliver and run much more efficient services,” he says. “Passengers will benefit as well – for the last 10 to 15 years they’ve essentially had a computer in their pockets, one that is permanently connected to the internet. Accessing things like Real Time Information (RTI), which is extremely convenient and useful, is no longer an issue. They can determine instantly what mobility options are around them at any given moment and it can act as a payment instrument too. That creates an opportunity to develop a passenger experience that can take things to the next level.”
Passengers can explore the mobility options that surround them at any given moment. That may not just include buses; this ecosystem could consist of other forms of public transport, cycle or scooter hire, and even ridesharing. Those options also come with predictability – how long does each option take to complete the journey? What disruption is happening? As Antonio notes, it maximises convenience and that’s a fantastic opportunity to make the passenger experience of public transport superior to the alternatives in the next few years.
Josef Salpeter is VP of Business Development at FARA and he says the Nordic region has been striving towards digitisation through the use of mobile devices in recent years. “When you combine that with all the capabilities we have in our joint organisation, we can have a full package for the passenger that combines Real Time Information (RTI) with easy payment options,” he says. “It makes travel seamless and if we think about the ‘new normal’ post-Covid, of inconsistent travel and maybe even changing your plans at very short notice, this sort of environment empowers the passenger by giving them all the information they need to make an informed decision and pay the very best price without having to plan too far ahead.”
Making MaaS simple
Antonio believes that the Mobility as a Service (MaaS) concept is nothing but an extended interoperable public transport network where the new modes enabled by digitalisation complement and expand the reach of sustainable mobility where traditional public transport is not viable. Although the concept has been around for some years, payment and ticketing are the main barriers for a wider adoption. Ticketer Group is working together with partners in the MaaS space to enable seamless payments across different operators and modes, and hence enable real MaaS.
“We want the Ticketer Group technology to be a platform that our partners can use and bring more value to our customers,” he says. “By removing barriers to access data and ticketing, we can help break the silos within which different forms of transport usually operate, with a vision to bring together traditional fixed-route public transport and new forms of mobility.”
Josef says FARA’s platform was designed to accommodate these challenges, after all, many public transport journeys in the Nordics can incorporate not only multiple transport modes but also travel through multiple transport authority areas too. “Our ticketing solution effectively takes into account the requirements of MaaS,” he adds. “The passenger wants one single interface where they can plan their journey and examine all the different travel options available to them. So taking into account the need for seamless ticketing, well then you suddenly have a MaaS platform without the need for deep integration between a lot of different players.”
Last year Ticketer announced partnerships with both VIA and Padam Mobility offering cost-effective DRT solutions and helping solve some of the problems associated with more marginal rural bus services. There are three broad components to these partnerships – integration between Ticketer and VIA and Padam Mobility’s mobile apps for booking trips; deploying DRT driver features on Ticketer’s range of Electric Ticket Machines (ETMs) and offering so-called ‘Connection Protection’ to provide assurance to passengers that connecting services will be available.
Antonio’s vision is to use technology to stress-proof any of the problems that may occur during a journey. For example, if a guaranteed connection is offered using a traditional fixed form of public transport, and if there is unexpected disruption, meaning the passenger risks missing their connection, then the system would automatically provide a DRT-based service to get things back on track. Alternatively, the driver could be informed to wait for the late-running connecting passenger. In this scenario, it could help to reduce cost while also improving the customer experience.
He also believes the partnership will help cut the costs of providing a DRT service by applying Ticketer’s expertise. “DRT is not dissimilar to a traditional fixed-route bus service,” he says. “You need a critical mass of passengers to make it sustainable and you also need to streamline things to reduce costs, so instead of a separate tablet device for routing information or passenger manifests, we can place all of that information on our Electronic Ticket Machines (ETMs). This also means that every vehicle in the fleet can be used on a DRT service, dispensing with the need for the operator to maintain a dedicated fleet of vehicles. “Meanwhile, that ETM can also offer far greater payment options than a standalone DRT app, so whether payment happens using traditional EMV cards and smartcards like ITSO, or cash it all starts to feel like each mode of transport is part of a wider and far bigger network that can help bring more people into the core system.”
Looking to the future
It has been a decade of growth and great innovation for both Ticketer and FARA. So what changes can we expect to see in the years to come?
Josef believes there will be a growing demand for seamless journeys that integrate information and payment systems, meaning passengers no longer have to worry about whether they have the correct means of payment or ticket – they will be able to travel without planning ahead and know for sure they are being ultimately charged the very best fare for their journey.
Antonio believes there will be increasing moves to tailoring the travelling experience to individual passengers. “To me, Account Based Ticketing (ABT) is about moving the focus away from what the passenger has, to who he is,” he says. “To make that happen you need to be able to identify who the passenger is and where they will travel, and add a payment mechanism that allows you to charge them the correct fare for their journey or journeys. As the fare calculation is undertaken in the back end, the possibilities for implementing new and different fare modes are virtually unlimited. This is even more important as we see adoption of new modes growing, modes that bring new ways of charging for the fare – like distance or time-based fares.” A move to a broader form of ABT will therefore also help to underpin bringing other forms of transport, like scooters or cycle hire or even car clubs, into the mobility ecosystem. “To me, that’s what MaaS is all about,” he adds.
That ABT model could be expanded beyond the tokens of smartcards or contactless EMV cards we traditionally associate it with. Andy points to a recent experience he had flying in North America where some airlines are introducing facial-recognition systems that allow airline passengers to move from check-in to the gate without even showing their passport. There are also trials testing ticketless travel. “We already introduced Account Based Ticketing on bus, and if you extend that to consider your taxi journey, scooter ride, or train trip, it starts to get exciting,” he adds. “We see plenty of growth opportunities and new innovation to be had for our industry, and we will strive to be at the forefront of technological advances to continuously help our customers operate better.”