Bus company promotes swifter journeys as passengers abandon cash

The bus company Go-Ahead is reporting that three quarters of its passengers now pay digitally when they board regional buses – with an increasing number ‘tapping on’ and ‘tapping off’ when they make a journey.

It says they are adopting bank cards, smart watches, phones and smart cards to pay for their journeys. As well as being simpler and easier for many customers, this shift can cut dwell time by up to three minutes at busy bus stops.

The proportion of cash payments has dropped from 53% in August 2018 to 23% this month. The figures exclude London buses, which stopped taking cash altogether in 2014, but include services at Go-Ahead’s nine regional bus companies across England which run nearly 3,000 buses.

Go-Ahead say the shift has accelerated in 2020 and 2021 as the COVID-19 pandemic triggered a shift away from cash across the economy. Cash payments UK-wide dropped by 35% during 2020 according to UK Finance, having previously been falling by 15% annually. 

Go-Ahead says it was one of the first bus operators to roll out contactless payments across its entire bus fleet. Under a further modernisation, Go-Ahead is introducing “Tap On, Tap Off” technology under which passengers tap their cards at the beginning and end of their journey and are automatically charged the correct fare. Payments are capped at a daily limit, meaning that people who take multiple bus journeys in a day will not be overcharged.

The number of ‘Tap-On, Tap-Off’ transactions topped five million this month at Go-Ahead’s bus fleets in Brighton & Hove, Crawley, Southampton, the Isle of Wight and Gateshead.

Currently covering 30% of Go-Ahead’s buses outside of London, the company aims to have 60% of buses installed with Tap On, Tap Off technology by the end of September 2021. 

(Picture – Go-Ahead Group)

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