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Smart ticketing outside London: the Norfolk ‘holdall®’

09 April 2015

Good to see smart ticketing schemes really getting off the ground outside London – with more promised. We can now start to look at the effect of some real schemes rather than looking at potential future options. Norfolk was chosen as the location for a Department for Transport (DfT) pilot where smart ticketing equipment and support would be provided for bus operators who had not yet chosen to get it themselves.

Norfolk County Council (NCC), with support from multiple suppliers, introduced the ‘holdall®’ smart card on its Norwich Park and Ride buses in April 2014 and plans to extend this to other services in the county.

The DfT asked us to help find out:
• What did bus passengers, bus operators and local authority staff think about smart ticketing before the launch of holdall®?
• How was the actual introduction of holdall® on buses from all three viewpoints?
• What lessons can be learned from the holdall® pilot so far – for Norfolk when it expands the scheme and for other schemes across the country?

So, in 2013 we held:
• Six focus groups with bus passengers in Norwich, Downham Market and Wells-next-the-Sea.
• Telephone interviews with 11 bus operators
• Telephone interviews with 10 NCC staff.
In 2014:
• 12 detailed interviews, 102 unplanned interviews with passengers
• Online survey – 392 passengers (holdall® users)
• 14 NCC staff members consulted
• 25 informal interviews with bus drivers.

What improvements do passengers want?

• Passengers’ experience of the web portal suggests all relevant information and actions should ideally be on the same website rather than split between multiple websites. As a minimum it should be easier for passengers to understand what to do and why the functions can’t all be in one place.
• The problems some users experience with the holdall® web portal will need to be resolved in order to improve customer experience.
• Passengers say they would like additional channels of buying and topping up tickets, including the option of using ticket machines in addition to the online facility.
• Enabling passengers to use the same smartcard across different bus services/modes of transport in Norfolk and possibly for other payments is likely to make holdall® more useful and therefore more appealing to customers.

So overall good for passengers, staff, bus companies and the council – more please!

For the summary report click here.

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