By Daniel Hunter

As the August bank holiday getaway gets underway, a new study by PwC shows that almost half of those travelling by bus and rail will still have paper tickets in their pockets, despite widespread smart phone availability and the development of smart card technologies.

The study by PwC examines the potential for ’smart ticketing’to provide better and more accessible public transport servicesand support increased public transport travel. PwC asked over 2,000 UK consumers about their travel habits, and whatwould make them switch from traditional paper tickets to smart technology ticketing such as smart cards, mobile phones and bank cards.

The research finds that across the UK, almost half (49%) of all bus and rail users responding still use paper tickets, with only 45% citing a preference for using another form of payment currently.

However, overall, if an incentive was offered to the same bus and rail users, four out of five (80%) who currently use paper tickets would move to smart ticketing:

- Offering just a 5% discount on travel compared with paper tickets would encourage 14% of consumers to switch to smart ticketing; whereas a 10% discount would persuade over half (53%) to make the change;

- Even in the absence of price discounts, 42% would be persuaded to use smart ticketing if it guaranteed the lowest available fare for their journey;

-12% of respondents would use smart ticketing if it offered them tailored, real time journey information;

- 8% of car travellers would consider moving to rail, and 5% to bus if offered incentives enabled by smart technology.

In March this year, the Government set out its commitment to work with operators and public sector bodies to enable most public transport journeys to be undertaken using smart ticketing technology by December 2014, saying smart and integrated ticketing had the potential to “revolutionise the way passengers use public transport, and improve end-to-end journeys.”

The technology behind smart ticketing gives transport companies greater insight into individual journeys meaning passengers can potentially receive tailored information on service disruptions, timetable changes, or special offers. From the operators’ point of view, it has the potential to reduce costs from maintaining and fixing ticket printing machines, and allow better management of peak and off peak demand.

“While the results are encouraging for supporters of smart ticketing, it’s clear the public shift needed won’t happen without some encouragement," Grant Klein, director and transport specialist at PwC, said.

“The opportunity to link both ticket payment, and real time information through smart technology is not a leapof the imagination for consumers or operators. There’s significant untapped potential demonstrated in these results to use it to increase public transport use by making service timetables, information and fares more accessible.

“At first glance, some of these findings may seeminsignificant, but even a a 5% shift from cars to bus, or 8% for trains would represent a significant uplift for public transport operators, and a boost to the Government’s plans to get more people on public transport.”

According to PwC’s research, the use of smart card ticketing is highest in London and Northern Ireland, where smart card systems such as Transport for London’s Oyster Card are well established on bus and rail.

“The consumer focus on price does pose a challenge to apublic transport industry which is already characterised by high volume, low value transactions. However, our research shows that a range of non-price related incentives, including offering better timetabling, and timetabling information, and real time information, could all influence consumer behaviour," Grant Klein, PwC, concluded.

“Smart technology has the potential to support increased public transport use. It can also reduce costs, particularly if there is greater collaboration and sharing of services among public transport organisations.”

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