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Welsh Government

Smart ticketing solution supports Welsh Government's 'One Wales' vision

Welsh Assembly Government

The Welsh Government has a vision for a unified, sustainable transport infrastructure, which joins up the delivery of travel services throughout the country. This is a key part of ‘One Wales’: the government’s commitment to improve quality of life for the people of Wales.

Smart ticketing is a critical part of this transport plan. To deliver it, the government needed a trusted provider able to consolidate disparate regional systems into a single, efficient, nationally-integrated scheme that could provide multiple services through a single card.

As a leader in the deployment of public sector smart technology schemes, ACT was the obvious choice for this landmark project.

The need for a single view of public transport usage across Wales

When the Welsh Government sought to introduce a national, ITSO-compliant smart card scheme for bus travel, it was no small task. The scheme needed to replace a number of fragmented regional initiatives that were in place across 22 local authorities throughout Wales.

Nevertheless, the work was much-needed. According to Vivien Collins, manager for the government’s Wales Travel Card, the fragmented schemes had clear limitations. “Different systems recorded passenger information in different formats, meaning we couldn’t effectively analyse the information. Transactions were anonymous - all we could tell for sure was how many people had used a given route. And with little understanding of the end-to-end passenger journey, it was difficult to ensure we were meeting the needs of the public.

“In addition, our manual processes couldn’t provide a clear audit trail. Bus operators’ settlements and subsequent local authority reimbursements from central Government were prone to inaccuracies, for example,” she adds.

To address this, Vivien and her team sought to implement a smart ticketing scheme. Initially, this required the issuing of concessionary bus travel smart cards, together with supporting systems.

With a view to the future, however, the government wanted a solution that was ITSO-compliant. This would enable the card’s functions to be expanded at a later date to include commercial bus travel and additional modes of public transport - all of which was vital in helping the government achieve its ‘One Wales’ vision.

Because of its exceptional capability in deploying smart card technologies and services to create integrated, multi-entitlement schemes, the Welsh Government chose ACT for this critical project. “We undertook a quality assessment of a number of suppliers, and appointed ACT as prime contractor. This was based on its enterprise strength and track record in delivering successful public sector initiatives”, says Vivien.

 

The ACT solution at a glance

Hosted and fully managed ACT HOPS and ACT CMS back-office applications

Card issuance and fulfilment

Operational support services

An impressively smooth transition

At the start of the project, ACT formed close partnerships with the Welsh Government, local authorities, transport authorities, relevant consortia and multiple suppliers. After in-depth consultation with the Welsh Government, it put forward a detailed proposal to help the government achieve its aspirations.

ACT’s expert Consultant Services team designed a single, integrated solution to support the smart ticketing terminals of 2,500 buses and over 100 operators. This included the ACT HOPS transaction processing engine, Customer Management System (CMS), card issuing services and ongoing operational support, delivered as a fully managed service. ACT was also responsible for overseeing the production and encoding of the cards.

Importantly, the ACT solution is future-proof. It has the capacity to handle massive volumes of transactional data and service the needs of local authorities, as well as a number of commercial and concessionary transport operators.

In spite of the potential challenges, migration to the new solution proved straightforward. ACT migrated some 550,000 existing customer records from 22 separate local authorities’ data sets into the ACT CMS, and brought together discrepancies in format. “ACT had a lot to contend with while delivering the back-office systems,” says Vivien. “But overall, given that the ITSO specification was still very new and in a state of flux, the transition was very smooth.”

A scheme with huge potential

The concessionary scheme is now fully up and running. As hoped, the consolidation of the regional schemes into a single national programme has produced a complete picture of concessionary card use across Wales. Every journey is recorded in the ACT HOPS, which generates reports for distribution to the 22 local authorities. “It’s already being taken for granted by 720,000 concessionary passengers across the country. This is now a true, all-Wales system,” says Vivien.

“It’s early days, but once we accumulate enough data, we can start to understand passenger use across our infrastructure, as well as use our staff more effectively and drive operational efficiencies. Ultimately, this will enable us to improve route planning and scheduling to deliver a better service,” she adds.

When the automated reimbursement goes live, Vivien hopes the fully auditable data can also help improve the speed and accuracy of concessionary payments to transport operators. “It should also help us demonstrate greater accountability for taxpayers’ money between local authorities and central Government,” she says.

And because ACT’s solution is based on an ITSO compliant platform, the next phase of the programme will see the delivery of commercial ticketing over the shared infrastructure. “Users of the scheme will be able to put money on their cards, which they can use to pay for their bus journeys,” says Vivien.

Indeed, the Welsh Government project is attracting great interest from all manner of places. “As the ACT smart ticketing scheme delivers on its promises, and we start to integrate new transport operators, it opens up the possibility for integration with rail transport - and even other market sectors. This is all vital for our pursuit of the ‘One Wales’ vision,” says Vivien.

To other public sector bodies considering a similar scheme, Vivien says: “Thanks to ACT, we’re firmly on track to deliver on our political commitment of an Oyster card-equivalent for Wales. ACT has been hugely proactive, very capable, and its knowledge of ITSO is second to none. I’d have no hesitation whatsoever in recommending ACT and its services.”

 

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“Thanks to ACT, we’re firmly on track to deliver on our political commitment of an Oyster card-equivalent for Wales.”

Key facts

2,500 buses and approximately 100 operators nationally are supported by the ACT HOPS

All 22 local authorities across the country are supported by the ACT CMS

550,000 existing records have been migrated by ACT from 22 separate data sets, with an individual specification in place for each

720,000 concessionary cardholders have now benefited from the scheme

“We undertook a quality assessment of a number of suppliers, and appointed ACT as prime contractor. This was based on its enterprise strength and track record in delivering successful public sector initiatives.”
“ACT has been hugely proactive, very capable, and its knowledge of ITSO is second to none. I’d have no hesitation whatsoever in recommending its services.”