Member News

  • Translink
  • National Entitlement Card Programme / Transport Scotland

In total we now have 15 e-TSAP members.

Brief Summary of Translink Ticketing System

Translink is the brand name, founded in 1996, for the public transport group of operating companies of Ulsterbus, Northern Ireland Railways and Citybus (which trades under the brand name Metro). We are a government-funded organisation and operate the majority of public transport services within Northern Ireland but also operate cross border bus and rail services to and from Republic of Ireland in conjunction with Bus Eireann and Irish Rail respectively. Northern Ireland has a small population of approx 1.8 million people.

Translink were very early adopters in the smartcard arena with our smart ticketing system having been initially implemented in 2001/02. We operate approximately 2,500 pieces of smartcard-enabled ticketing equipment in Translink buses, trains, ticket offices and 'Agents' across Northern Ireland.

We initially launched Concessionary Smartpasses in May 2002. From this date these cards were validated electronically on all bus and train services in Northern Ireland making us the first operator in the UK to accept electronic Smartpasses on a country-wide basis.

We then launched Commercial Smartcards on our Metro bus service in October 2002. This was further expanded to Ulsterbus in November 2004 making us the first operator in the UK to offer customers an on-bus commercial smartcard product on a country-wide basis. We were also the first operator in UK to offer a distance-based multi-journey smartcard product.

Prior to TfL launching Oyster in 2003, Translink had the biggest smartcard scheme in the UK with over 300,000 smartcards issued to customers. We still have one of the biggest schemes in the UK with over 350,000 customer cards currently in regular use (with a churn of over 100,000 Concessionary Smartpasses and over 77,000 Commercial smartcards annually).

Translink's structure of smartcard operations is similar to TfL (but different to many other bus/rail operators in UK) in that we are not only the bus and rail service operator but also maintain/provide the smartcard issuance, customer support, customer information, data reporting, software configuration, revenue allocation.

In October 2009, we introduced 'iLink' the first country-wide bus and rail integrated commercial smartcard product in the UK.

Last financial year we had over 24 million journey (out of a total of 79 million journeys) made on smartcards. In the last 5 years:

  • concessionary Smartpass journeys have increased by 40%
  • commercial Smartcard journeys have increased by 76%

These figures are continuing to grow each year however we still offer cash singles and returns as Northern Ireland has a cash-oriented culture despite the fact that price per journey on our commercial smartcards is 40% discount on the cash single fare.

Timeline of Smartcard developments since 2002:
  • March 2002 - Free Concessionary Smartpasses (3 products - Senior, War Pensioner, Blind - also accepted on Cross Border bus and rail services)
  • October 2002 - Metro Multi-Journey Smartcard (3 zones - Inner, City and Extended - 5 to 40 journey top-ups at Agents network)
  • April 2003 - Metro Period Pass Smartcard (Unlimited travel for Week or Month on Metro bus services)
  • April 2004 - Half-fare Concessionary Smartpasses (4 products - DLA, Partially Sighted, Learning Disability, No Driving Licence)
  • November 2004 - Ulsterbus Multi-Journey Smartcard (Distance based - 5 to 40 journey top-ups on-bus, at stations or at Agents network)
  • April 2007 - RoI Senior Smartpass (another free Concessionary Smartpass for Senior Citizens resident in Republic of Ireland to travel on bus and rail services in Northern Ireland)
  • October 2008 - 60+ Smartpass (another free Concessionary Smartpass for those aged 60 and over to travel on bus and rail services in Northern Ireland)
  • May 2009 - Ulsterbus Town Service Travelcard (Period pass for Day/Week/Month unlimited travel on bus services in rural towns in NI)
  • October 2009 - iLink smartcard - (Period pass for Day/Week/Month unlimited integrated bus and rail travel across 5 zones in Northern Ireland)
  • February 2010 - TaxSmart smartcard (Annual Period Pass smartcard under HMRC bus travel salary sacrifice scheme - saves basic rate taxpayers over 31% of their annual bus travel costs)
  • April 2011 - Belfast Visitor Pass (Period pass for Day/Week/Month unlimited integrated bus and rail travel in the Greater Belfast Area with discounted entrance at many visitor attractions and other offers in restaurants, café's etc)
  • July 2012 - yLink smartcard introduced (ID entitlement smartcard for young persons aged 16-23 to receive 1/3 discount on all bus and train fares)
  • October 2013 - DayLink smartcard introduced (Carnet style smartcard where customers can top up one day on bus or 1, 5 or 10 days at a sales outlet and use each day at their discretion for unlimited travel within the Greater Belfast network).

Other services we had introduced in addition our existing smart ticketing system:
  • From June 2010 we implemented the PayPoint retail network service where customers could top-up their commercial smartcard at any of the 1,000 PayPoint Agents in Northern Ireland
  • In November 2011, we introduced our mLink mobile ticketing service on rail - 3 Day Flexi, Weekly and Monthly m-tickets

Our ticketing equipment is almost 13 years old and component parts are becoming obsolete. While it has served its purpose well, we are under no illusion that we must 'move with the times' and make it as easy as possible for our customers to purchase tickets. We are currently in the process of conducting a Feasibility Study to examine a wide range of potential options and associated costs and benefits for Translink's Next Generation Ticketing System to serve Northern Ireland into 2020 and beyond.

With this in mind, Translink gratefully accept the invitation of membership to the e-TSAP group so that we can gain knowledge from experienced professionals about ticketing developments in their cities/countries and seek advice from and share experiences with like-minded professionals from across Europe.

National Entitlement Cards (NECs) are issued by the 32 Scottish councils and are just one element in a wider Scottish Government sponsored programme which aims to encourage all local councils to share resources and create efficiencies to ensure that Scottish citizens have easier access to services and facilities at the first point of contact with their council.

The National Entitlement Card (NEC) programme is a multi-application smartcard scheme run as a partnership between the Scottish Government, Scotland's local councils and others to make it quicker and easier to access services (such as transport, cashless catering, library/leisure membership, payments, concessions, proof of age) using one card rather than many.

Transport Scotland is part of Scottish Government and, amongst other things, has overall policy and delivery responsibility for smart ticketing in Scotland as well as running the national concessionary bus and ferry travel schemes for elderly, disabled and young persons.

Transport Scotland has utilised the NEC as a smartcard for its concessionary travel schemes since 2006, with over 1.2 million users of this application across Scotland. This has enabled us to not only validate entitlement to the travel concession quickly and easily but also to put in place extremely effective anti-fraud measures.

Transport Scotland is now in the process of implementing the Scottish Government vision "that all journeys on Scotland's bus, rail, ferry, subway and tram networks can be accessed using some form of smart ticketing or payment".


ITSO Update

ITSO-compliant smart ticketing in the UK is really moving up a gear.

For some years transport authorities and operators have been working away at getting the right ticketing equipment and back office set-up in place to support national concessionary bus ticketing schemes smartly.

But the last year in particular has seen major strides forward in plans for, and implementation of, commercial, multi-operator and multi-modal ticketing schemes.

The general consensus is that ticketing schemes need to be able to accept NFC-enabled mobile phone payment and contactless bank cards, as well as ITSO-compliant smartcards and, of course, cash.

They also need to be looking at how passenger information can be tied into this to make it easy for people to plan and pay for journeys with mobile phones or online and change them at short notice if circumstances make this necessary.

ITSO member schemes to watch this year include Centro's Swift card in the West Midlands, Nexus's Pop card in Tyne and Wear, and Transport for Greater Manchester's 'mygetmethere' smart ticketing system with its potential integration with real time journey planning. The successful Oxford SmartZone involving multi-operator smart ticketing with Stagecoach and Go-Ahead buses continues to prove popular and is contributing directly to increased passenger usage.

And ITSO-compliant ticketing on rail into London is finally here, with Southern railway customers now using their 'the key' ITSO smartcard for weekly, monthly and annual season tickets. This is the first step in getting ITSO cards accepted throughout the Transport for London network this year.

In Scotland, Strathclyde Partnership for Transport has successfully launched an ITSO-compliant Subway smartcard.

As well as individual schemes, work is now ongoing to see how smart ticketing can be more joined up on a UK national basis to enable seamless smart ticketing for passengers' door to door journeys.

ITSO's member transport authorities and operators are working closely on ongoing technical and business rules issues.

And the Government has launched a raft of funding and technical initiatives to support the roll out of smart ticketing in the UK.

ITSO Limited also continues to work with the European community and mobile network operators to ensure joint standards and compatibility for wider smart ticketing schemes.

Smart Ticketing Alliance

The Smart Ticketing Alliance ("STA"), currently made up of ITSO, VdV KA, AFIMB plus the Calypso Network Association, have moved towards agreeing Statutes and setting itself up as a formal organisation based in Brussels with the UITP acting as contact point and secretariat. With the Statutes in place, other smart ticketing schemes will be able to join the STA and its Working Groups.

The Alliance is actively working with CEN TC278 WG3 SG5 to define the Specification on how smartcards, based on ISO 14443, should be implemented in transport. How transport smartcards interact with their readers is defined by ISO 14443, but not all parts of the standard are relevant and some parts require refinement. The Committee Draft of the Transport Implementation of ISO 14443 is now available through national standards representatives on the committee and the first public draft of the Specification (and associated Test Scripts) should be published by mid-year.

The Alliance is also active in liaising with both the GSMA (the global trade association for Mobile Network Operators), Global Platform and the NFC Forum (the NFC Forum Transport Special Interest Group) to examine differences between ISO 14443 and NFC Forum Specifications. This will define how transport applications should be implemented on NFC-enabled mobile phones. In turn, this will hopefully lead to how the STA and its members can agree a certification scheme that will allow customers with smartcards (or NFC-enabled mobile phones) issued in one country to move freely across borders and load transport tickets from different schemes on the same card or phone.

The STA is also opening up a liaison with CEN TC 224 WG11. This committee recently updated the standard for transport smartcard data elements, EN 1545. The next step is to review EN 15320, IOPTA, the specification for transport smartcard applications.

The STA continues to work closely with the European Commission and others to deliver a seamless link between the customer's journey plan and their ability to move between modes with a single "smart ticketing wallet" holding all their tickets in one place. There are a number of European projects either in place, or planned under the umbrella of Horizon 2020, that will use the STA Specifications (including those carried over from the EU-IFM Project into ISO EN 24014-3). There is therefore an increasing need for the STA to widen its membership and open its Working Groups. This is the key driver to agreeing a formal structure and statutes as soon as possible.


ITSOnews, the monthly newsletter about ITSO-compliant smart ticketing schemes in the UK. >>> read more


(((eTicket Deutschland Newsletter: >>> read more

Innovation / NFC

UL publishes Cloud Based Ticketing whitepaper

UL, the strategic partner of OTI, recently published a whitepaper on Cloud Based Ticketing as the next generation fare collection. During its active involvement in e-ticketing projects all over the globe, UL gained an in-depth technical knowledge of ticketing systems.

The current approach for automated fare collection is with smart cards and smart terminals. These smart devices enable the actual fare payment transaction to be completely off-line. The terminal stores the details of every transaction in a separate record. At regular intervals the terminal goes online to inform the back end about all the transactions that occurred. The back end processes these transaction records, clears the transaction amount between the different operators and finally settles the money. This way of automated fare collection is referred to as 'card centric off-line ticketing'.

The 'card centric off-line ticketing' system has been designed when the coverage and speed of data networks was limited. If the fare payment transaction were to go on-line, the actual transaction duration would be much longer than accepted in public transport. However, the current state of network coverage and speed has substantially improved. UL is convinced that this will revolutionize automated fare collection.

In the whitepaper UL describes its vision on network centric fare collection. The first big difference is that the data and logic is moved from the card and the terminal into the back end. The actual transaction between the traveler and the operator takes place completely online. The card and the terminal are only used to link the physical identities to virtual identities. The money transfer can be from different payment accounts. This way of automated fare collection is referred to as 'cloud based ticketing'.

A 'cloud based ticketing' system has large benefits for all three primary actors in fare payment. The customer gets a lot of flexibility in means of identification and means of payment. The transport operator saves a lot of money on terminal maintenance and customer support. In addition the time to market of new fare products is significantly reduced. Finally, the transport authority can integrate the transport service with a large number of other citizen services to create a smart city.

The above described bright and compelling view on the future is notably different from most futuristic ideas. Often a big investment is required to reach these before any return is achieved. For the 'cloud based ticketing' future, UL identifies a path where every step already generates tangible results:

  • The first step, implement a post-paid product, gives the customer directly the flexibility in payment means and the operator the short time to market of new fare products.
  • The second step, prepare infrastructure, enables amongst others the smooth acceptance of NFC phones in as an alternative to the traditional plastic card.
  • The third step, go mobile, will dramatically improve the support of customers.
  • The fourth step, explore ID and payment means, provides the possibilities to connect the public transport service with a number of other public and commercial services.

The OTI programme for account-based ticketing seamlessly fits in ULs vision. The whitepaper extensively elaborates on this vision. It can be downloaded from

dna special: As Mumbai metro gets ready for first run, the smart card system is in place

23 October 2013. Infrastructure-led Mumbai Metro One Pvt Ltd (MMOPL) has announced that it will issue 5 lakh smart cards and 4 lakh smart tokens for passengers who will be using Mumbai's first metro rail once it is opened to the public. The contactless smart card will be similar to a debit card, with a magnetic strip on the rear side. It will be a prepaid card which can hold credit of up to Rs10,000. What's better, holders have the choice to personalise their smart cards by getting their names and photographs printed on them. >>> read more

Google Play Music gets NFC promotion on Australian public transport

13 November 2013. Google has partnered with NFC specialist Tapit to promote its Google Play Music service using NFC and QR code enabled posters on public transport along the east coast of Australia. Buses in Sydney as well as trains in Melbourne and Brisbane will carry the posters until December 2013, directing commuters to the Google Play Music website to learn more about the music streaming service. >>> read more

i-Free expands mobile wallet to 11 Russian cities

18 November 2013. Mobile technology developer i-Free is expanding its NFC mobile wallet service to enable users to store transportation cards for 11 Russian cities as well as a variety of prepaid deals and coupons. The wallet originally launched with bank cards from Tinkoff Credit Systems in June 2013. Consumers in the cities of Cheboksary and Vologda are currently testing the ability to buy transport cards through the i-Free Wallet app and validate them by tapping a terminal when they board. >>> read more

TOT to launch NFC payments in Thailand

4 December 2013. Thai state-owned telecommunications provider TOT is to launch an NFC mobile payments service in Thailand next year. The new Just Pay service will include a mobile wallet, an mPOS solution and a web-based mobile customer relationship management (CRM) platform. >>> read more

EZ-Link app lets transit users top up cards via NFC

6 December 2013. Singapore transit and small value payments card issuer EZ-Link has launched My EZ-Link Mobile, an Android app that enables consumers to add value to their contactless card by tapping it to their NFC phone. >>> read more

Chicago and Washington to get NFC tickets

15 January 2014. Public transportation users in Chicago and Washington DC will be able to use their NFC phones to purchase tickets in the coming years, the cities' transportation authorities have announced. New York is also to get contactless transit cards, but it is not yet known whether NFC phone payments will also be supported. >>> read more

Krakow to get NFC ticketing

15 January 2014. Passengers using public transport services in Poland's second city will soon be able to buy their tickets using NFC as a result of a programme developed by Krakow's public transport commission, mobile services provider SkyCash Poland and carrier Orange. >>> read more

Spanish bus drivers to check tickets using NFC host card emulation

29 January 2014. Madrid-based private bus operator Jimenez Dorado is to introduce a new cloud-based NFC ticketing solution that enables Nexus 5 NFC phones to be used as contactless ticketing readers at a "fraction of the cost of traditional contactless reader infrastructures". >>> read more

Orange to launch NFC transport ticketing in Malaga and Valencia

19 February 2014. Mobile network operator Orange is to commercially launch NFC ticketing services in the Spanish cities of Malaga and Valencia in the coming months, following successful pilot phases that have been underway in Malaga since February 2012. >>> read more

OBB to equip 850 railway stations and stops with NFC information boards

28 February 2014. OBB, Austria's national rail operator, is to equip 850 stations and stops with NFC information boards so travellers can receive real-time information about the arrival and departure times of their trains directly to their mobile device. >>> read more

next 6 months


e-TSAP conference

Copenhagen, Denmark 9-10 April 2014

Cards & Payments Asia 2014

Singapore, 23-24 April 2014 >>> read more