Smart Ticketing

Leading the way towards smarter public transport

As more transport bodies look at introducing smart ticketing across the UK, our annual smart ticketing survey becomes increasingly relevant. The insight we provide can be used to inform future public transport smart plans. Our ambition is that this report contributes to a future public transport system that provides a great customer experience for all, across the nation.

Understanding the size of the smart ticketing market

In previous years, smart ticketing has been in the mix with conventional paper ticket forms. But this year it has reached a crucial tipping point where customers now expect it. 47% of public transport users in our survey use a smart form of ticketing most often, and 66% say they would prefer to use a smart ticketing option if available. So not only has use gone up, but critically, demand has increased even further. As a result, the current difference between the number of customers who would like use smart tickets and those who currently do is showing a smart demand gap of 19%. This rises to 25% when you remove those living in London from the sample.

19% smart demand gap – the potential size of the existing market opportunity; 47% of public transport customers in the UK currently use a smart ticketing option most often for their journey; 66% of all customers would actually prefer to use a smart option if they could choose any type of ticket

How do passengers buy their tickets?

23% - online, 28% - at station; 29% - on the vehicle; 15% - at the barrier/gate

Customers were asked to indicate how they usually buy their public transport tickets now. Responses highlighted that public transport customers value variety of purchase channels available throughout their public transport journey. Where and how passengers buy is likely to depend on what is most convenient for the journey they take. This creates challenges for operators since it means that in order to provide a good smart ticketing experience for all customer segments, they need to provide for a range of purchase channels throughout the passenger journey.

What would make passengers switch to smart?

We asked public transport customers who currently use some form of paper tickets what would make them more likely to use a smart ticketing option in future (e.g. Oyster card, smartphone, or contactless debit card). Only 16% of respondents said that there was nothing that would make them more likely to use a smart option. Price, trust, flexibility and loyalty are key to incentivise the adoption of smart. Our survey results indicate that 58% of customers who use paper tickets would switch to smart for a 10% discount (the largest factor influencing behaviour change).  

58% price; 33% trust; 30% flexibility; 24% loyalty

How can we encourage greater use of bus and train travel?

44% of our survey respondents would travel more by train if it were cheaper

People value smart ticketing and it will increase overall uptake. But there are other factors with greater power to incentivise customers to travel more often on public transport. Our results show that interventions related to price, reliability and convenience are all important for encouraging greater public transport travel. Price is by far the most significant factor that could encourage more train travel, with 44% saying cheaper tickets would encourage them to travel more by train. A mix of factors would encourage bus travel, around a third of people would be more likely to travel by bus if it were cheaper, more reliable or faster.

Contact us

Grant Klein

Grant Klein

Partner, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)77 3014 6631

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