Centro Commercial Smart Card releases
Centro, now TfWM, was an early adopter of smart card technology for concessionary travel passes. In order to ensure full operator participation, it established a fully-managed service for all bus operators in the area, which included all back-office systems to support a smart ETM system, along with the reimbursement processes required to make payments to operators. Having invested in the infrastructure to deliver smart concessionary ticketing, Centro sought to maximize its value by expanding its use for commercial ticketing.
Centro was already using nNetwork, a well-established multi-operator, multi-modal product, which meant the focus was on migrating to smart, with no need to establish the commercial principles of the scheme first.
Centro began introducing commercial smart cards in 2011, with a pilot Pay As You Go (PAYG) Smartcard. Having technically proved the product, it was released across the West Midlands in 2012 as Swift. However, with only on a limited number of operators involved, public awareness and take-up remained low.
Centro wished to move from this relatively modest offering of a single product, which could only be purchased online or from two outlets and topped up on the bus, to a range of products for commuters and occasional travellers, available from a comprehensive retail network. It began to identify the technical requirements for each product, but lacked resource to implement a cohesive programme of co-ordinated product releases. Some work on testing was taking place but progress was slow.
Key to the success of the roll out would be fully engaging the major operator in region, National Express West Midlands, with over 80% of the bus market. With its own range of tickets and retail outlets, National Express West Midlands was used to being fairly autonomous and it would require extensive negotiation and joint working to deliver solutions that worked for both parties.
Whilst seconded to Centro I was regarded as part of the team and we worked together to ensure that each phase of the programme was delivered successfully
Cathryn Jones SYSTRA Project Manager
SYSTRA provided a full-time resource, seconded to work with the delivery team. Initially the secondment was for six months but this was extended to 17 months as further support was identified. During this period, SYSTRA reviewed the work undertaken to date and, in partnership with Centro, agreed the initial range of products to be released and the work streams required to support those releases.
SYSTRA then co-ordinated the retail offering which would support the new products, including the specification of a new web portal offering a much-improved customer experience. Extensive user testing based on comprehensive customer scenarios was used, ensuring the functionality available from the portal suppliers was fully exploited. Supplier management was key to ensuring the portal was delivered on time and to specification and SYSTRA undertook this.
Phase 2 focussed on providing a platform to move those customers who were using direct debit to purchase period passes onto smart ticketing. SYSTRA managed the integration of the two existing direct debit customer management systems with the smart ticketing back office and card bureau, a process which included extensive testing of data flows.
The final phase of the work centred on the full roll out of PAYG to all operators in the West Midlands. Here too, the major challenge was convincing the major operators to support PAYG. SYSTRA co-ordinated the engagement with the operators both individually and via workshops, providing technical specification documentation and testing support. The on-bus process changed, so even those operators previously in the scheme needed support to re-configure ticket machines and re-train drivers.
Over 1000 existing PAYG customers were contacted about swapping their cards for new ones, as part of a campaign to raise awareness of the changes and promote the scheme. This phase also included further development of the web portal and again SYSTRA co-ordinated the specification, supplier management and testing to ensure that the outcomes matched expectations and existing accounts could be ported to the new site with no customer disruption.