West Yorkshire Combined Authority

SUMMARY

Determined to harness technology to deliver ever-better services despite resource challenges, West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) decided to move concessionary travel card applications for 11 to 16-year olds online. Using Novacroft’s Young Persons Apply Online package is not only enabling a cheaper, easier and faster application process for youngsters and their families, it’s also realising benefits in every area of the business, from financial accuracy and policy implementation to staff morale – as well as opening up opportunities to add services and reduce costs further down the line.

£6m annual subsidies to be managed
30,000 photocards a year to be issued
47 bus operators to be reimbursed

As a progressive, customer-oriented business, having more interaction with our customers is the direction we want to be going in and the new system is helping by giving us more opportunities to connect with people quickly and efficiently online and with better developed and motivated staff in person

Joanne Walsh, Project Assistant, WYCA

THE CHALLENGES

Managing the regional concessionary bus fare scheme for young people is one of WYCA’s biggest and most complex tasks. Until now, young people applied for a paper photocard proving their eligibility for half fare bus travel by filling in a hard copy form and taking it to a Travel Centre or Post Office with a photograph. WYCA then had to complete and digitally transcribe the form. The whole process took up vital resources – and up to seven days. More than this, WYCA recognised that there were inherent problems with the paper photocard itself. Easy to destroy, lose and also fake, it often caused journey delays as drivers queried disintegrating cards’ validity or missing cards’ whereabouts. Growing use of e-enabled services had also raised customers’ expectations – not to mention its own ambitions to make use of the impression and data smartcards generate.

We have to get young people using public transport and providing an application process they enjoy using and giving them the kind of smartcard they value is giving us a new way to promote bus travel among the next generation

Joanne Walsh, Project Assistant, WYCA

THE SOLUTION

Having made the decision to switch to an online application process, WYCA chose to work again with Novacroft, which had already implemented similar systems for its Senior, Blind and Disabled concessionary schemes. The selection of Novacroft’s Young Persons Apply Online package, which includes an online application portal, smartcard programming, production, implementation and ongoing support, was also influenced by three distinguishing features:

  • As a ‘white label’ product, Novacroft’s online application portal looks and acts as if it is part of Metro’s own website
  • As Novacroft is PCI Level 1 compliant, it takes responsibility for online payments, enabling a one-stop shop application process
  • As the first company to take online applications for smart travel cards to market, Novacroft has the experience to implement systems configured to individual specifications within two to three weeks.

Implementation of the system went very well, with Novacroft telling us exactly what they needed us to do to enable the successful integration of their portal and our website and, voila, it worked! Novacroft’s support has certainly been very good for me, with weekly meetings and the website development team always coming back with what was required

Joanne Walsh, Project Assistant, WYCA

THE ADVANTAGES FOR YOUNG PEOPLE

Online applications have led to a welcome step change in service and take-up rates are expected to be high – at least 80%, with young people and their guardians appreciating that:

  • They can apply from the comfort of their home at any time, with no waiting in line
  • The process is simple and quick – aided by digital photos and online payment
  • The smartcard arrives in around half the time taken for the traditional card
  • Replacing a lost or damaged card is simple as personal details are stored online
  • Smartcards also act as proof of identity and eligibility for buying other regional concessionary travel tickets
  • Smartcards and their chips survive washing – unlike their paper predecessors
  • The application system acts as a kind of customer portal, enabling users to renew their application, look at past orders and interact with Metro.

The new system is a great idea – it gives you a positive feeling about WYCA and that they are trying to make your life easier. My son likes his smartcard and I like the fact that in the future we’ll be able to load money onto it – so I won’t have to worry about him carrying money around and drivers being grumpy that he hasn’t got the right change!

Jill Bennett, parent

THE BENEFITS FOR PASSENGER TRANSPORT EXECUTIVES

Metro is finding the new system positively impacts:

  • Cost-efficiency – processing every hard copy application used to cost £5 – a figure that drops with a self-service process
  • Financial accuracy – journey data derived from smartcards brings greater precision to the evidence submitted to government to reclaim subsidy payments and to the methodology used to reimburse bus operators
  • Customer service – travel centre staff freed from the task of processing applications have the time to deal with customers’ increasingly complex queries
  • Strategic planning – data mining of journey information from smartcards gives greater operational visibility, enabling more informed decisions to be made about existing and future bus services
  • Employee morale – process automation has resulted in fewer data-entry jobs and more roles in which people can give, and enjoy giving, unhurried attention to individual customers
  • Transport services – smartcard-derived data adds weight to arguments for new bus services, helping to influence decisions made by bus operators wanting to be sure of profitability and governments seeking a good return on investment socially
  • Company reputation – providing a state-of-the-art online service prompts customers to see Metro as more up to date and modern.

THE BENEFITS FOR BUS OPERATORS

Out on the road, the new young persons smartcard is making a notable difference in a number of ways:

  • Lost cards – smartcards are perceived as more valuable than paper ones and young people take more care of them as a result
  • Fraudulent use – smartcards are almost impossible to reproduce
  • Service reliability – smartcards mean fewer journey delays, as drivers no longer have to spend time checking decrepit cards or querying their authenticity
  • Information accuracy – smartcards produce a more accurate record of passenger numbers
  • Driver workload – smartcards remove the need for drivers to count passengers onto the bus.

One very important aspect of smart ticketing is that it is modern and changes the image of bus travel. We will be able to move away from expecting customers to handle dirty coins and tickets that can be ripped and enable them to load money onto their smart card and pay for their travel before they get on the bus

Geoff Lomax, Commercial Director, Transdev Keighley and District

THE FUTURE

Novacroft has a vision for its Young Persons Apply Online package which, together with its technical know-how, ITSO-compliant ticketing and PCI banking-level security standards, means that over time WYCA could choose to offer extra services via its smartcards. These services would make the card more attractive and valuable to young people and potentially cost neutral and even revenue generating.

Options for the future include:

  • Issuing reloadable pre-paid smartcards to make subsidised bus travel a cashless operation
  • Linking up with libraries, leisure centres and other local service providers so that young people could use their smartcard to, for example, pay for late book returns or to go swimming
  • Using smartcards to encourage and enable young people to get more active themselves, and in their communities, and to be rewarded for their efforts by their favourite brands
  • Turning smartcards into train tickets through direct download of tickets purchased online.

Novacroft is at the leading edge of this technology and no other part of Britain yet has a young persons smart photocard. As we move forward with different products and services we will also be moving towards the leading edge

Joanne Walsh, Project Assistant, WYCA