Bristol City Council – Metrobus iPoints The Journey to Cashless Travel

Bristol City Council

Introduction

In 2018, Bristol City Council, a large local authority in South West England, joined forces with South Gloucestershire Council and North Somerset Council to launch the metrobus, a bus rapid transit system.  Metrobus is part of a package of transport infrastructure improvements in the West of England area designed to support sustainable economic growth, reduce carbon emissions, promote accessibility and improve transport links to parts of the region that are poorly served by existing public transport links. In addition to this, it was hoped that metrobus would resolve long standing issues associated with congestion, services running late, customer satisfaction and overall safety.

In order to help speed up journey times, metrobus was to be a ‘buy before you board’ service with no tickets sold on the bus, helping to reduce waiting time at stops whilst also protecting ticket revenues from cash shrinkage.  As such it was vital that metrobus provided customers with a reliable means of obtaining tickets prior to boarding the bus.

The Requirement

The project requirement for Cammax was to design, build, install, commission and maintain 80 bespoke Ticket Vending Machines (TVM’s) at metrobus stops throughout the region. As well as selling paper and smart tickets, the ticket machines were also required to provide integrated journey planning, Real Time Information with RNIB REACT3 functionality and an emergency help button / intercom offering an immediate connection to the council’s Emergency Control Centre.

In addition, Cammax also delivered a web portal and content management system for monitoring and managing the ticket machines. This was tailored specifically to the requirements of the Council.

The metrobus team had a very clear vision for the final product they wanted and as such required a highly bespoke product which no one had done anything quite like before.  The bespoke and unique nature of the product involved specialised parts such as high quality safety glass that was specially imported, whilst only the highest quality graphic vinyls and highest grade stainless steel were to be used.

Why Cammax

Following a competitive tender process, Cammax were selected after their submission scored highest on both price and quality, whilst also committing to fulfilling the metrobus team’s vision for a customised offering.

As a market leader in the design, development and supply of payment systems, Cammax were able to demonstrate an impressive track record of the successful delivery of a number of large projects for local authorities and other organisations throughout the UK. These projects encompassed ticketing and payment software as well as customised machines, implementation services as well as dedicated support and maintenance services to support their customers throughout.

Implementation

The Council’s plan, to install 80 TVMs across all metrobus stops, was an ambitious one but quickly moved into the realms of ground breaking when the requirements for a bespoke design, cutting edge ticketing functionality and customisable, centrally managed software systems were thrown into the mix.  Cammax’s track record for successfully transforming business requirements and dreams into real world systems that deliver tangible benefits for all parties put them in a strong position and all of their experience and expertise was needed to deliver.

Working closely with the Council, all system requirements were scoped out and agreed, design concepts were explored and future functionalities were considered, so that the system would cater for the current business requirements, but be flexible enough to adapt over time in line with changing customer and business trends.

It was decided that the TVM should be instantly recognisable and stand out from the street environment, which saw the birth of the iPoint.

“Since launch metrobus has carried over 4 million passengers and there have been over 700,000 individual transactions made via the iPoints”.

Ian Maggs – Bristol City Council Infrastructure & Projects Team

Standing at over 3m tall, manufactured from marine grade stainless steel and clad with reinforced jet black security glass, the iPoint is now a common landmark around the Bristol area and along the routes into South Gloucestershire, instantly recognisable as the go to service point for all things ticketing, payment and real time information (RTI).

“The iPoints are an integral part of the metrobus offer and allow passengers to purchase a range of tickets at the bus stop via a debit or credit card”.

Ian Maggs – Bristol City Council Infrastructure & Projects Team

The iPoint Smart Ticket Vending Machines include a Smart Card Dispenser which allows customers to access both smart cards and paper tickets, whilst provides passengers with the ability to pay for their journey prior to boarding.  The iPoints also deliver real time passenger information which can help provide passengers with details of any delays or changes to services and also include an emergency help intercom for passengers who require more assistance.

Customised software – all interface screens and back office portal screens were custom branded in line with the Councils requirements.

Challenges

The bespoke and unique nature of the product led to some manufacturing delays as the lead times for many components were longer than initially expected for the quantity required.

To ensure all parties were kept up to date with timelines, Cammax provided a dedicated Project Manager who worked closely with the project team at every stage of the process from the detailed design, manufacture, testing and installation all the way through to final commissioning.  The PM attended weekly project meetings in Bristol and personally oversaw every installation.

As the metrobus team desired a large bespoke machine, the size and weight of the iPoint meant that careful consideration had to be given to foundations and installation methods. It was identified that at one location it was impossible to provide a suitable foundation and as such, Cammax worked with the Council to provide an alternative solution which was a one off smaller ticket machine tailored to their requirements.

The large size of the machines also meant that the installation on the public highway required a significant amount of additional planning and co-ordination, all of which was managed and communicated by the Cammax PM.

Installation images from iPoint Install at Long Ashton Park and Ride

Despite the challenges faced, Bristol City Council has ended up with a quality product that is functional, easy to use and enhances the public realm, whilst effectively putting tickets in the hands of passengers prior to boarding the buses.

Performance

The iPoints have been installed at all 80 metrobus stops and have been in operation for over 2 years.  They continue to operate well with minimal faults and a consistent overall uptime in the region of 99%.  Any faults that do occur are reported through the Cammax helpdesk and are almost always dealt with promptly and efficiently.

Cammax have committed to employing locally in the Bristol area and recruited 2 locally based engineers to oversee the day to day maintenance of the iPoints and carry out both preventative and reactive maintenance and repairs.

The iPoints have been extremely successful and are an integral part of the metrobus brand.  The Council are so happy with the iPoints they are in the process of purchasing some additional iPoints from Cammax through the existing contract for a metrobus route extension.

Outcomes

The iPoints are an integral part of the metrobus offer and allow passengers to purchase a range of tickets at the bus stop via a debit or credit card.  Additionally, a Real Time Information Display, intercom and journey planning function are also combined into a single unit which, at 3.2m tall, is a focal point of the overall metrobus environment as well as serving as the bus stop marker and stop identifier.

Since launch metrobus has carried over 4 million passengers and there have been over 700,000 individual transactions made via the iPoints.

All three services have been extremely well received by the travelling public.  A recent survey revealed that more than 80% of customers using the service would recommend it to a relative or a friend.

Continued growth in bus patronage in Bristol pre lockdown continued to buck the overall national trend and the success of metrobus and the iPoints has played a key role in this.

Construction has started on an extension of the existing m3 route and there is a longer term aspiration for up to seven additional metrobus routes.

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