How people travel on public transport – and want to pay for that travel – is changing. Elavon Europe works with Translink to keep the people of Northern Ireland moving.
With a head office in Belfast, Translink is a public corporation and the main provider of public transport in Northern Ireland. Across its Ulsterbus, Metro, Glider, and Northern Ireland Railways network, it provides upwards of 85 million passenger journeys annually – the equivalent of moving the entire population of Northern Ireland 45 times. Translink is also one of the largest employers in Northern Ireland, with around 4,000 employees.
Translink has a distributed network of retail points across Northern Ireland, including staffed ticket offices, ticketing vending machines, third-party retail partners, and eCommerce including mobile app channels. Journeys can be paid for with cash or a pre-paid contactless travel card - for use solely on Translink services (also known as closed loop).
“Cash can be problematic. Boarding times are slower, impacting service delivery; there’s a security risk; and there is a cost of handling cash. We face the normal operating challenges of handling cash, no different to other retailers,” says John Keys, Translink’s Group Treasury Manager.
While it’s unlikely Translink will ever be completely cashless – as it’s a public service – under its Future Ticketing System Project, its goal is to provide more cashless options to improve passenger convenience and encourage its passengers to make the transition. Providing credit and debit card acceptability, beyond its own pre-paid travel card, is crucial to this.
Ultimately, a contactless payment solution that can accommodate a wide range of debit and credit cards will make it much easier for people to travel and will be simple to use, enhancing services through faster boarding and journey times across Translink’s network.
“We want to provide innovative travel products ensuring they meet changing customer needs, transform our passenger journey experience and attract more people on board our bus and rail services,” John says.
As a long-standing partner, Elavon Europe showed it could support all of Translink’s future ticketing solutions requirement of meeting changing passenger needs while speeding up the boarding and journey times.
New features across the network will include pay-as-you-go using contactless debit and credit cards as a token to travel, and best value caps – which could limit the amount a traveller pays for journeys in, say, a day and a feature-rich online customer account including a mobile app.
Auto top-up and recurring payments function using credit and debit card payments will also be introduced for Translink’s closed loop travel cards.
The most important feature, however, will be the ability to tap contactless debit and credit cards to travel and pay across its entire bus and rail network.
“With many concerned about handling cash during the Covid-19 pandemic, this payment option will provide more confidence to travel, and ensure fare collection is as convenient and safe as possible for both passengers and staff,” says John.
For Translink’s eCommerce and app sales channels, Elavon Europe has been supporting these online transactions to ensure these will be secure through the introduction of Strong Customer Authentication (SCA) that meets PSD2 requirements.
“Technology is moving so fast, and customer expectations change every day - especially after their experience with other high-end retailers. They expect that high level of service elsewhere, including public transport,” John says.
“Offering our customers new innovative, flexible ticketing is just one of our objectives. It will play a key part in Northern Ireland’s economic recovery post-pandemic, and also provide greener transport which will positively impact the climate emergency and air quality, particularly as we adapt to new customer travel patterns and the expected blend of more people working from home and the office.”
While Translink chose Elavon because our solution solved key issues, Elavon also provided Translink with an incentive - opportunities for revenue potential and cost reduction.
“We were able to secure a revised pricing model based on volumes. We grow the business, we grow the revenue, we grow the turnover, we effectively get better and better rates,” John says.
However, he says the relationship was just as important as the solutions and costs, as Translink already had strong relationships with two of Elavon’s payments partners, Flowbird and NMI.
“Payments solutions can be complicated. Financial services can be complicated,” John says.
“There needed to be a real focus on the relationship, and on providing high quality services that Translink needed. We wanted access to the right people - the experts - who can get us answers quickly to things and guide how we do things.”
“We have a huge reliance on our key payments partners – we can’t do this ourselves,” he says, “and Elavon is a key part of that.”
Translink is Northern Ireland’s main public transport provider. As a public corporation, Translink has a degree of commercial independence yet is governed in policy terms by the Department for Infrastructure.
Translink provides an essential public service which impacts on everyone, supporting economic growth, social inclusion, and the welfare of the local communities we serve. This supports the growth and prosperity of Northern Ireland.
Providing high-quality public transport not only enables a region to thrive, but it also helps to address the challenge of congestion and air quality, creating healthier towns and cities. It also has a vital role to play in tackling climate change the most pressing existential crisis facing us all globally.
On an individual level, it gives people choices, freedom, and more opportunities in terms of business, education, shopping, travel, tourism, and leisure pursuits.