Local Transport Authorities: Managing a multi-operator ticketing scheme

According to the National Bus Strategy, 75% of regions currently have multi-operator ticketing schemes, however the take up of these products by the public has often been low.

A key theme of the National Bus Strategy is for LTAs to encourage multi-operator ticketing, whether that’s through the introduction of new schemes, or improving existing ones. The potential benefits are clear: increased passenger satisfaction, greater usage of bus services and scope to reduce costs and carbon emissions.

Scheme administrators will be tasked with setting up the scheme, collating operators’ data on a periodic basis and allocating revenue to operators. They will need to ensure that the sales revenue data from all sources (on-bus, ticket vending machines, travel shops, etc.) as well as passenger numbers are correct so that operators receive accurate amounts of reimbursement.

Streamline processes to increase efficiency

Most multi-operator ticketing schemes are conducted manually, which are extremely time intensive and prone to errors. Scheme administrators are reliant on operators providing manual returns, which are then processed centrally. In addition to this, the calculations that underpin operator reimbursement are usually performed through a series of spreadsheets compiled by the scheme administrator.

Due to the size and complexity of these spreadsheets, they can often become difficult to maintain, particularly with the addition of new products or operators.

Software is needed to streamline this sharing of data between operators and LTAs. Automation tools can enable the transfer of ETM data to a central database. This approach avoids the use of large complex spreadsheets and enables the administrator to analyse the data and produce reports to facilitate the distribution of revenue to operators.

Ensure operators’ payments are accurate

As well as being time-consuming, manual inputting of data can lead to inaccurate figures. There are cases of operators understating their sales returns by hundreds of thousands of pounds and as a result, they retained substantially more revenue. This had a significant impact on the other operators in the scheme, as it meant they received less than their entitlement.

Data automation prevents this from happening and ensures a greater level of accuracy, which means users can spend more time understanding and analysing the figures, instead of manually inputting data.

Software tools can obtain transactional data for all multi-operator ticket sales and usages, which in most cases removes the requirement for survey data – improving accuracy and reducing costs. For those schemes that require average fare data, software can be configured to calculate this for onward submission to the administrator.

Software can also be set up to only send the multi-operator product transactions to the administrator, providing comfort to the operator that their commercial data is not shared.

Conduct commercial analysis for BSIP reporting

Software solutions offer a complete dataset of transactions, which can be utilised to better understand patronage trends and multi-operator product development. As part of the Bus Service Improvement Plans, LTAs will need access to this data to conduct commercial analysis and demonstrate that the enhancements to multi-operator ticketing have been effective.

Undertake an independent audit to offer assurance

With all the complexities of running a multi-operator scheme, stakeholders need to be assured that participants are receiving correct payments. Independent auditors can provide this assurance by undertaking a year end audit of the scheme. This involves analysing ETM data utilising various auditing techniques to ensure that all revenue and passenger numbers can be reconciled to the operator declarations. Further audit tests are also performed on other data sources that form part of the scheme, such as travel shops and online ticket sales. Once confirmed, the internal processes and calculations are reviewed to ensure that the scheme rules have been followed and that operators have been reimbursed appropriately.

How EPM Group can help

With over 30 years’ experience in software and consultancy services, EPM Group has a comprehensive knowledge of multi-operator ticketing schemes – from streamlining operational processes, to auditing data, and acting as the scheme’s independent referee. We’ll help to ensure that all participants in the scheme get what they are due and implement processes to provide greater day-to-day assurance. To book a free consultation to see how we can assist with your challenges and requirements, complete the online form, or call 01527 556940.

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