Translink Next Generation Ticketing (Feasibility Study)

Translink Next Generation Ticketing (Feasibility Study)


Translink provides the majority of public transport in Northern Ireland and is the only state-owned transport operator in the UK. All funding for capital investment comes from the Department for Infrastructure and is subject to scrutiny under Government funding rules before approval.

The current ticketing system, which was installed with support from MVA Consutancy in 2001, was the first major smart card scheme in the UK, however it is now reaching the end of its useful life and requires replacement within the next three to four years before complete obsolescence occurs and parts to support maintenance are no longer available.

Since Translink procured the original system, ticketing technology has advanced considerably and the public expects to be able to use smart phones and tablets to buy and collect tickets. At the same time, the operational needs of operators have changed; they require more data and real-time reporting and a more direct and personalised relationship with customers.

Given that the next generation of ticketing equipment will be operational until around 2030, it is essential that it can adopt new innovations as they arise, as well as delivering today’s technology.

In addition to the new ticketing system, the Department for Regional Development was separately promoting a Bus Rapid Transit system for Belfast which will open in 2018 operated by Translink. In order to meet the requirements of reduced dwell times at stops ad faster journey times Translink needs to deliver a system which can offer off-bus ticketing but that remains fully integrated with the existing Belfast fares structure.

This project has given us the opportunity to undertake a thorough review of how ticketing technology is developing and in particular the use of contactless bank cards for payment which will be an important feature of all future ticketing system
Ian Robinson, SYSTRA Project Manager


Translink engaged SYSTRA to help define what the Next Generation System should look like, and how to future-proof it based upon new and emerging technologies. The delivery of the Feasibility Report was a collaborative process, with Translink closely involved in the research undertaken and the outputs produced to ensure that it would meet the objectives of supporting a business case submission to the Department of Infrastructure.

SYSTRA and Translink identified some key outcomes which the new system had to deliver within the early years of the project, including:

  • ePayment through a closed Translink STR scheme
  • smart ticketing for Northern Ireland Railways
  • off-bus ticketing for BRT
  • the implementation of contactless bank card payment across the bus and rail network

The Feasibility Study was delivered in summer 2015 and formed the basis for both a successful submission to the Department of Infrastructure and the tender requirements documentation which was issues in late 2015. The specification for the new scheme drew upon both known and emerging payment ideas that are arising through the work of TfL in the development of cEMV.

The procurement of the new system commenced in late 2015 with SYSTRA support throughout the specification, evaluation and award process. A contract is expected to be announced in September 2016 with the initial deliverables being linked to the introduction of the Belfast BRT in 2018.

SYSTRA will continue to support Translink throughout this process and are already working on studies that look at how gating will be introduced at a number of key rail stations and at what opportunities exist to create a simpler and more customer focused fares and ticketing structure across all of Northern Ireland.

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