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Seamless Travel: Integrating transit ticketing across Europe by 2030 [free access]

February 1, 2021

The European Commission (EC) and countries across the region have taken initiatives to promote cross- border, nationwide, region-wide, and city-wide transit ticketing integration by deploying contactless payment solutions to promote seamless travel in the continent, especially in the last one year driven by the Covid-19 pandemic. Several stakeholders have also collaborated in terms of technologies and standards for a smoother transition to the development and deployment of integrated solutions. Although several legal and commercial barriers are hindering the deployment of these solutions, the overall case for integration is driven by strong commitment from various governments, agencies, and private companies.


EC initiatives driving adoption of integrated solutions


The EC has taken several legislative and policy initiatives to promote a fully integrated, multimodal, and sustainable transport sector over the next few years. On December 9, 2020, the EC announced its ‘Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy’, under which seamless multimodal passenger transport will be facilitated through integrated electronic ticketing by 2030. From 2021 onwards, the EC will propose regulatory measures to enable the provision of combined tickets for various modes of transport. The EC’saimto promote integrated ticketing in the region is summarised in Figure 1.


Figure 1: EC’s aim to promote integrated ticketing in the region

Source: Global Mass Transit Research


Integration and interoperability


Cross-border integration


There is increasing focus on cross-border integration. Eurail’s launch of a mobile pass to integrate 33 countries is one such step. It is described in Box 1.

Box 1: Europe-wide mobile pass


In September 2020, Eurail, the company providing the Eurail and Interrail Global passes, launched a mobile pass that allows passengers to plan their journey and to use their tickets across 33 European countries through the Rail Planner application (app). The launch of the Europe-wide pass follows the launch of the mobile pass for Italy.


The mobile Eurail and Interrail passes are available for non-European and European citizens. They can be purchased up to 11 months before the start of a trip and commuters can choose their start date once they are ready to travel. Free replacement passes are provided to users if they misplace their phones. The mobile pass/ticket is validated by scanning the barcode in the app by the on-board staff.

Source: Global Mass Transit Research


Inter-country transit ticketing was also launched between Finland and Estonia in November 2020. The public transport ticketing for the Helsinki Regional Transport Authority/ Helsingin Seudun Liikenne (HSL) in Finland became available on the mobile ticketing application (app- 2020) that provides fare payments for public transport services in the cities of Tallinn and Tartu in Estonia.


In future, fare integration is planned between the Netherlands (Limburg) and its cross-boundary countries, Belgium and Germany.


Nationwide integration


Integration of transit fare collection on a national level requires coordination and cooperation on a larger scale, and is thus difficult to implement. However, when compared to countries in other regions globally, countries in Europe are taking the most initiatives to promote nationwide ticketing on their respective transit systems.


The Netherlands has a very successful nationwide integrated ticketing system, as depicted in Figure 2.


Figure 2: Nationwide integration in The Netherlands


Source: Global Mass Transit Research


So far, seven countries have unveiled nationwide ticketing plans. Two plans for nationwide ticketing are listed in Table 1.


Table 1: Nationwide integration planned





eTicket Deutschland programme

Next Generation Ticketing programme


Under this programme, the latest advancements in contactless technology and fare management systems are being used to define the interoperable standard for all transit agencies. This will allow passengers to use a single smart device to load multiple tickets securely and independently without having to deal with different fare zones and ticket sale points.

The National Transport Authority (NTA) has launched the programme to implement new and more flexible ticketing systems, to provide additional payment options for travel, and to improve the overall passenger experience by 2027. Under this programme, ABT and app-based mobile ticketing systems as well as QR code-based paper tickets are planned to be deployed.

Other details

All agencies across the country will be integrated under the programme. As of 2020, around 440 transport authorities and operators have participated in this project.

Cubic has secured the contract for the project.

Source: Global Mass Transit Research


Integration across cities and regions


Global Mass Transit Research has analysed around 200 cities in Europe, of which around 120 cities have adopted an entirely integrated ticketing system across transport modes and operators (within the city). 


Some of the key recent deployments are: 


-          Belarus: Quick response (QR) code-based contactless ticketing for public transport has been launched across five cities in Belarus (Minsk, Slonim, Vawkavysk, Slutsk, and Salihorsk).


-          Belgium: Société des Transports Intercommunaux de Bruxelles (STIB)/ Brussels Intercommunal Transport Company has launched contactless payment on buses, trams, and metros in Brussels. 


-          France: Seamless Transportation System, a mobile ticketing platform by Conduent, was deployed across 21 trams and 200 buses in the public transport network in Tours, branded as ‘Fil Bleu’.Further, Brest Métropole, Bibus, Mastercard, and Crédit Industriel et Commercial (CIC) launched a multimodal contactless payment solution for the public transport network in Brest. Users of the network will be able to pay for their trips on buses, trams, and cable cars.


-          Germany: The Fairtiq app was launched for check-in and check-out ticketing for the Regio Verkehrsverbund Lörrach (RVL) public transport services in the Lörrach district in the city of Baden-Württemberg, for all buses operated by Stadtwerke Aschaffenburg in the city of Aschaffenburg, and for all buses operated by Aktiv Bus Flensburg GmbH in the city of Flensburg.


-          Italy: Gruppo TorineseTrasporti (GTT) has deployed a contactless ticketing system for subway and bus transport services in Turin. Commuters can pay for trips by using contactless Europay–Mastercard–Visa (EMV) bank cards, smartphones, or smartwatches.


-          Russia: An automated payment system for public transport has been deployed by the Ministry of Transport of Crimea across the entire region. Also, Sberbank and Mastercard have partnered to provide discounts on contactless ticketing for tram and bus services in Ulan-Ude.


-          UK: An integrated contactless ticketing system has been deployed for three public transport operators in Nottingham, that is, Nottingham City Transport (NCT), CT4N, and Nottingham Trams Ltd. (NET Trams).


Further, of the over 200 cities analysed by GMT Research, nearly 33 cities have plans to integrate fare systems across cities and regions. Some of the countries where cities have announced plans in the last one year are depicted in Figure 3.


Figure 3: Countries with integration plans announced in last 12 months


Source: Global Mass Transit Research


Countries with integration plans announced in the last 12 months


-          Belgium: Brupass, a unified ticket, will be launched for multiple transport operators (STIB, Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Belges (SNCB), Transport EnCommun (TEC), and De Lijn) in February 2021.


-          Finland: HSL, in partnership with TVV lippu- ja maksujärjestelmä Oy (LMJ), awarded a contract to Little pay to deploy the contactless EMV payment gateway for Helsinki’s public transport and for the public transport systems of some other cities in Finland by 2023.


-          France: Conduent will deploy its ATLAS Ops ticketing system across Lyon’s multimodal bus, tram, and metro network.


-          Poland: Zarz´┐Ż…d Transportu Miejskiego (ZTM)/ Public Transport Authority deployed a contactless ticketing system on all 42 bus lines and on six trolleybus routes in Tychy.


-          Russia: The Troika card, currently deployed on public transport services in Moscow and Tula, is planned to be deployed in the region surrounding the city of Moscow. The card is being tested in the region since December 2020.


-          UK: A region-wide contactless ticketing system has been proposed for the Midlands region. The new system will allow commuters to pay for trips on the rail, bus, and tram network through their smartphone, travel card, or bank card by 2022. The project is expected to receive GBP20 million in government funding.


Further, Transport for the North (TfN) plans to install a system of contactless bank card payments on tram and light rail systems in the region at a cost of GBP28 million.


Increasing deployment of contactless fare media: A forward-looking approach


In a move towards achieving integrated fare collection systems, transit agencies and operators are adopting bank cards, mobile ticketing, and other new fare media on transport systems. To achieve this, transit agencies and operators are entering into collaborations and partnerships with financial services providers. This presents them with the opportunity to tap the low-value transaction market.


Some examples of this are the deployment of Google Pay on Moscow Metro, and of the contactless smartcard in Tula (Russia); mobile ticketing on Tyne and Wear Metro (UK); the CiBo contactless ticketing system in Osnabrück, and bank cards and NFC devices in Bonn (Germany); and contactless ticketing in Bari (Italy). 


Several other new technological initiatives have been taken during the pandemic to promote contactless ticketing in Europe in the last one year, especially in the UK. These are summarised in Table 2.


Table 2: Key new deployments during COVID-19 pandemic





Multiple regions

First Bus has launched Apple Pay’s ‘Express Mode’ that allows users to make contactless payment for travel without unlocking their phones.


The launch of the new feature was accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Commuters with mobile devices that unlock using Face ID were unable to pay contactless fares safely while wearing a face mask. The new payment feature is expected to make the boarding process faster and to increase the use of bus services by eliminating the need to wake up or unlock the device, to open an app, or to use Face ID or Touch ID.

UK-based Urban Things has developed a social-distancing feature that is integrated into Ticketless, the existing mobile ticketing platform for Ipswich Buses, a bus operator in Ipswich. The new feature was developed using a grant awarded by Innovate UK, a non-departmental public agency funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government.

Transport for the North (TfN) has launched new flexi season tickets for commuters returning to the railway. The flexible tickets have been launched in anticipation of changes in travel routines due to the COVID-19 pandemic.



Stadtwerke Osnabrück has tested a Check-in/Be-out (CiBo) ticketing system on the public transport network. The system allows passengers to check into the bus with a swipe on the local public transport application, VOS pilot. The passengers are automatically ‘checked out’ as soon as they leave the bus.

 Source: Global Mass Transit Research


Key collaborations for low-cost solutions


Stakeholders are increasingly entering into collaborations to provide a seamless contactless travel experience to passengers during these difficult times.


The partnership between Masabi and Littlepay to launch the contactless Europay–Mastercard–Visa (cEMV) in a Box is one such example. The new cost-effective, end-to-end cEMV system can be deployed across all modes of public transport. It will use a combination of Masabi’s back-office fare engine and the Justride validator with Littlepay’s specialist payment gateway. The cEMV in a Box solution will remove the complexity of deploying cEMV solutions by reducing the project burden and the Payment Card Industry (PCI) certification burden.


Further, BusUp, an on-demand bus provider in the European Union (EU), integrated with US-based Lisnr’s ultrasonic technology platform in September 2020 to enable the authentication of contactless mobile boarding passes. Lisnr’s ultrasonic ‘data-over-sound’ technology enables contactless proximity verification and authentication.


The adoption of open standards in transport ticketing is also an important aspect of ensuring integration across the region. For this, Calypso Networks Association (CNA) and OSPT Alliance have collaborated to achieve convergence between their respective open standards, CALYPSO and CIPURSE, and to promote the widespread benefits of open standards over proprietary solutions. Currently, the companies are analysing in detail the unique strengths of the two standards and, with backward compatibility in mind, preparing a roadmap that respects and supports the existing solutions.


Key issues and challenges


While abundant opportunities exist for the deployment of EU-wide integrated multimodal information, ticketing, and payment services, these developments are hindered by certain barriers, primarily legal and commercial issues.


Two main issues are depicted in Figure 4.


Figure 4: Legal and commercial barriers

Source: Global Mass Transit Research


The way forward


New ticketing solutions that eliminate the need for authorities to undertake the separate procurement of a fare collection system provider, a payments gateway, and an acquiring bank are also a key area that is the focus of attention. These solutions will give the authorities the flexibility to apply fare rules and fare capping.


National governments are already taking initiatives to promote data access for integrated ticketing, moving beyond the basis of the Delegated Regulation (EU) 2017/1926. However, these legislative initiatives may increase fragmentation and raise more barriers across the region, since they are mainly focused on nationwide integration.

The establishment of a proper code of conduct and clear guidelines on data sharing is imperative to bridge the gap regarding access to fare data.