In 2015 Nottingham City Council launched an innovative new travel smartcard which allowed members of the public across Nottingham to pay for services on the city’s buses and trams. The newly launched Robin Hood smartcard was intended to be as easy to use as London’s Oyster card.
The local authority wanted to deliver more convenient public transport access across bus and tram services in the region by providing the public with pay-as-you-go and season ticket options to make travel easier and cost effective. Nottingham’s efforts to deliver better transport access and value for their travelling public was an understandable ambition and the success of the Robin Hood scheme is a testament to the hard work and vision of the public authority, its technology partners and transport operator stakeholders.
Technology Innovation to deliver tickets more easily
Nottingham City Council had already worked closely with Rambus to set up and deploy a smartcard based ticketing scheme called the English National Concessionary Travel Scheme (ENCTS), which provided free bus travel for older and disabled residents. The authority wanted to build on the success of the ENCTS deployment by offering commercial smartcard ticketing to the wider public. In 2014 an innovative product from Rambus was launched called Remote Ticket Download (RTD) which allowed the council to deliver convenient and cost effective smart ticketing instantly via existing points of service across the city. RTD enabled commuters to instantly add pay-as-you-go top-ups and tickets to their smartcard or NFC-enabled device. The tickets and top-ups could also be delivered through new or existing infrastructure such as on street kiosks and retail collection points across the city, which offered greater convenience and choice for passengers. Since launch the authority has approximately 150 smart kiosks in use across the city, making it the highest city centre penetration of smart TVMs in the UK. Many of these are located at bus stops so passengers can easily access smart tickets before travel.
To further assist with customer access to smart tickets Rambus also developed an innovative NFC based app for use by staff at existing Nottingham travel centres. The app was deployed on low cost android tablets, enabling customers to purchase and load smart tickets at travel centres and travel centre staff to check customer smartcards. In excess of four million pounds worth of ticket value is processed each year via the Rambus RTD product.
Creation of the Robin Hood Network
Across Nottingham city there were multiple individual transport operators covering both bus and tram services. In addition, many customers travel for work and pleasure both within the city and beyond its boundaries. To truly deliver Oyster style ticketing for customers it was clear that a partnership would need to be formed to ensure there could be widespread acceptance of the new Robin Hood card across the various transport operators and the neighbouring authority of Nottinghamshire County Council.
A working partnership was formed to improve public transport in Nottingham, with bus, tram and more recently train operators in Nottingham, and both Nottingham City and
Nottinghamshire County Councils, now working together on both integrated ticketing and the integrated transport network under the Robin Hood Network banner.
There are now a wide variety of Robin Hood smartcards available to the public, including:
- Concessionary (for elderly & disabled residents)
- Season Cards (including adult, under 19 & student)
- Pay-As-You-Go (adult & under 19)
Travelling by public transport in Nottingham is also made easier because of the 9 park and ride locations across the city with 6,500 available parking spaces. There are no less than 1500 Realtime Information displays at bus stops which show when the next bus is due to arrive – achieved through satellite tracking to pinpoint the location of each bus. The Robin Hood Network journey planner app is also available to keep customers connected with their travel options.
Over many years Rambus has worked closely with Nottingham City Council to advise, help define and expand their ticketing rollout to best suit their time and budget requirements. This has involved detailed integration work across multiple suppliers to ensure widespread acceptance and accessibility of their smart ticketing deployment.
The success of the Robin Hood Network is indeed a testament to the vision and drive of the smart ticketing team at the authority – it is an example that others can follow to deliver improvements for wider public access and better value transport. Public authorities and transport operators in any country can learn from Nottingham’s success with the Robin Hood card scheme.