Photo: Stagecoach Group

Photo: Stagecoach Group

Stagecoach, Britain's biggest bus operator, announced it will deliver contactless bus travel on all of its regional bus services across the UK by the end of 2018.

The $15 million initiative will allow passengers to pay for their travel with a contactless credit or debit card, as well as Apple Pay and Android Pay.

It will be the first major deployment of contactless technology on Britain's buses outside London and will benefit customers from major urban areas to rural and island communities such as Norfolk in England, Orkney in Scotland and Brecon in Wales.

On October 20, 2016, Stagecoach launched the first stage of the major project with contactless now live on all of Stagecoach's 180 buses in Oxfordshire. It covers Oxford City services, commuter routes into Oxford and Oxford Tube express services which run to and from London 24 hours a day.

The facility will be rolled out to Ashford in Kent  and Tyne and Wear by the end of this year with Greater Manchester following in January 2017, covering a further 1,300 buses and benefitting hundreds of thousands of bus passengers. By the end of 2018, the state-of-the-art technology will be live on all of Stagecoach's 7,200 buses in England, Scotland and Wales — equivalent to nearly one in four buses outside London.

Stagecoach has already ordered 4,000 special ticket machines, covering more than 50% of its bus fleet, with the remaining 3,200 machines scheduled for 2017-18. There will be no additional charge to customers for using contactless as a means of payment.

The move comes just weeks after Stagecoach launched a new smartphone app providing customers with simple journey planning, next-stop information and live bus tracking. Mobile phone ticketing is being rolled out across the UK over the next three months, with the facility already live in Greater Manchester.