PlusBus management

PlusBus is an add-on to most types of train ticket. It is a discount price bus pass which can be bought at any National Rail station ticket office, online or from some self-service machines at selected stations. PlusBus is available for 293 rail-served towns and cities across Britain. Interchange between train and bus is available at 422 rail stations. The product gives the customer unlimited bus and tram travel (on participating operators services) around the whole urban area of the rail-served town or city. There are no peak period restrictions, so customers can hop-on and hop-off buses and trams as much as they like. PlusBus provides customers with an opportunity to combine all public transport modes and contributes to a seamless door-to-door journey experience.

One of the key customer benefits of PlusBus is that it offers a highly standard and consistent public transport ticketing proposition across the whole of Britain, with the added bonus of national Railcard discounts available for day tickets.

As well as day tickets, season tickets for 7-days, a month, 3-months and a year are available (to match rail season ticket validity) for most locations. The PlusBus prices are determined by the participating operators in each scheme (to comply with competition law governing bus fares).

Plusbus ticketing provides an important link between the National Rail network and several regional airports, such as Bournemouth, Doncaster/Sheffield, Exeter, Leeds/Bradford and Liverpool. It also offers National Rail connectivity for a number of towns without a rail station (e.g. Dunstable, population 37k; Gateshead, pop. 220k and Gosport pop. 82k).

PlusBus is an operator-led initiative of Britain’s leading bus and train operating groups. It was designed to show that these commercial businesses are working in partnership to provide their customers a nation-wide public transport information and ticketing scheme (without the need for Government legislation or other intervention). PlusBus took approximately three years to establish and was launched to the public in May 2002. Eight years of further product development took place, mainly extending its coverage, introducing season tickets and establishing online retailing.

PlusBus is a nationally co-ordinated scheme managed by the Journey Solutions partnership (JSp). This partnership includes a Director from each of the five main bus and rail groups (Arriva, First, Go-Ahead, National Express and Stagecoach), plus a representative from the independent/ municipal bus sector. The Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) and Rail Delivery Group (RDG) also have one board member each.

Participation in PlusBus is voluntary. Through the Rail Delivery Group (and use of the rail fares and ticketing systems) all Train Operating Companies participate in PlusBus. Across Britain over 226+ bus companies and 5 tram operators participate, making PlusBus the largest multi-operator ticketing scheme in  the country. There are 74 Local Scheme Coordinators (LSCs), who are responsible for the local management of PlusBus schemes.  RDG Technical Support and JSp have legal agreements in place with participants governing fares protocols and revenue distribution.

PlusBus ticket sales revenue is distributed between participating bus operators in two stages. The initial revenue distribution for PlusBus is managed by the RDG Technical Support. At a scheme level, the Local Scheme Coordinator (usually an employee of the main bus operator, local authority or multi-operator ticketing company) undertakes a further local revenue apportionment between all the participating bus and tram operators (in accordance with the Transport Ticketing Block Exemption guidelines).

The role of Journey Solutions partnership in managing PlusBus can be summarised:

Information

Providing systems to advise train travellers (also bus and rail staff) of onward travel options – of services, operators, PlusBus tickets and fares available.

Marketing

Managing campaigns and channels to raising awareness and generate sales of PlusBus tickets to new and existing customers.

Retailing

Working with Train Operating Companies to develop the retail channels through which PlusBus tickets are sold to consumers and to develop the fulfilment methods used.

Data

Managing all the various inputs to the information, ticketing and website systems.

Scheme

Ensuring that the necessary operators participate and that agreements are in-place to manage and sustain the initiative. Monitor and report results.

Overview

Providing strategic direction for the partnership and for PlusBus development.

PlusBus has been very successful. It has demonstrated that Britains bus and train operators can and do work together in partnership to deliver a nationwide multi-modal and multi-operator information and ticketing service for their customers. This has been achieved without the need for Government legislation, funding or onerous franchise obligations. The partners are therefore justifiably proud of this achievement. 

The Journey Solutions partners developed the original Onward Travel Information poster concept. RDG now produce these posters for display at over 1,700 stations across England and ScotRail produces similar posters for 20 main stations in Scotland. In 2009 the partnership also produced a detailed report ‘Door-to-door journeys by train and bus’, which assisted the DfT’s work in this area. JSp also participated in the RDG Station Travel Plan project.

note: + = 73 large companies (PLC / group); 9 Local Authority owned; 144 independent SME companies.