Mobile Ticketing…Diamond Style

As a new contributor to WMBU, I am quite intrigued in how online payment systems, Real Time and Freedom of Information can affect how the bus industry operates, especially as some bus companies in the UK are operated by local authorities. At the same time, however, I have a keen interest in trying out different apps when travelling around, be it for a day trip as an enthusiast, or for a simple trip up to the local shops.

One of the things that I am quite interested in is about how Bus Tickets seem to be evolving, with more emphasis on encouraging passengers to use digital forms of ticketing as opposed to purchasing on board a bus. It has been claimed by Masabi that usage of mobile ticketing has a faster boarding time (by up to 9 seconds), compared to cash, card or smartcard payments.

In December 2017, Diamond Bus joined the legion of operators to start using a barcode based app instead of a “Word of the Day”, supplied by Rise Digital Media, for mobile ticketing, with a bus tracker and timetable information integrated within.

When it was launched, I thought it prudent to try it out on a day when I knew I would be running errands and I would be using two or three different Diamond Buses.

The on app mobile ticketing system…unable to find a valid ticket!

First thing I noticed, when buying the day ticket online was that, compared to the other major operator in the West Midlands, National Express West Midlands, was that Diamond did not offer a discount on their day ticket to those who were buying for online/mobile use, so straight off, there is no incentive to use mobile over cash or contactless, in fact the other two methods were more viable in my mind if you were using a phone that had a heavy power usage (even on battery saver mode).

Secondly, and this is it’s most fatal flaw in my mind, the development of the mobile ticketing system seems to have been flawed from the start, with (in my case) the app not recognising that the m ticket is there, to the barcode not even being accepted on board by the ticket machine.

Having brought the ticket following the “How To” guide on the Diamond Bus website, I knew that there would be integration between the Diamond Bus website and app, both being developed by the same company. Now, this testing was done on a Samsung Galaxy S8 running Android Nougat operating system so other mobiles may vary.

The first problem when using the app was that I encountered when I attempted to activate the ticket was that the app took several minutes to activate, with two app refreshes involved in it. Now usually, one would expect that to happen in a place where there was limited WiFi or phone signal, but not for me as I was in a area with a strong WiFi signal, along with a strong 4G phone signal.

In fact, when it eventually activated, the app would not even find the ticket, making it as useful as a chocolate teapot.

An example of an activated ticket on Diamond Bus (via their website), valid for usage on 23rd December 2017

Fortunately, I remembered that I had saved a link (to the Diamond Website) to the ticket that I had purchased onto my phone, so instead I had to load that up for use. It was more easier to use, however, compared to the convenience of the app, I did not find it worthwhile.

This, however, was not the only problem, as I would find later in the day, as on all three buses I tried, all of them had problems with the scanner, as they would not scan on board using the ticket machines, requiring me to show it to the driver.

In fact, it was only on the third bus that I used that the driver would admit that they were having a problem with the system.

What I discovered was that, despite the app not working (even after restarting my phone a number of times to see if that was the problem), the system should have been tested more thoroughly, as opposed to the being implemented immediately, with potentials of a live Beta test being preferred as opposed to the flawed introduction that Diamond have already done.

It seems, however, that the problem was more widespread than I thought when Diamond posted on social media that they were aware of the problem, saying that an update for this is imminent and they will update passengers when this is available.

Since this article was written, I have discovered that users of various iPhone models were experiencing problems with the app, to which Diamond have released guidance and an update to those users via social media.

Let’s just hope all the bugs are ironed out eventually before any additional ticket types (such as Diamond Value) are added to the system.