If you have ever not been able to rely on First Bus or UniLink, this article is for you.
Earlier this month, a conflict arose between First Bus drivers and students at the University of Stirling, when a driver denied a group of international students travel with the bus unless a First Bus ID was produced.
This is not a regulation held by First, as I can confirm through correspondence with customer services. Union President Astrid Smallenbroek and VP Communities Jamie Grant took up the issue with the transportation company.
There have been several additional issues with First buses, thinking back to the case of rude bus drivers earlier this year, and the survey about their services which followed. In several testimonies from students at the university, a common complaint is recurring and persistent delays.
The reason for the delays may well be in the ticketing system; there is an endless stream of people getting on at exactly the same times to make the same classes, all needing to buy tickets on the bus itself with cash, causing long lines and delays.
Scottish Financial News reported this June, that the plan to install contactless machines on buses in Scotland is in motion. Andrew Jarvis, Managing Director of First Bus in Scotland, had announced plans to introduce Apple Pay and contactless payments in Aberdeen as the first in Scotland, kicking off the project.
FirstGroup claims that with e-tickets and smartcards, boarding time could be reduced by 75% when this goes live. You may have seen that AirLink buses in Edinburgh have recently adopted a contactless onboard payment option, and even First in England have done so, but not east/central Scotland yet.
We are still waiting, paying with coins or purchasing weekly and monthly passes which require a First Student ID card including a passport photo.
This lead to me contacting First, explaining this situation, and suggesting that this old fashioned system must be upgraded soon. I should have attached a photo of the line, which stretched from Stance A to Stance C. However, a week and a bit later, a reply came in from customer services: they were already on the case.
Customer advisor Robert Burns revealed in his response that First Bus would be installing ticket machines in all their Stirling buses with contactless ticket machines that will “help to reduce boarding times at bus stops once they’ve gone live”, and soon.
If you have not got contactless, it would be a good idea to ask your bank for that upgrade right about now.
He patiently explained that the plans for instalment and go-live date would be in the near future, probably within months as the trial ended months ago, but given their previous troubles we can only wait and see. With this hopefully being available soon, in addition to cash payments and m-tickets, available on the iTunes App Store, lack of payment options should not be an obstacle in the efficiency of transportation.