Metro customers can now use a smartphone to pay for their travel and open ticket gates on the network, in a unique partnership between Google Pay and Nexus, the public body which runs the system.
Nexus is working with Google Pay and other tech partners on a project, it says, will transform how people access the system in a contactless way – vital in the Covid-19 era.
The new technology has been enabled on all Android smartphones, so that people can buy digital tickets from a Pop card app, anytime, anywhere.
Customer Services Director at Nexus, Huw Lewis, said: “The Pop card app will revolutionise how people can pay for their travel and then access the Metro network by simply touching their phone on to a gate or validator.
“Customers can buy and store electronic tickets on Android smartphones, and then travel without needing to carry a separate ticket or smartcard.
“It’s convenient, easy to use, speeds up journey times, and, in this Covid-19 era, it will further minimise the need for customers to use cash and come into contact high with touch surfaces on our ticket machines.
“We have worked with one of the world’s biggest companies on one hand and Nebula Labs, a tech start-up from here in North East England, to make this happen.”
Passengers can download the Pop app from the Google Play Store and use it to buy and store electronic Metro tickets through Google Pay, and then to travel using their smartphone in place of a Pop card, touching in and out at automated ticket gates and station validators.
When people purchase their Metro ticket on the app it uses near-field communication (NFC) to open the ticket gate.
A trial has been completed and weekly Metro tickets are available on the Pop app. Other products, including Pop Pay As You Go, are set to be available next year.
The project is a collaboration between Nexus, Google, mobile ticketing provider Yotra Ltd, ticketing and gating supplier Scheidt and Bachmann, and Newcastle-based software company Nebula Labs, who built the smartphone the app with its easy to use format.
Jonathan Hill, Head of Transit Partnerships Google Pay, added: "We are excited to work with Nexus and Yotra Ltd to help speed up travel for Nexus customers. Google Pay aims to create an effortless, immersive mobile transit experience for users, removing the friction of getting a ticket and saving valuable time for busy passengers.
“Easing the end-to-end travel experience has been a key focus for Google, and we’re excited that people on the Nexus app can now use Google Pay to instantly buy, store and use Pop Metro tickets.”
In a joint statement, Dylan McKee and Nic Flynn from Nebula Labs, said: "We were delighted to be chosen to work with Nexus on this exciting project. Working closely with all partners, we've developed a smart ticketing app that will be user friendly, efficient and make travel on the Metro even easier. Benefiting customers and staff, we look forward to the app being launched and becoming part of everyday life throughout Tyne and Wear."
Alistair Smith, Chairman of Yotra Ltd, said: “We are proud to be working with Nexus to provide Metro passengers in Tyne and Wear with a simple and convenient way to pay for their journeys and travel without the need for a paper ticket or plastic smartcard.
“Across all industries, mobile payments are on the rise, with one in six UK adults registered for mobile payment services, such as Google Pay. We recognise public transport needs to embrace the digital world and have developed ITSO on Mobile to offer passengers a seamless, and, importantly in today’s world, a touchless journey.”
The Pop card app is available for download free of charge from the Google Play Store.
Customers using their smartphone to travel will no longer need to queue for ticket machines or carry paper tickets or plastic smartcards.
However, customers can continue to use contactless payment using a bank card or smart device, as well as cash and credit/debit cards, to purchase a ticket or top up their Pop card at Metro ticket machines.