Q&A: Visa boss talks smart ticketing and contactless mobility


Visa has played a major role in bringing contactless mobility payments to the UK's transport network, with major successes in London and a new project launched in Manchester.

Dominic Browne speaks to Ana Reiley, head of implementation at Visa Urban Mobility, on the trials, tribulations and successes of smart ticketing and the world of contactless mobility.

1. Can you describe/outline Visa’s involvement in Manchester tram contactless payment scheme?

Visa's Ana Reiley

Visa has helped cities around the world implement contactless travel, including London, Singapore, New York and many more. As a result of Visa’s global credentials in this space, Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) looked to us for support in developing and deploying contactless transit on its tram network.

Working closely with the TfGM team, we provided technical consultation and best practices to create a smooth and reliable consumer experience for their tram network. Additionally, we also provided insight into the world of digital payments, the UK finance industry and experience of contactless payments in transit worldwide, as well as assisted them with engaging with UK banks and testing the service before going live.

2. Where else in the UK has Visa helped provide contactless payment?

In addition to local government transport bodies in Manchester, London and Edinburgh, Visa also works with major transport operators across the UK including First, Go Ahead, Arriva, Stagecoach and National Express.

We recently worked with Lothian Buses to roll out contactless on their network in time to help visitors during the Edinburgh Fringe festival get around the city more easily than ever before.

3. How would you describe Visa’s relationship with public transport authorities in the UK with regards to these schemes?

The UK is leading the way when it comes to transit innovation. In fact, companies from around the world visit London to see the Transport for London (TfL) network in action and talk to the managers there about how they have used technology like contactless to help them modernise their service and reduce operating costs.

Visa has been a trusted partner to TfL, TfGM and the other organisations mentioned, working with them to implement smart payment systems to make public transport travel a breeze for locals and visitors.

4. How does the UK compare to other countries in Europe?

There are several European cities, from Dijon and Prague to Madrid and Milan that have rolled out contactless travel payments, and in the coming months we will also see systems in Rome, Stockholm, on buses from Paris airports plus many other European services going contactless too.

Interestingly, one of the countries that is setting the pace along with the UK is Poland. Polish consumers have embraced contactless in similar numbers to the UK, so it was no surprise to us that a number of local transit operators there see the value of moving to contactless.

5. How much of a difference does it make when you are consulted about a contactless payment scheme – are you called in, or do you need to help design it - and why?

The earlier we are brought in, the better and smoother the implementation can be. We can help with everything from developing the design and providing strategic guidance, to sharing insights and best practices that quite simply make things easier for the transit operator.

Collectively, the Visa Global Urban Mobility team has decades of experience working with transit operators and can help them to understand best practices for implementing contactless, ultimately saving the operator or government body time and money.

6. What would you like to see change about your relationship with the public sector in terms of contactless payments?

We’ve worked hard to build a great relationship with the public sector and have a lot of successful projects and cities under our belt. Our expertise has been built up over many years, beginning with the launch of contactless on the London Bus network in 2012.

Fortunately, both Visa and the public sector have a common goal to give travellers more choice and ultimately take any stress or confusion out of travel by offering a more seamless and straightforward process. We are excited to continue this journey around the world.

7. We have seen smart ticketing schemes fail in the UK. Many would argue it should be simple to adopt and manage relative payments between different providers. Some say it is complicated. What is your take on this? How difficult is it to ensure different providers are paid a fair share of the transport profit?


While the beauty of a contactless payment system in transit is its simplicity for the customer, introducing the technology itself can be challenging. That’s where we come in – we’re on hand to ensure that new payment systems are delivered as easily as possible.

When all parties are committed to delivering a customer focused payments system revenue apportionment is entirely possible, and in a way where all parties benefit. We’ve seen this in London which has a particularly intricate integrated transport network, with multiple operators.

8. How does this change in a multimodal system?

Visa’s Mass Transit Transaction model fully supports multimodal systems. In fact, multimodality is a fundamental part of our design and customers can see these systems in action in cities around the world including London, Singapore, and Dijon.

We actively encourage transport bodies to take this approach too. It makes the fare structure as simple as possible and removing this potential barrier to use in turn encourages passengers onto their networks. It’s a win for both passengers and transit operators.

9. How does Visa make a profit from contactless payments? How much profit can it typically make per million journeys for instance?

Purchasing a journey on transit is no different than any other purchase you would make with your credit or debit card – Visa and other card companies get a percentage of the purchase as a fee for processing the payment.

10. How much does Visa invest in a typical contactless payment scheme?

Visa’s investment in terms of finance and time can vary depending on what is needed in that particular market with services ranging from marketing support to just the implementation of the technology.

For example, we worked closely with Planeta Informatica in Brazil to create and launch Visa Secure Access Module (SAM) technology, going as far as seconding members of our team to the project. This allowed the transit operator to offer riders in Rio de Janeiro the option to tap to pay with a contactless card, phone or wearable device without the expense of replacing current turnstiles or terminal hardware.

11. Where in Europe do you feel Visa has the best impact on mobility? How and why?

Visa has developed a reputation as a trusted partner in the Urban Mobility industry, supporting partners across the whole ecosystem. We help transit authorities, tech partners, financial institutions throughout the whole lifecycle of a payment-enablement project, from discovering the opportunity (what’s the benefit for the user? For the transit authority? For the healthy growth of the city?), designing the customer, technical, operational proposition, technical specifications and requirements, all the way through delivering and improving the solution.

We have a long roadmap to continue supporting our partners in enabling an optimal customer experience in public transportation while reducing their operational costs with cutting edge ticketing improvements. In addition to the UK, we have helped cities like Milano (Italy), Madrid (Spain), Dijon (France), Prague (Czech Republic), Amsterdam (Netherlands), and many others in Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

12. What do you see in the future of contactless payments and smart mobility and what is Visa doing to bring this about?

‘Mobility as a Service’ is the end goal that everyone in this area is chasing; making it easy and frictionless for people to get from their front door to their end destination, regardless of how many types of transportation they need to use, or other services that they may need to pay for along that journey, such as parking.

13. Does Visa provide tech that allows other cards to be used on a contactless system?

Visa recognises that the best way to promote uptake of technologies like contactless is to ensure that all cards work the same way, regardless of their payments provider. That is why we worked with American Express and Mastercard to create the EMVCo organisation to promote common standards. The technology that we’ve developed here at Visa (Visa SAM) recognises all cards and can be used with other cards, channelling them to the appropriate payment companies for processing.

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