The convenience of paperless travel will launched on Lothian Buses, with passengers able to buy virtual tickets in Edinburgh from today in a Scotland first.
Now People will be able to download their Lothian Bus journey tickets from an app, clambering aboard after showing them to drivers via smartphones.
The change could prove the last stop for paper tickets – with their associated cost and litter problems.
Bus chiefs believe the system will make catching a bus simpler, and prove popular with tourists during the summer.
It is also being hailed as the first step towards the ultimate vision of fully integrated travel using electronic “smart” cards.
Lothian Buses chief executive Ian Craig said: “The ability to travel conveniently without change or a season ticket is very important, of course, but the app offers so much more.
Whether it’s an alert about your next three departures or push notifications for news about your usual service, this app will be a valuable practical tool for all of our customers.”
The virtual tickets have to be downloaded on to phones and must be activated before being shown to the driver.
Single journey tickets will be valid for five minutes from the time they are activated – which could cause problems for harassed mums juggling toddlers.
A spokesman for Lothian Buses said the five-minute limit was to prevent someone from making multiple trips in one direction or a return journey on a single ticket, particularly in route-heavy areas such as the city centre. Bus drivers will have discretion if validated e-tickets have expired.
Day and night tickets will also be available via the app. But operators claim the benefits won’t be limited to just buying tickets, with personalised options allowing people to set alarms for bus departures across the city.
Alerts for the first and final departures of the day plus “proximity alarms” – which tell passengers unfamiliar with a bus route when they are about to reach a planned stop – can also be set.
And users need not worry about a lack of phone signal. If a ticket is downloaded via the app people will still be able to get to work, or the pub, on time. And non-tech-savvy members of society – such as the elderly – need not fear, as bus tickets will be around for a while longer yet.
Discussions are already taking place about extending the virtual tickets plan to the £776 million tram line when it goes live next year, although there is no system yet in place.
Transport Minister Keith Brown said: “I look forward to seeing Lothian Buses and other operators building on this and other smart ticketing initiatives to deliver a fully integrated smart ticketing environment for passengers across Scotland.”