City of Edinburgh, SCOTLAND



journey taps


journey taps per day and growing

Up to 4.2M

unique users


of journeys trigger fare caps


1M taps in less than 2 months.

With TapTapCap, we didn’t so much meet our targets as completely smash them. Adoption rates have continued to accelerate. Four years later, over half of our commercial journeys are contactless EMV taps. Stevie Chambers, Head of Product & Strategy, Lothian Buses

The first contactless and capped payment public transport system

of Scotland launched in Edinburgh

Lothian, one of the principal public transport operators in Edinburgh, and Flowbird are making seamless ticketing and payments a reality in Edinburgh.

An account-based ticketing system with open payments was launched shortly before the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2019, and contributed to managing the intense pressure on the network during this exceptionally busy time when Edinburgh’s population doubles.

The project gives inhabitants and visitors easy access to Lothian services, using their bank card or device as a ticket to ride!


The UK’s largest municipal bus company, Lothian Buses, keeps Scotland’s capital moving, with 70 services (700 buses) enabling residents and visitors to move around the city and local area. 

To tackle issues like congestion and air pollution, and to face the challenge of a huge influx of tourists during the Edinburgh festivals season, the city has to offer effective public transport services.

The operator wanted to deploy an ABT system with open loop payments to achieve several goals:

  • Reduce ‘friction’ in the ticketing system by removing the need to buy a ticket.
  • Remove the barrier of having to understand local ticketing and fare structures.
  • By simplifying ticketing, encourage modal shift from private cars to buses.
  • Pave the way for a multimodal open loop ticketing scheme to include Edinburgh Trams.


Leading Scotland into a new era of fare payments, the operator chose to partner with ticketing technology specialist Flowbird in 2019 to introduce the country’s first ‘contactless and capped’ open payment system for transport.

Lothian Buses entrusted Flowbird’s team with the task of getting the system up and running in a very short time frame. With the deadline of the Edinburgh festivals looming, it was operationally important to deliver a solution that could board passengers faster than existing products.

Flowbird’s tried and tested, open loop payments module (SESAME), with aggregated taps and fare capping, was a match for the operator’s needs. The system could be deployed fast to be ready in time for this big event.


Flowbird delivers a TapTapCap system

The TapTapCap system Flowbird deployed enables passengers to tap-on a validator as they board using their contactless card or device, and benefit automatically from any fare caps configured in Lothian’s Account-Based Ticketing back office.

The experience couldn’t be faster or simpler:

  1. Board any Lothian bus
  2. Tap your bank card or device on a validator
  3. Sit back and enjoy your journey
  4. Board further Lothian buses in the same way
  5. Benefit from any fare caps (e.g. daily fare cap)
  6. Enjoy a ‘best fare guarantee’ for your combined journeys within the fare cap window
  7. View your 7 day journey and payment history using an online customer portal

Passenger benefits

Frictionless: Using a contactless EMV bank card or device as a travel token removes one of the biggest points of customer friction: getting a ticket. 

Fast: With open payments, the boarding time is very quick. There’s no need to queue for a ticket, and no time wasted searching for the right money! 

Simple: The clear message to ‘tap on board and always pay the best fare’ means tourists don’t need to understand the local ticketing system.

Convenient: Passengers can pay for journeys with the card or device they carry everywhere.

Operator benefits

Passenger appeal: Contactless and capped ticketing is a compelling proposition to motivate more frequent travel and new patronage.

Cost effective: Operating costs are reduced when paper ticket and smart card issuance can be downscaled, while cEMV security reduces fraud.

Secure: Flowbird’s end-to-end solution, including validators, back office, and payment services – is PCI-DSS certified and ready-for-transit.

Configurable: Flowbird’s CloudFare® back office provides a flexible platform for operators to configure travel products and fare caps.

Data-driven: Data on users’ travel history and payment habits gives operators useful insight that can be used to optimise customer-centric services.


For Lothian Buses, it was a case of “when, not if” they would deploy open payments. Flowbird enabled the delivery of an all-in-one solution comprising validators, back office, and payment services. The system is modular and agnostic, however, facilitating simpler and more cost-effective upgrades in the future.

For the operator, this digital transformation of their ticketing system responded to the expectations of their patrons – both those who live or work in the city, and the many visitors that it attracts. Open payments are becoming a universally recognised way to pay for transport, with no language or geographical barrier.

Within one month, the system deployed in Edinburgh had processed over a million open payments, demonstrating one of the fastest adoption rates of an open loop transit scheme in the world!


  • Easy & time-saving: cEMV cards or devices are validated in less than 1 second.
  • Fast adoption: The contactless and capped proposition was enthusiastically welcomed, with 25% of journeys paid for with cEMV payment methods by the end of 2019.  
  • Ridership and revenue: The operator saw an uplift in ad-hoc journeys and ridership.