Council's smart answer to bus ticket problem

Bus passengers with electronic ‘smart’ tickets will be able to use them on more than one bus company in Brighton & Hove from next week

Until now, smartcard tickets, known as The Key, used on Brighton & Hove Bus Company services, could not be accepted by other firms.  It meant anyone who needed to make a journey involving more than one company had to buy tickets from different sources.

From August 3 the new multi operator ticketing scheme will be available on vehicles run by The Big Lemon and on all Compass Buses operating on the Brighton & Hove network.  

They can be bought online at  or at Brighton & Hove Buses’ North Street shop.  M-Tickets bought and displayed on mobile phones via an app will also be accepted across the three companies. More information at

Transport bosses say it will make cross-city bus travel easier and cheaper.

The move has been made possible by a £71,000 grant the council won from the Department for Transport, plus resources from Brighton & Hove Buses and their parent company Go Ahead. 

The project has funded computing changes to integrate the services, plus installation of card-readers on buses run by Compass Travel and the Big Lemon. 

The companies provide supported bus services, subsidised by the council, which would otherwise not be commercially viable.   The three-year pilot scheme will cover Compass Travel services 37, 37B, 47 56, 57, 16 and 66, plus service 52 operated by The Big Lemon.  

As well as winning the grant and facilitating the project, the city council is also contributing  £27,000 towards set-up costs, with bus companies meeting the running costs.

Smartcards can be topped up online or at Brighton & Hove Buses’ North Street shop, providing tickets ranging from single journeys to one-year seasons.

If successful the council’s multi-operator scheme could be extended to all operators of bus services in the city.

Chair of the council’s environment, transport and sustainability committee Cllr Gill Mitchell said:  “This makes cross-city bus travel much more practical.  It could increase travel on routes which have to be subsidised and make them increasingly viable.

“This has been a very positive exercise, with the council assisting co-operation between our different bus companies for the benefit of the travelling public.”

Nick Hill, Head of Commercial Development, Brighton & Hove Buses, said: “We are delighted to have been able to help make this project a reality as it makes it even more attractive for people to use the bus in the city. It will make bus travel easier and cheaper for thousands of people using the council-supported routes in the city by giving them the same access to a smart card as everyone else in the city. This scheme is an example of great partnership work within Brighton and Hove.”

Chris Chatfield Managing Director, Compass Travel (Sussex) Limited said: “Compass Bus is pleased to be fully involved in this joint initiative for smart bus ticketing in Brighton. This will make local bus travel cheaper and easier and give seamless journey opportunities on one ticket.”

Neil Morgan, Director of Operations at The Big Lemon said: "This is something The Big Lemon has been very keen on for a long time as it will make passengers lives much simpler and easier, and also enable more passengers to benefit from cheaper fares.  It's been wonderful working together with other bus operators and the city council to make this happen and we look forward to the day when all bus operators in the city are included."

Supported services mainly run to outlying areas east of the city as far as Saltdean and to Hangleton, Knoll and Portslade in the west.  They cover routes or times that are socially important but not commercially viable.