About us

ITSO Ltd is a Government-backed, non-profit distributing organisation which aims to make travelling on public transport throughout the UK seamless and easier by using smart ticketing technology. The company is the guardian of the ITSO Specification – a Crown Copyright open national standard for smart ticketing.

What is smart ticketing?

Smart ticketing is where you can load your smartcard with the cash or paid-for electronic ‘tickets’ to get to and from your destination – be it for work or play. That saves you having to find the right amount of cash and can speed up your boarding time, helping your bus stick to its timetable.

The idea behind ITSO is that all transport providers can use the same basic IT Specification so that their fare charging systems speak the same language – no matter which form of transport you are travelling on, which operator is providing it, or where you are in the UK. That way, in theory, you could use just one smartcard for your end-to-end journey.

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ITSO is an open Specification which belongs to the Crown. ITSO Limited is the company which is the guardian of this Specification and looks after it with reference to the UK Department for Transport.

ITSO Limited also provides the security management system (ISMS) which is central to the Specification. Transport operators and local government transport authorities which are ITSO members then use the ISMS to set up and manage the security of their ticketing systems.

These organizations then also use the ITSO Specification to enable smart ticketing for national, government-funded concessionary travel schemes, as well as their commercial smart ticketing schemes. The smartcard might be called Pop, StagecoachSmart, Swift or ‘the key’, for example, but the IT Specification behind it is ITSO.

Already in some areas of the UK, the ITSO-based smart ticketing scheme means that your smartcard is valid no matter whose bus you get on, because operators are working together to offer what is known as multi-operator or interoperable tickets. Find out more.

Alternatively and in future you might be able to load all the ITSO-based tickets on your smart phone or other smart device like a tag or wristwatch. This electronic ticket would then be scanned by the transport operator either at a static or handheld ticket machine, or barrier, to authorise your travel. Click on the cartoon to the right for a simple explanation of how this might work.

And if you plan to travel outside the UK, ITSO also works with other European countries to extend this compatibility, known as interoperability, to public transport throughout Europe.

For now there are many areas around the UK where you can use an ITSO-based smartcard for your local bus travel instead of groping for the right coins. You can load them on bus, at the bus station, or in some cases online.

ITSO-compliant ticketing is also on some trains and trams and there are plans for ITSO-compliant schemes to be widespread. Look for the distinctive blue and white logo or ask your local authority or transport operator.

To encourage the uptake of the national ITSO standard, the Department for Transport in England supports local authorities and bus operators through grant funding. The devolved governments of Scotland and Wales also fund ITSO schemes.

ITSO is backed by the Government, which is committed to delivering, with operators and public sector bodies, the infrastructure to enable most public transport journeys to be undertaken using smart ticketing.

This page was last updated on 18 May 2016 GMT