Hertfordshire County Council

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Hertfordshire has worked with Novacroft since 2011 to streamline the county’s concessionary travel schemes through smart technology. In the course of three major projects delivering four schemes, we have supported the county’s drive to get more for less through smarter use of resources and to give passengers a quicker, slicker service. As well as designing easy-to-use online solutions for managing smart schemes and producing and dispatching smart photocards at speed, we have gained Herts’ trust as a committed, can-do partner always up for a challenge.

I had faith in Novacroft from the first project in 2011 – the fast turnaround and commitment they showed gave me great confidence. We renewed their contract in 2017 and I could easily have looked elsewhere but it comes down to trust: who you can work well with, who is always totally professional and who will deliver in both short and long timescales

– Matthew Lale, Passenger Transport Manager, HCC


Ensuring elderly and disabled passengers can go about their daily lives

The challenge

When the English National Concessionary Travel Scheme (ENCTS) was introduced, management of free travel schemes for pensioners and disabled people had to be handed over from individual districts to county councils. In Hertfordshire this meant data from 10 districts, all held in different systems, needed to be transformed into one suitable format, stored in a central database and forwarded in the right format for smartcard production. Herts recognised the need to work with a specialist – and one with great respect for deadlines. Given the importance of this travel pass to the everyday lives of thousands of vulnerable people, delays in card delivery could not be countenanced.

The solution

After winning a competitive tender, we worked with Herts and the third party supplier managing its central database to ensure systems integrated seamlessly and the passenger data arrived on time and in the right format for use by our card production bureau.

Working with Herts’ partners, our team and technology printed renewals for cards that had reached the end of their five-year life. As such a large number of cards needed to be renewed by the same deadline, we initiated a phased process spreading renewals out, and the roll-out went exceptionally smoothly, with us issuing 177,000 cards over 18 months, ensuring citizens needing them could continue travelling.

The result

The initial run of 120,000 smartcards was sent out on time – as the ever-growing numbers required each year have been since.

When this national scheme was introduced we had no process for producing and distributing travel cards – we also had a challenging timescale. Novacroft came up with a fantastic solution for creating the smartcards with a very quick turnaround

– Matthew Lale, Passenger Transport Manager, HCC

Getting discount travel cards into children’s hands quickly and efficiently

The challenge

In 2015, Herts reviewed its two SaverCard travel schemes for children: a discount scheme for 11-18 year olds and a fee-waived scheme for pupils able to get free school meals. Managing paper-based applications and renewals and producing around 12,500 plastic dummy cards in-house each year was proving costly and inefficient and Herts recognised the need to work with specialists.

On top of this, the transport team was only too aware of what it was missing by using dummy cards. Not only would data from smartcards give valuable insights into patterns of travel, usage and much more, which could be used to improve transport planning. It would also enable more accurate apportionment to bus operators based on actual usage rather than mileage. The team decided to switch to smartcards for both SaverCard schemes in time for the next school year. That gave us three months.

The solution

We designed a simple, easy-to-use online application system enabling parents to create a web account and apply for their children’s cards, make payments online, upload a photograph, review application progress and renew and replace SaverCards, including identity verification checks.

Implementation also required us work with third party suppliers of key functions to integrate the financial back office, contact centre and payment gateway with its InNovator data management system.  

The online SaverCard schemes were launched ahead of the new school year in August 2015.  Since then, we have made parents’ lives even easier by creating a mobile-friendly SaverCard website.

The results

Thousands of online applications were received in the first month alone. A key longer-term metric of success was a reduction in the number of SaverCard complaints – and this number dropped dramatically.

Herts expects to see savings over and above process efficiencies when the impact of the fairer, more precise apportionment – delayed by two years to give bus operators time to ensure all ticket machines can read smartcards – is realised.

So successful have the smart SaverCard schemes been that Herts is planning to extend the age range to include 19-year olds.

Novacroft’s project management team was fantastic. I put my neck on the line by saying the scheme would go live by the start of the academic year and through their incredible hard work it did

– Matthew Lale, Passenger Transport Manager, HCC

As partners, Novacroft and Herts worked on enhancements including allowing people to apply at any time of year, in order to refine the application process for customers, and associated marketing supported this enhancement. This resulted in a positive ROI for Herts and a smooth application process for applicants.  

Since we changed the SaverCard scheme, removing the application window and enabling users to buy a SaverCard and renew at any time of year, 1,237 were applied for online in what would normally be a flat time of year. This equates to extra income of £18,555 to the local authority

Gary Skinner, Team Leader, Contract Enforcement & Ticketing, Hertfordshire County Council

Introducing efficiencies into Herts’ free home-to-school transport service

The challenge

When Hertfordshire decided to bring smart technology to its free home-to-school transport scheme the goal was not only to streamline and speed what was a time-consuming, paper-based process but also to generate usage data that would help it cut costs down the line too.

Novacroft’s technology has been successful in producing thousands of smart travel cards for children in time for each new school year. The remaining challenge was for Herts to turn the data on eligible pupils into a data feed, including the allocated route for each child.

The solution

So comfortable had the Herts team become with Novacroft’s technology by this stage in their partnership that it managed the data feed element of the implementation itself. From this we produced smartcards clearly displaying each pupil’s approved boarding and alighting points and dispatched them well in advance of term beginning.

The results

As well as bringing all the usual smart efficiencies to the scheme, our technology is enabling Herts to make meaningful use of generated data. For the first time the transport team will be able to negotiate operator reimbursements based on actual use by pupils across all routes and throughout the school year. As there are times when students don’t go into school every day, during revision and exams for instance, some savings are inevitable.


Partnering with Novacroft to take its concessionary and discount travel schemes online and provide passengers with travel photocards has enabled Hertfordshire to

  • Enhance the customer experience for citizens of all ages and needs
  • Benefit from efficiencies throughout the entire application-to-delivery process
  • Reduce in-house manual application processing and interventions, leading to fewer data capture errors and a huge time saving
  • Generate data and customer insight for better transport planning and service delivery
  • Reduce customer complaints through the transparency of web-based processes and speed of application turnaround
  • Have greater and easier visibility of smartcard applications and production, with our InNovator software showing live KPI reports
  • Operate more efficiently with reduced wastage and emissions
  • Apportion revenue more accurately to bus operators and lower costs  
  • Reduce the time and risks involved with handling cash and cheque payments
  • Deploy more staff out on the road, building relationships with transport operators
  • Reduce fraudulent use of travel cards, with smart technology flagging up misuse
  • Widen scheme application windows, spreading the workload and reducing problems
  • ‘Lightly’ manage projects, entrusting us to collaborate effectively with suppliers in the smart transport system and to deliver services on time.

With smart travel cards we know when and where people are travelling, which services are most and least used and where there’s an influx of new passengers, putting us in a position to see the bigger picture of our transport network and then drill down into the numbers for much better planning. We’ve never had this before and it’s invaluable for us as a business

– Matthew Lale, Passenger Transport Manager, HCC


For Hertfordshire’s residents, introducing smart technology into the public transport system means that

  • They can apply for travel cards from the comfort of their home at any time
  • The application process is transparent and streamlined, with no waiting for manual labour to be carried out
  • Parents are in control of getting their children’s travel cards ordered or renewed and paid for in good time
  • Parents can have confidence in the security of online application which is key when submitting children’s personal details
  • Replacing a lost or damaged card or updating a photograph is simple
  • The time from application to smartcard arrival is up to 75% faster than before
  • Journeys are easier, with smartcards enabling speedier bus boarding and faster routes.


The success of its smart travel card schemes and its partnership with Novacroft have prompted Hertfordshire to seek out more opportunities to make the most of both in the future. As well as extending existing schemes, the transport team is also keen to explore options for developing a county-wide, multi-modal smart travel card based on its Intalink partnership with local bus and train operators and districts.

Thank you to the team at Novacroft for supporting us with these projects. We look forward to working with you on the next chapter

– Matthew Lale, Passenger Transport Manager, HCC